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ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annett's speech at Ditto X

Let me start by welcoming you all here to this session on our latest report on Dignity at work 2: Discrimination in the music sector. You have made the decision to be here with us listening to some quite tough stuff rather than networking with other musicians outside. So thank you.

This session is not going to be easy listening. We are going to be sharing with you the results of our latest research which found that harassment and discrimination are rife in the music sector. Alongside me are Dr Kathryn Williams who authored the report and Vick Bain who many of you will know, the founder of the F List. I am very lucky to have Vick as chair of the Independent Society of Musicians, or the ISM for short.

And the inspiring Roger Wilson from Black Lives in Music is going to be talking about the work which his organisation does and his thoughts on what we found.

Before we start getting into the detail, I want to share with you some of the history of the ISM. The ISM has long been the home to many thousands of musicians, singer-songwriters, DJs and all kinds of performers as well as teachers. We were founded in 1882 and by 1884 women were accepted as members of the Society.

We now have over 11,000 members and the split between female and male is approximately 60% female and 40% male. We were set up to do two things, to promote music and to support those who work in music. We are known for our support for our members – looking after all their insurance and legal needs. Supporting them in their careers and making sure they don’t get ripped off.

And we are well known for our campaigning on a huge range of issues from diversity to cost of living issues, workers’ rights, Brexit and music education. We do not accept money from government. We are not affiliated to any political party. We just work for musicians. And we do this fearlessly.

Towards the end of 2017 you will recall that there were lots of revelations in connection with Harvey Weinstein. Bit by bit the disclosures in the film world worked their way into sectors from theatre to music. The ISM received phone calls from women who wanted to share what had happened to them in the music sector. Some of these conversations were harrowing. What became clear was that we needed to conduct some research to find out exactly what was going on in the music sector. We then published our findings back in 2018. The report you are going to hear about is our follow up research four years later. We wanted to find out if things had improved. Shockingly they had not.

That report Dignity at work 2: Discrimination in the music sector was published a couple of weeks ago. It was covered in The Guardian and across the music trade press.

Dignity at work 2
exposed the devastating scale of discrimination (including sexual harassment and racism) in all parts of the music sector, including education. Musicians have come forward and shared with the ISM their deeply felt personal testimonies and we thank them for taking this step. We hope that this important report will be a vehicle for change in the music sector, making it unacceptable for anyone to commit discrimination or harass their fellow workers.

The first-hand evidence which forms the bedrock of the report paints a picture of unsafe workplaces where perpetrators face no repercussions and there is a scandalous lack of action by venues and employers.

Very often the fear of being subjected to reprisals stops those who have suffered discrimination from making a complaint. Many of you here today will be freelancers and you will not have access to the type of HR functions which everyone else takes for granted. Musicians are particularly vulnerable and as a result the fear of victimisation stalks our sector. This must stop. So we are asking everyone here today to help us make change happen. Sign up to our campaign and be part of the change.

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