My Life – a week with ISM’s Deborah Annetts

ISM CEO Deborah Annetts
ISM CEO Deborah Annetts

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, shares a week in her life as she prepares for Make Music Work

Monday: After a busy but excellent few days in the North of England at the Association of British Orchestras Conference, this morning’s task is to catch up on the high-profile Make Music Work event we [the Incorporated Society of Musicians] are curating on 31 March at Milton Court. It’s a fabulous venue and we want the event to really get under the skin of how to make it in the fiercely competitive world of classical and contemporary music. A key part of the day will be for artists in their 20s and 30s to talk about how they have built their careers. We will also hear from lawyers, agents and fundraising professionals on what performers and composers need to know in order to keep themselves safe, and to make the most of the opportunities that come their way. Performing at the event are Latvian accordionist Ksenija Sidorova, cellist Gabriella Swallow and violinist Ben Baker. We’ve also just announced trumpeter Alison Balsom as a special guest. The morning is spent with the Barbican’s events team, learning more about how Milton Court works so that we are absolutely on top of the event. In the afternoon we do a full debrief with staff to make sure that everyone knows what they’re doing. The news is good – we now have over 20 partners, ranging from PRS for Music to Royal Philharmonic Society, and many of them are snapping up tickets.

Tuesday: As the professional body for musicians, the ISM has two main objectives: one is to promote music, and the other is to look after the needs of the music profession. I put the finishing touches to the annual report for the ISM. I am impressed by the huge amount of professional development work, including webinars, that we have been doing in order to ensure musicians really do know their rights and keep up to date with current thinking. Our public affairs work has also become a core part of what we do, and I’m very pleased with our progress on the possible Orchestra Tax break which has just been put out for consultation by the government. We’re urging people to respond with their thoughts via our website, so do get in touch.

Wednesday: At this time of year, we ask ISM members – who are all performers, composers or educators – whether they wish to come forward with a view to joining our governing body, known as the Council. This year we’re looking for nominations from Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North of England. With closing date fast approaching, I’m keen to see what the response from members has been. It seems the news is very positive: it’s likely we’ll be able to fill all the vacancies we’ve advertised. Most days I meet a colleague from the music world to share knowledge over lunch. This week I’m meeting a number of colleagues who are heavily involved in intellectual property, and we’ve been discussing how digital is impacting on artists (and on fair remuneration in particular). This is a major concern for the ISM, and one we will be briefing all the major stakeholders on, including all the main political parties in the run up to the UK general election this year.

Thursday: I hope that in the annual report I’ve been able to convey the importance of music education. Part of ISM’s brief is around education, and I’m keen to brief the Department for Education and the Minister on the current situation, covering everything from music education hubs to funding concerns. One key concern is that the league tables for schools can still damage the position of music in schools, which is something I hope that the DfE will take on board. At lunch I meet the principal of a conservatoire in London to discuss their upcoming plans, and also the possibility of them partnering our Make Music Work event. Then I go to the British Copyright Council for a meeting, where again the issue of fair remuneration for creatives, including performers and composers, comes up.

Friday: I spend the first hour of the day catching up. The afternoon is spent doing interviews for a new member of staff at ISM: we’re looking to expand our external affairs team with someone to join Henry Vann and myself on working in the public affairs function. Last year we had over 100 meetings with key stakeholders, including the government and some major players in the music world. We desperately need a new member of staff who can work alongside Henry, pulling together pieces of research and data collected by the team on music education and the industry, as well as helping us to create really good materials to support both the music sector and ISM members. We decide to sleep on it, and then in the end we make the decision not to appoint because we have not yet found quite the right person.

Saturday: is a fairly quiet day for me when I get to catch up with friends and family, or enjoy some time on my yoga mat (my aim is to become proficient in the double lotus, which is a real challenge). In the evening I see a concert at Fairfield Halls, Croydon, where my husband works. The venue is acoustically glorious and I really enjoy seeing shows there.

Sunday: This is very much a day of rest, doing as little as possible so that I am fully revived for the week ahead. A walk in the park and a visit to a flea market is the most I allow myself to do today – apart from catching up on all the unread newspapers from the previous week, just to make sure I’m up to date with everything.