Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.
As an AFM member, you are part of a membership of more than 80,000 musicians. Experience has proven that collective activity on behalf of individuals with similar interests is the most effective way to achieve a goal. The AFM can negotiate agreements and administer contracts, procure valuable benefits and achieve legislative goals. A single musician has no such power.
The AFM has a proud history of managing change rather than being victimized by it. We find strength in adversity, and when the going gets tough, we get creative - all on your behalf.
Like the industry, the AFM is also changing and evolving, and its policies and programs will move in new directions dictated by its members. As a member, you will determine these directions through your interest and involvement. Your membership card will be your key to participation in governing your union, keeping it responsive to your needs and enabling it to serve you better. To become a member now, visit www.afm.org/join.
April 22, 2016Bob Popyk -
Member Local 78 (Syracuse, NY)
A while back I addressed the subject of competing with mobile DJs. They are not going away. We all know that they’re out there. They multiply like wire coat hangers in a closet. Nothing is worse than losing a wedding gig to a mobile DJ. You take music lessons, spend thousands of dollars, and practice for years to become a professional musician, and then someone right out of high school downloads music on a laptop computer, gets some sound equipment, and starts stealing jobs right out from underneath you.
It’s not just weddings, either. It’s corporate events, private parties, school dances, and on and on. Doing a Google search, you’ll find more DJs than you do bands and orchestras. They’re becoming more prevalent than pizza shops. They’re replacing live music with one person playing streaming recorded tunes, on discount store speaker systems, for less money.
At least that’s how it seems. The only trouble is that sometimes perception is not reality. I suggest that you go to a wedding where one of the better mobile DJs is working. You could be in for a jolt. You might find that this one-person streaming music show is charging more than a four-piece group would. And he or she probably has enough equipment to fill a good-size truck. Also, it might not be just one person. It could be a technician and an entertainer-host.
So, before you decide that those DJs are stealing all the good gigs, find out how you can compete. To do that, you need to find out what you’re competing with. There are DJs and karaoke jocks (KJs) who sing along with the soundtracks, entertain, and get the audience involved. Many DJs and KJs provide constant entertainment, cater to the audience, and have sophisticated lighting equipment. They bring along fog machines and confetti guns, and they charge big bucks.
If you’re going to compete in the “big bucks” category, what can you bring to the party? What can you do that’s really exciting, different, and creative? The DJ thing isn’t as easy as you may think. Many DJs bring as much equipment as a band carting around two Hammond B-3s, a couple of drum sets, three big guitar amps, a complete PA system, not to mention lighting. It’s a lot of stuff. And they play nonstop. They get the audience pumped.
What about you? When you take a break, is anything going on? You could easily record your group as you play each set, then have it play through your sound system on the break. What about lights?
It’s not enough just to play well any more. You have to look spectacular. And, how up-to-date are you? If you don’t know what’s hot right now, you’d better learn quickly. Pick up one of the mobile DJ magazines on the newsstands. See what tunes they consider hot right now. Find out how they involve the audience and how they get their work. See what niches they go after. Find out where one of the better-known DJs is working and go see his or her schtick.
What about your promotional materials? Do you have a demo video that knocks people out? Do you have a drop-dead website with a demo video that makes people want to book you? Do you have a particular niche where you can excel as a band, an orchestra, or a single? Also, don’t think business cards have gone away. Have something unique with your contact number that you can hand out.
Most people would rather hear a live musician than a recording. That’s something in your favor right away. Promote yourself and your band in ways that DJs can’t. “Live music is best” is not just a slogan. It’s true. Many people think DJs are cheaper than a band. They’re not—at least not all of them. And even if they are cheaper, your talent and everything else you can bring to the party can run rings around the music streamers. Just make sure you can compete on the entertainment side, as well as the talent aspect. Then, your bookings might increase dramatically.