It's wonderful to see Sun Microsystems sponsoring student travel awards for this year's ISMIR. Submission deadline for applications is July 4th - very soon!
I highly recommend applying for an award even if it might seem like a bureaucratic burden. Sure, any student who gets an award will still need to find additional sources of funding. However, it's always easier to find smaller amounts of money, and as a researcher it is not unusual to spend a lot of time writing project proposals asking for grants. Student travel awards are a great way to start practicing! And writing one page yourself and asking your professor to write a recommendation is actually not a lot of effort. Btw, professors deal with recommendations very frequently, they shouldn't complain if you ask them to write you one :-)
I remember when I received a student travel award for the ACM KDD 2003: It was lots of fun because students who won the award also got a chance to participate in the organization. And helping in the organization of such a huge conference was a great experience.