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


Officers Columns

Here are the latest posts from our officers


Ray Hair – AFM International President

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    Motion Picture and TV Film Agreements: One-Year Deal, 3% Raise

    I am pleased to report that on March 9, after a week of intense negotiations, an agreement was reached with major Hollywood-based film producers and their television film counterparts to extend the existing Theatrical and Motion Picture Film Agreements for one year with a 3% increase in wages. Upon ratification, the extension and wage increase will become effective April 5, 2018.

    The short-term contract solution was seen by both sides as an acceptable alternative to a positional deadlock that arose from the producers’ reluctance to address two important Federation bargaining objectives—the improvement of existing residual payment obligations when theatrical and TV films are streamed and the introduction of streaming residual payments when films are made for initial release on streaming platforms.

    The parties—the Federation on one hand and the producers, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on the other—actually negotiate two separate agreements simultaneously, which become effective and expire concurrently. One covers the production of theatrical motion pictures and one covers television motion pictures initially released on free television.

    Despite the studios’ unwillingness to settle our key issues, and despite the tensions that were present (as they are in practically all negotiations, which by nature are consistently adversarial), the negotiating environment was decidedly different in this round compared to the last, where an agreement was reached after six rounds of bargaining spanning more than two years.

    This round, members of our team held meetings with bargaining unit musicians and representatives of other workplace unions well in advance of the bargaining sessions. Our team diligently researched and analyzed information necessary to formulate reasonable Federation proposals that would address musicians’ concerns over the rapid rise of viewer consumption of theatrical, TV film, and made-for-streaming productions on advertiser supported video streaming on-demand (AVOD) and subscription-based video streaming on-demand (SVOD) platforms.

    Every round of negotiations has a theme that dominates. The challenges we faced in this round were different from the previous round, but no less important. In the previous round, the prevailing themes were clip use, the banking of scoring hours associated with certain domestic and foreign productions, and language updates to the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund (FMSMF). This round was dominated by streaming.

    The Federation obtained coverage for new media in 2010. The term “new media” made sense to the entertainment unions a decade ago, after the 2008 Writers Guild strike, when it was coined to describe the online exploitation of recordings. In our film agreement, it refers to products made under the theatrical and television film agreements that are eventually streamed, and the making of original productions for digital (streaming) distribution in the first place. Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix are now producers and distributors of products we used to call “movies” and “TV shows.”

    As musicians, we can only feed our families and make a decent living, if we get paid fairly for our work. There are two components to that scenario—original session payments and FMSMF distributions. As entertainment consumption has shifted toward on-demand platforms, the Federation is rightfully concerned about how musicians will be paid in the digital future. We are determined to engage the film industry on these issues, drive a fair bargain, and obtain a fair agreement for our members.

    That said, the atmosphere in these negotiations was also decidedly different. Animosity from the conclusion of the previous round had subsided. In its place was an attitude of real respect. That difference, I believe is a product of the Federation’s program of contract compliance and enforcement toward these agreements.

    Six weeks after the 2015 film contracts were ratified, the Federation sued every major film studio, either for offshoring union jobs or for clip use violations, and some were sued for both. From those suits, we’ve collected money for our members and we’ve busted several of the studios for flagrant violations of domestic scoring obligations. Today, there is only one pending action against the producers. We will prevail on it, and they know it. They also know that, if our agreements are violated and no settlement is forthcoming, we will proceed directly into court against them.

    There is another factor that changed the negotiating atmosphere for the better—our side was extremely organized, well prepared, and completely, totally unified.

    In the meantime, the Federation will engage in negotiations with the media industries, we will follow the pattern examples of our sister entertainment unions, and we will aggressively bargain our digital future.

