What insurance cover do musicians need? Jump to main content

What insurance cover do musicians need?

You will require insurance in various aspects of your personal and professional life – freelance musicians need a variety of different types of insurance in order to be able to carry out their work with peace of mind. Some insurances come to you as an automatic benefit of ISM membership without any additional cost. For others, we have negotiated favourable rates from insurance companies. Here we outline the main types of insurance you need.

Your ISM membership automatically includes:

  • public liability insurance
  • employer’s liability insurance
  • products liability insurance.
  • legal expenses insurance
  • cover for accountancy costs relating to an HMRC inquiry into your tax affairs

You will also need:

  • instrument and equipment insurance
  • house and contents insurance to cover you for any home-based work you do.

You may also need:

  • professional indemnity insurance
Free £10m cover for public, employers' and product liability

Free liability insurance with cover up to £10m is a valuable part of ISM membership for full, early career and student members.

Contact our insurers Hencilla Canworth directly to make a claim

020 8686 5050 | [email protected] | hencilla.co.uk/unions/incorporated-society-of-musicians

Public liability

Public Liability Insurance (PLI) covers you in the event that a member of the public sues you because they’ve been injured or their property has been damaged. In the event that you are alleged to be responsible for the injury or property damage, Public Liability Insurance will cover your legal costs to defend the claim and any compensation payments that might be due.

For example, if a member of the public falls over your instrument case and breaks a bone, you could be sued. In such an instance, your public liability insurance would cover the legal fees and compensation costs up to the policy limit.

It is not a legal requirement to have Public Liability Insurance but its good practice to hold this type of insurance if in the course of your work you interact with the general public, which is why the ISM automatically arranges cover for cover as one of the benefits of ISM membership.*

Many venues insist that you provide evidence that you have public liability cover as a condition of hiring the venue. Schools can also insist that visiting music teachers have their own public liability insurance.
You can download the policy wording and a certificate to produce as evidence that you have this insurance.

Employer’s liability

As an ISM member*, your Employers’ Liability Insurance provides you with up to £10m of cover for damages awarded against you if someone you employ in the course of your work is injured while working for you.

ELI covers any member who ‘employs’ other musicians, whether on a paid or nonpaid basis, against injury where the employer is found to have been negligent.

The key factor in determining whether you are covered by ELI is the basis on which you are working with your musical colleagues. If you pay musicians directly, say by promoting a concert series, fixing a gig or facilitating pupils for fellow teachers, you may be deemed to be an employer. The definition of an employee can be a little complicated, so please contact Hencilla Canworth to clarify whether your individual circumstances are covered.

As a general rule however, the definition of an employee is someone who is given instruction. For example, if you run a choir and hire an accompanist on a self-employed basis to play for rehearsals they would be deemed to be an employee since you are telling them when or where to report for work and what to play, and you are providing the room and the piano.

On the other hand, freelance music teachers would not generally be considered ‘employees’, as they are free to plan and run the lesson as they wish and they bring their own teaching resources, even though you determine the time and place of lessons.

The Health and Safety Executive publishes guidance as to when Employers' Liability cover is required: hse.gov.uk/Pubns/hse40.pdf

There is no restriction on the number of 'employees' the policy covers, providing the eligibility criteria outlined above are met.

If your work falls outside these parameters, business insurance might be more suitable for your needs. As part of our partnership with Hencilla Canworth, business insurance can be arranged at preferential terms for ISM members through its performing arts insurance product, Showtime Insurance

If the policy is only applicable to those members who are resident in the UK; it provides cover up to the value of £10 million.

If you need to make a claim under this policy, contact the insurers, Hencilla Canworth, at Simpson House, 6 Cherry Orchard Road, Croydon, Surrey, CR9 5BB. Tel: 020 8686 5050 or email: [email protected]

Products liability

As an ISM member* your Product Liability Insurance provides you with up to £10m of cover for damages awarded against you if someone suffers injury or incurs damages in connection with a product you have designed, supplied or repaired.

