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New Years Message from ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts

Happy New Year to our members and all those working in the music sector and broader creative industries.

I hope you had a refreshing festive period. The new year brings opportunities as well as challenges for the music sector, and the ISM looks forward to working alongside you on the issues that matter.

I write today to share some of our work from 2022 and a few of our plans for the year ahead.

Becoming the Independent Society of Musicians

To coincide with our 140th birthday, we changed our name to the Independent Society of Musicians, rebranded and released a new-look Music Journal.

Our independence is of great importance to us, our new name reflects who we are, and it puts us in a better position for the years ahead.

The reception to these changes has been wonderful, and I thank everyone who shared the news on social media, through networks or contacted us directly.

Standing up for music education

We produced two seismic reports, Music: A subject in peril?, detailing what the music profession wanted from the refreshed National Plan, and The case for change revealed the workplace issues facing the music education workforce.

We welcomed the refreshed national plan in England and the national plan in Wales. The plans have high aspirations for music education, and we will work to ensure that promises are delivered.

As the secretariat, the ISM organised several meetings of the APPG for Music Education. The group is now chaired by Wera Hobhouse MP, and there are exciting plans for the coming year which I hope you can be part of.

We analysed music entries and responded to the stark decline in GCSE and A-level entries since the introduction of the EBacc. We raised our disappointment at there being no teaching bursary for music again this year and that the Initial Teacher Training targets are not being met.

Soon we’ll be launching a new campaign alongside partners on the impact of accountability measures. With school budgets squeezed, there are reports that music could make way to save money. We won’t stand by and let that happen.

Cost of living crisis

We’ve used our resources to help members during the cost-of-living crisis. We produced a specialised webinar series aimed at helping musicians make money and look after their health. We also relaunched ISM Discount Plus to help our members save money. This issue will be a feature of our work going forward.

Our legal support remains vital

Our expert legal team continue to support members in outstanding ways. From chasing unpaid fees to dealing with employment matters, the legal team dealt with almost 1,100 new cases in 2022.

In July, ISM member Lesley Brazel won a landmark holiday pay case in The Supreme Court. We have supported Mrs Brazel since 2013 and are proud to have played our part in a judgment that means term-time only workers should receive the correct holiday pay.

Dignity in the music sector

Our latest research has found that discrimination and harassment remain prevalent in our sector and are getting worse.

Over 600 musicians and music workers bravely shared their experiences which were heard in our report Dignity at work 2. We are campaigning for real change to make our sector safer. The ISM organised open letter to Women and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch MP has been signed by hundreds of individuals and organisations. There’s still time to add your name.

Tackling the challenges of Brexit

We have continually raised the issues facing musicians touring Europe following Brexit. We’ve taken our concerns to each Secretary of State. I gave evidence to the House of Lords European Affairs Committee on the impact the restrictions are having.

Our research has contributed greatly to revealing the impact of Brexit - please support us by sharing our latest Brexit survey with your networks.

I am a commissioner for the UK Trade and Business Commission. The group found that bookings of UK artists at European festivals had fallen by 45%.

Our advocacy has had results. We worked successfully with industry colleagues to stop proposals to tighten CITES restrictions on pernambuco wood, meaning musicians who play string instruments can continue travelling freely with their bows. ‘Dual registration’ means large-scale hauliers are exempt from cabotage, but it isn’t a solution for orchestras and artists working with one vehicle.

ACE announcements

While some organisations have received good news in the latest National Portfolio Organisation funding round, we have been concerned about cuts to flagship classical and opera organisations. We’ve taken a leading role in the campaign against these cuts, and with over 82,000 signatures, the petition to reinstate ENO’s funding is still going strong.

The ISM Trust and ISM Members Fund

Throughout last year, thousands of musicians were able to access free professional development through the ISM Trust. And our members continue to receive health and wellbeing support through counselling and physiotherapy services funded by the ISM Members Fund.

With over 11,000 members the ISM is an important part of the music sector and we look forward to continuing to play our part in 2023 and beyond.

Your help and support mean so much to us and I hope 2023 brings joy and success to you all.

Thank you

Deborah Annetts and the ISM staff team

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