    I want to take this opportunity to offer my sincerest thanks to the many talented musicians, members of the AFM International Executive Board, and local union officers and representatives who spent countless hours working to identify, articulate, and prioritize workplace issues in advance of the negotiations. I would like to especially thank the small group we put together during the negotiations—Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) President John Acosta; Local 47 Vice President Rick Baptist; Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President Dave Pomeroy; Local 802 (New York City) President Tino Gagliardi, Recording Musicians Association (RMA) President Marc Sazer, and rank-and-file representative and RMA Secretary Steve Dress.

    We had the benefit of superb legal representation from Federation in-house counsel Jennifer Garner and Russ Naymark, and outside counsel Susan Davis of Cohen, Weiss, and Simon. Lastly, my thanks go to Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD) Director Pat Varriale, EMSD Contract Administrator Matt Allen, and all the hardworking Federation staff for their valuable contributions throughout the process.

    We will reconvene these film negotiations in one year. It’s another opportunity to adapt, advance, and achieve improvements for the finest musicians in the world. I can’t wait.

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Sam FolioW

Sam Folio – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

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    Updates From the Secretary-Treasurer's Desk

    List of Locals

    Recently the List of Locals booklet was updated and uploaded to the website. We are in the process of mailing hard copies of the 2018 booklets to all AFM locals. If you have not received your office copies yet, they should be arriving soon. Changes to the List of Locals are updated on our website regularly and are announced in the International Musician. Any changes to your local’s information should be sent by email to AFM Executive Assistant Nadine Sylvester ( with a copy to AFM Assistant Secretary Jon Ferrone (

    Disney Campaign

    The campaign to increase pay for many Disneyland workers is underway. It has been reported that some workers cannot make ends meet due to their low wages. Some of them sleep in their cars and shower at the park before starting their shifts. A coalition of unions, including AFM Local 7 (Orange County, CA), have been hard at work shining a light on this intolerable situation. To learn more, see the article by AFM Local 7 President Bob Sanders on page 12 in this issue of the IM.


    AFM membership numbers continue to decline. At year end 2016 we had 69,386 members and at year end 2017 we had 67,540 (excluding multiple memberships). This represents a decline of 1,846 members. Declining membership remains a serious challenge. The more members we lose, the weaker we become as a union. Declining density has a direct correlation to diminishing power in the workplace. We must build our membership, if we are to remain healthy and strong. Resolution No. 1, adopted by the 2016 AFM Convention delegates states:

    “… That the AFM implements and makes available an officer training program with the focus on membership retention and recruitment as well as general office procedures, as a means of combating declining Federation membership.”

    The officer training program has begun its second year. Judging from exit survey responses, those who have participated in the training give it high marks. It’s too early to tell if the training program will have the desired positive effect on our membership numbers. Much of the results will depend on training participants putting into practice what they have learned from the program.

    Purchase of a Floor for AFM Office

    After months of negotiations with the seller of a floor within a building in lower Manhattan, the deal has fallen apart. We were very close, but at the eleventh hour, the seller walked. There are currently no other floors available for purchase in lower Manhattan that meet our space requirements. Purchasing space in midtown Manhattan is not an option due to the high prices. As you might imagine, this is very disappointing for both AFM President Ray Hair and me. We are exploring the possibility of leasing space in our current building (but on a different floor) or leasing space in another building. Our current lease expires January 2019.

    Lester Petrillo Fund

    A total of 48 recipients received a distribution from the Lester Petrillo Fund in 2017. These distributions totaled $20,025.

    Hurricane Relief Fund

    The Hurricane Relief Fund (for hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria) received $27,252.55 in PayPal donations, less $904.54 in PayPal fees, leaving $26,348.01. An additional $13,665 in check donations was received, bringing total contributions available for disbursement to $40,013.01. Disbursements to applicants in 2017 totaled $7,000. We continue to receive additional applications for hurricane relief and will continue to make disbursements in 2018.

    Upcoming LCC/PCC Meeting

    The Locals Conferences Council/Player Conferences Council (LCC/PCC) meeting will take place Saturday, June 16 and Sunday, June 17, at the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas.