This insurance protects against claims as a result of a fault with any product you have sold, supplied, serviced, repaired or packaged that leads to someone being injured or suffering damage to their property. You are covered up to the value of £10 million for claims made against you by customers anywhere in the world. Please note that the manufacture of musical instruments is not covered by the policy.

Again, if you need to make a claim under this policy, contact the insurers, Hencilla Canworth, at Simpson House, 6 Cherry Orchard Road, Croydon, Surrey, CR9 5BB. Tel: 020 8686 5050 or email: [email protected]

Legal expenses

Legal expenses insurance covers you for legal costs incurred while pursuing disputes. Your membership includes cover for up to £100,000 of legal costs arising from a wide variety of cases including employment and contractual disputes, where the policy works in conjunction with our in-house legal team. The insurance can also cover HMRC investigations into your tax affairs, personal injury, identity theft, legal defence and uninsured motor losses.


When our in-house legal team have exhausted all avenues to resolve your employment issue without going to court, they will advise whether your case could be pursued further by taking a claim to an employment tribunal. This could be in relation to a dispute with your employer for unfair dismissal and non-payment of statutory holiday pay. In this case, our legal team may refer you to our legal expenses insurers.

Contract disputes

The in-house legal team has a high success rate for recovering unpaid fees, but there are times when the other side refuses to engage or acknowledge the debt owed to you. In these situations the legal expenses insurance enables you to take a work-related contractual dispute, including the chasing of unpaid fees, through the courts.

The legal expenses insurance also covers you for:

  • uninsured losses following a road traffic accident in the course of your work
  • claims for compensation when you have suffered a personal injury
  • defending yourself against criminal prosecution connected with your work
  • identity theft

You should note that the following conditions apply to the policy:

  • you must notify the insurer as soon as possible after you become aware of an incident which might give rise to a claim
  • cover will apply only if the prospects of your claim succeeding are better than 50%
  • generally you will have to use the lawyers chosen for you by the insurers
  • legal bills incurred by you without the prior approval of the insurers are not covered: if you instruct solicitors yourself, you will have to pay them and
  • there is no cover for claims of less than £100

A copy of your insurance policy document can be found in our members area.

If you think you have grounds to make a claim, please email the legal team as soon as possible on [email protected] with a summary of your situation so they can advise you on how to proceed.

*Excludes members who are residents outside the UK, Channels Islands or Isle of Man

HMRC tax enquiries

Your ISM legal expenses insurance policy also covers you for accountant’s costs to advise you if you are subject to an HMRC enquiry or compliance check on your tax affairs.

Cover is for up to £100,000 except for HMRC compliance visits, where cover is limited to £1,000. The same conditions apply as for legal expenses cover set out above.

Musical instrument and equipment insurance

ISM members benefit from up to 20% off musical instrument and equipment insurance from five respected insurers. We have negotiated discounts of between 10% and 20% with a range of insurers, so you can get the deal that is right for you. There is no limit on the amount of discounted cover you can take advantage of, or the number of instruments that can be covered. This provides a great deal for professional musicians who own expensive equipment or more than one instrument.

Further information can be found on our discounts page.

Household insurance

Members who work from home sometimes experience difficulty obtaining house and contents insurance. For example, some insurers will not provide cover if you teach more than ten pupils at home per week. If your insurer refuses to provide house and contents cover on account of your home-based work, you should contact us for further advice. We can put you in touch with insurance companies who are willing to provide cover which takes into account your home working.

Professional indemnity

Schools are increasingly asking freelance music teachers to provide proof that they have professional indemnity insurance. This type of insurance covers professionals for claims made against them for losses incurred by third parties, especially their clients, as a result of alleged professional negligence on their part. In order to help our members to be able to show to schools engaging them that they have cover against the unlikely event of a claim of this type being made against them, we have partnered with Alan Boswell. The insurance company is offering professional indemnity cover to our members who are freelance music teachers, music therapists or lecturers at competitive rates from just £58 a year inclusive of a £5 admin fee.

You can purchase this insurance online. Go to the Alan Boswell website.

For an additional charge cover can be widened to take in educational consultancy and advisory work, including working for up to 20 days a year for OFSTED.