How to...

The Empowered Musician 'How to' series

The How to… series builds on the practical industry advice on offer our The Empowered Musician event, highlighting the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in your music career. If you're already an ISM member, you can log in and access the full guides.

The guides include:

  • How to...Make a recording
  • How to...Teach adult learners
  • How to...Connect with a digital audience
  • How to...Write a DIY marketing plan
  • How to...Work with an Artist Manager
  • How to...Play at a festival
  • How to...Negotiate a contract

New in 2020

In How to... Make a recording, John Croft from Chiaro Audio, Dr Phil
Harding, and Steve Long from Signum Records, take you through the
complete cycle of creating an audio recording, from engaging an engineer
and producer, finding an appropriate venue, preparing and taking part in a
recording session, through to mixing and mastering for online distribution
and CD production.Internationally-renowned lecturer and educator

Lucinda Mackworth-Young presents How to... Teach adult learners. Many music teachers start their careers teaching children and young people, however there is a huge number of people who look to take up instruments later in life. The guide takes you through altering your pedagogy for older learners, as well as providing key recommendations for maintaining motivation and developing this side of your business.

'[Getting your music online] is the easy bit. The real challenge is getting people to listen to your music, instead of the tens of millions of tracks available on each platform.'

How to...Connect with a digital audience

'In addition to taking care care of the strategy, business and logistics of your career, your Artist Manager will be your counsellor, cheerleader and most trusted advisor'

How to... Work with an artist manager

Extract from How to...Negotiate a contract

In most areas of musical activity, musicians provide their services on a self-employed freelance basis, whether as a performing musician, teacher, recording artist, writer or producer. This means that generally speaking, they all operate under some form of service contract.


Service contracts can take many forms, ranging from something that is essentially a simple invoice with some additional terms and conditions, to a highly complex and lengthy agreement, such as a recording or publishing contract.


The main matters covered by a service contract are: the definition of the service and how long it will go on for; fee and payment conditions; and what happens when things go wrong (such as how the right to sue for damages, or the right to end the contract, might be triggered). On some level, all music contracts will also deal with ownership and control of copyrights and performers’ rights.


It is vital to have matters confirmed and agreed with clients or professional partners, whatever the situation. If left undecided, they can give rise to bitter and expensive arguments after the event.


Although in some circumstances contracts have been found to exist where the terms have not been written down, the ISM always recommends that you provide your services under a written contract. This resource introduces some basic tools to aid you in your negotiations. At the same time, remember that the ISM legal team is always here to support its members and offers drafting and negotiating contracts as a free service.


Reading the contract


Let us assume that you have been given a contract to sign. The first step is to block out some time in your diary to read through it thoroughly. Never allow yourself to be rushed or bullied into signing on the spot, or by the next day. Unless it’s a standard one-page contract (such as a recording session release form) and you feel experienced enough to check it quickly, you have every right to insist on taking your time. If you have not been given enough time then that is the other side’s problem, not yours. If you’re at all unsure you can refer it to a lawyer, for example one of the ISM in-house legal advisors.

Bear in mind that recording, publishing and management contracts should always contain a clause in which the artist confirms that they have taken independent legal advice in relation to the contract; and this will often be at the other side’s expense. It’s in the other side’s interest to do this – otherwise, the artist could later have the contract voided (‘set aside’ in legalese) on the basis that they were made to sign it under ‘undue influence’. No producer, publisher or manager wants to risk an expensive mistake like that.

Full guides for ISM members

How to... Make a recording

In How to... Make a recording industry experts take you through the complete cycle of creating an audio recording

How to... Teach adult learners

How to... Teach adult learners looks at how you can adapt your teaching practice and business to support adults who want to learn music.

How to... Play at a festival

Specialist advice from George Vass (Presteigne Festival) and David Jones (Serious) on how to play at festivals. Includes a guide to preparing a technical rider.