    2019 AFM Convention

    The AFM Convention will take place next year (2019) at the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas. Registration will begin Sunday, June 16, 2019 and the Convention will adjourn Thursday, June 20, 2019.

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Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

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    Le représentant local : une ressource précieuse de recrutement et de syndicalisation

    Le représentant local qui se rend sur les lieux des prestations est une ressource très précieuse et souvent négligée. Chaque section locale a l’obligation de désigner au moins une personne pour jouer ce rôle, comme prescrit dans les règlements généraux de l’AFM au  paragraphe 5(13), qui se lit comme suit :

    Chaque section locale désignera au moins un représentant qui aura pour tâche, entre autres, de communiquer avec les musiciens qui se produisent sur son  territoire de compétence en vue de s’assurer de leur soutien ainsi que de leur participation à l’atteinte des objectifs collectifs des membres tels qu’ils sont exposés à l’article 2. [Traduction libre]

    La formulation de ce règlement a varié quelque peu au fil des ans tout comme son application. Pour l’anecdote, j’ai entendu raconter que des représentants locaux se présentaient dans les salles pour
    « vérifier les cartes » de chaque musicien sur scène, et qu’ils étaient disposés à empêcher le groupe de jouer si le nombre de non-membres dépassait une certaine limite prédéterminée. Rétrospectivement, voilà qui paraît un peu extrême; mais l’objectif consistait à faire comprendre à l’employeur qu’il ne pouvait engager que des musiciens syndiqués. À l’époque, cette activité a été très efficace, mais les représentants étaient perçus comme des policiers.

    Dans ma propre expérience, il y avait sur le territoire de la section 149 (Toronto, Ont.) au moins trois représentants qui visitaient les clubs, surtout si on y offrait de la musique live six soirs par semaine. Certains étaient nos pairs, des musiciens dont nous avions entendu parler, qui faisaient partie d’autres groupes et qui prenaient du travail à temps partiel comme représentants pour le compte de la section. Ce n’était pas du tout une contrainte et je  trouvais étrangement rassurant de savoir que l’AFM était présente dans la boîte.

    Quel est l’avantage pour la section d’avoir un représentant? Il n’est pas toujours facile de suivre ce qui se passe sur le terrain, de savoir quels lieux de présentation ont cessé d’engager des musiciens et lesquels ont commencé à le faire ou quel genre de musique on y joue. Les sections qui offrent un programme de référence pour les engagements ne savent peut-être pas qui joue quel répertoire, dans quel groupe et avec quel niveau de qualité. Une visite du représentant permet de répondre à toutes ces questions et d’entrer en contact avec des non-membres ou des groupes en tournée qui sont de passage dans son territoire. De plus un contact régulier avec les propriétaires de lieux de présentation et d’autres personnes qui pourraient engager des musiciens est une occasion de développer des relations qui peuvent s’avérer extrêmement utiles au fil du temps.

    Quel en est l’avantage pour les membres? Pour un musicien en tournée, se produire dans une ville qu’il ne connaît pas présente des défis. Je me rappelle que certaines sections préparaient des trousses pour les voyageurs contenant de l’information et des indications pour les bureaux de la section, un lavoir, une épicerie, un magasin d’alcool ou de bière, des magasins de musique ou des postes d’essence ouverts toute la nuit. Il s’y trouvait toujours une facture de cotisation d’exercice aussi, bien sûr.

    Lorsque le représentant arrivait pendant une prestation, c’était l’occasion de poser des questions et de recueillir de l’information. Quels autres lieux de présentation de type et de prix similaires y avait-il dans le coin? Quels autres musiciens intéressants jouaient en ville ? Ou peut-être y avait-il des difficultés avec le propriétaire du lieu ou avec le contrat et le représentant pouvait aider à les résoudre. C’était également l’occasion de poser des questions au sujet des services et des avantages de l’adhésion à l’AFM/CFM et des façons d’y avoir accès.

    Les représentants sont également très précieux lors d’enregistrements. S’il s’agit, par exemple, d’une session au noir pour un jingle ou une trame sonore, le représentant peut habituellement parler avec l’employeur et le chef, et souvent un contrat en bonne et due forme se signe avec tous les bénéfices et les paiements résiduels qui s’en suivent pour les musiciens. Lorsqu’on permet au travail payé comptant de se développer et de remplacer les engagements sous contrat et les formulaires de rapports de l’AFM, tout le monde en souffre en bout de ligne. Le cachet est bas, il n’y a pas de contribution à la caisse de retraite, pas de documents déposés et donc pas de versements du fonds des paiements spéciaux, de cachet pour utilisation nouvelle ou d’autre paiement résiduel. Le représentant peut éliminer une grande partie de cette économie souterraine et aider les musiciens à recevoir les cachets et à profiter des avantages auxquels ils ont droit.

    J’ai gardé pour la fin ce qui est sans doute la fonction la plus importante du contact entre représentants et musiciens sur le terrain : la syndicalisation. Une bonne partie des échanges concernera de l’interne c’est-à-dire permettre aux membres existants de prendre connaissance des avantages qu’ils ignorent. Ainsi informés, ils passeront le mot à leurs collègues non-membres. Et, bien sûr, le fait que des représentants parlent directement avec des non-membres ne peut qu’entraîner un résultat positif en termes de recrutement. Une section locale qui a des représentants qui visitent les musiciens sur leurs lieux de travail ne peut qu’accroître sa visibilité, ce qui crée l’occasion de recruter et d’accroître la proportion de membres dans le milieu.

    Si vous êtes un officier d’une section qui n’a pas de représentant local, vous devriez trouver le moyen d’en nommer un le plus tôt possible. Si vous êtes un musicien qui a la chance de recevoir la visite d’un représentant sur son lieu de travail, profitez de l’occasion pour en apprendre davantage au sujet de l’AFM et de ses services.

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Other Officer Columns:

Advocacy and Pension Reform Take Precedence in Washington, DC

As AFM members are confronted with the uncertainties of both tax and pension reform, AFM President Ray Hair has refocused the work of the union’s Office of Government Relations to maximize its visibility and effectiveness relating to issues that impact our jobs and lives.

As I have stated previously, it is important for us to build relationships with coalitions that have similar interests. For some time now, the AFM has joined forces with nationally respected groups that come together to enhance our power of persuasion. One group we work with every year is Americans for the Arts, a nationally recognized organization that enhances the public policy voices of hundreds of national, state, and local arts organizations across the country.

For Arts Advocacy Day this year, in cooperation with the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees (DPE) Arts, Entertainment, Media Industries group (our primary coalition partner on most issues), American labor affiliates came together March 12-13 to make your concerns known to federal legislators who are recognized leaders on our issues. Seven meetings, attended by 12 union entertainment affiliates, worked both House and Senate offices on a variety of issues, including unreimbursed tax expenses; pension reform; support for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; music licensing; and arts education policy.

Through one collective voice, key legislators learned of the negative impact that the elimination or weakening of these programs will have on artists, American communities, and the overall national economy.

National Endowment of the Arts: This federal program is one of a few that actually pays dividends back to the economy. We emphasized that NEA grants are not frivolous giveaways of public dollars to elite arts groups. In FY 2017, the NEA’s $150 million budget generated more than $500 million in matching support in communities across the country. For each of the 16,000 communities in every congressional district served that takes advantage of the process, every dollar in grant money awarded generates a $9 (9:1) return. As for the artistic value of the NEA, between 2012 and 2016, NEA grant programing reached 24.2 million adults and 3.4 million children. Challenge America grants also supported projects in communities where the arts are limited by geography, economics, or disability.

NEA school and community-based programs supported adult and student programming, state arts collaborations, and programs between arts institutions and pre-K, college, and university educators. Art Works supports art that meets the highest standards of excellence, and inspires public engagement and lifelong learning in the arts to strengthen communities. Last but not least, NEA grants support military veterans and their families through the Creative Forces Program, in cooperation with the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

The NEA and NEH were not terminated and will each see a $3 million increase to
$152.8 million in the omnibus budget bill, which passed the Senate early March 23. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting received level funding at $445 million. This is a huge Congressional win for AFM members.

Taxes: For musicians suffering from shortcomings of tax reform changes in the new tax law, during lobbying visits the AFM and its affiliated unions made clear the disadvantages posed by the loss of itemized deductions. We took time with legislative staff to detail the effect of the shortsighted elimination of these deductions, specifically we listed items that will no longer be deductible for musicians working as W-2 employees. This issue also affects members of affiliate unions. Our concerted effort will help move this matter to the front burner when new tax negotiations begin.

As a tool to help understand the tax dilemma, in each office I left a copy of the article by Local 72-147 (Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX) member Scott Stratton, CFP, CFA, that appeared in last month’s International Musician on page 2. This useful tool was shared with each congressional member and his/her tax staffer to use as resource material. (We thank Stratton for his timely article and AFM President Hair for its prominent placement in the IM.)

Music Licensing and Protection of Intellectual Property Rights

As Congress prepares to introduce the comprehensive Music Modernization Act, affiliate unions joined in raising awareness in each legislative office about the importance of supporting new copyright reform/music licensing reform, which has not been updated in more than 30 years. Our primary ask was for members to sign onto one of the principal components of that bill, the Classics Act, which would require digital services to pay both rightsholders and artists for the use of recordings made before 1972. As the musicFIRST Coalition works closely with members of Congress to introduce the overall Music Modernization package, which includes the Music Modernization Act, the Classics Act, and the AMP Act (with willing buyer, willing seller language), the AFM and its affiliates continue to lobby legislators to increase cosponsorship of the Classics Act.

Overall, the DPE-coordinated labor lobbying group left a profound impact on staff and legislators. Many saw this as the first time organized labor made a concerted visit during Arts Advocacy Day to push their powerful arts and entertainment agenda. Though this lobbying group was organized by the DPE, it is our hope to reduce costs in 2019 in order allow more AFM Signature and rank-and-file members to join our lobbying efforts in Washington, DC.

Pension Progress

AFM President Hair, along with the AFM International Executive Board and the AFM-EPF trustees, has made it a priority to engage pension concerns on every level. Official word on AFM pension comes directly from the Office of the President in cooperation with pension plan trustees. However, Hair has instructed the AFM Office of Government Relations, after endorsing S.2147, the Butch Lewis Act of 2017, to monitor and report ongoing Washington, DC, multi-employer pension reform debate activities. Under the last continuing resolution, Congress inserted language that created a new Joint Select Committee to take up the issue of pension reform and solvency.

The comprehensive budget bill that passed February 9, formed the bipartisan-bicameral Joint Congressional Select Committee on Multi-Employer Pension Plans, comprising eight Democrats and eight Republicans from the House and Senate. It is governed by the rules of the Senate Finance Committee.

On process, the United Mine Workers of America reports on its website:

Committee members must be selected by February 23, and the committee must hold its first meeting by March 12 (which took place March 14). The committee is required to make a report to Congress by the last week of November 2018. If there is an agreement to take action, the committee will draft and submit legislative language as part of that report. Agreement to move forward will require at least five Democrats and five Republicans. Any bill they propose will go before the relevant committees in the House and the Senate, where it cannot be amended or voted down. The bills will get expedited votes in both chambers. There will be no amendments allowed. The committee will hold at least five meetings, of which at least three must be public hearings. The committee is encouraged to hold at least one field hearing, away from Washington, DC.

At the initial meeting, it was clear that there is a real need to come up with a solution to this issue. Failure to do so could have devastating consequences for all workers, retirees, affected plans, the public in general, as well as the national economy.

The responsibility of the AFM Office of Government Relations is to engage congressional staff, do real-time reporting of pension related events, and work directly with other AFL-CIO affiliated unions to coordinate information for the AFM President’s Office.

Now that the Select Committee is in full operation, the focus will shift momentarily to policy matters relating to the committee’s design on these troubled pension funds. Committee appointees include Republicans: Co-Chair Orrin Hatch (UT), Rob Portman (OH), Lamar Alexander (TN), Mike Crapo (ID), Virginia Foxx (NC), Phil Roe (R-TN), Vern Buchanan (FL), and David Schweikert (AZ); and Democrats: Co-Chair Sherrod Brown (OH), Joe Manchin (WV), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Tina Smith (MN), Bobby Scott (VA), Richard Neal (MA), Debbie Dingell (MI), and Donald Norcross (NJ).

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Community Engagement Is Essential to Our Mission

by Dave Pomeroy, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 257 (Nashville, TN)

dave pomeroyIn these complex times, it is more important than ever for all musicians and concerned citizens to remain engaged in our communities—and if possible, take things up a notch. We live in a world where so many people are hiding behind cell phones and iPads that face-to-face communication is becoming a lost art. If you are on social media at all, it’s hard not to notice that people will say things to each other on that platform that they would never say to anyone in person. This disconnect is a real problem in our society, and as technology marches on, it is up to those of us who care about each other to let voices of reason be heard and not drowned out by the background noise that surrounds us every day. What can we do to tear down this imaginary wall between us?

Let There Be Music

There was a time when music was the only entertainment option available. Today there is a glut of “entertainment” options, yet music survives as the universal language and a positive force in the universe. It has the power to unite, heal, and bring out the deepest and most real emotions that we have as humans. The self-expression and emotional release that musicians experience through playing is one of the things that is easy to take for granted, but its net effect can be bigger than we realize. Music is a subtle but effective way to get a message across that would get lost if it was just another rant on Facebook. Great music brings people together in many different ways, all around the world. The result is enjoyment and release, and the realization that we may have more in common than we realize. Many AFM members are also teachers and mentors, and are passing along the precious gift of music to the next generation.

It Takes a Village

In my time as president of AFM Local 257 (Nashville, TN), we have made an effort to be proactive members of our city and community in every way possible. For example, our rehearsal hall is not only used by members who are rehearsing, auditioning, or collaborating, it is the setting for a wide variety of activities. We hold our quarterly member meetings there, a weekly AA meeting, a monthly songwriter/musician jam, music therapy workshops for military veterans, networking events, and much more.

We recently hosted a “Musicians’ Guide to Buying a Home” seminar that was very much appreciated by our members who are beginning that process. We have hosted local neighborhood association meetings and have had memorial services and weddings in that space as well. We also open up our boardroom for our members who need to take a business meeting, write a song, or whatever helps them take care of their business.

We see our building as a community space. We are not in an ivory tower; our building is a living, breathing center of creativity and common goals that demonstrates what we do and what we stand for.

Solidarity Is Trending

I spend a lot of time and energy debunking the many myths of what a union does and how we do it. The many “thug” jokes I have endured are almost funny, but not really. That stereotype is not who we are or how we do things. Although an arts union has some unique qualities, we have much more in common with other labor unions than we have differences. It’s all about respect for workers. After many years of little or no interaction with local labor organizations and the AFL-CIO, we have increased our participation and involvement with our fellow unions. They are always glad to see us, and it gives us valuable perspective to learn more about what the labor movement is all about. Even though you may love what you do as a musician, you still deserve to be paid appropriately for what you do. There is no shame in standing up for yourself, in fact it is a necessary step in creating solidarity among our members.

There is no other organization looking out for professional musicians. It is an honor to serve and protect our members from what can be a very unscrupulous business. The AFM has your back and we are your first—and often last—line of defense. Let us help you help yourself. That’s what we are here for.

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It’s Time for Solidarity

by Tina Morrison, AFM International Executive Board Member and Vice President of Local 105 (Spokane, WA)

How the world is changing, and so quickly, too! I’m writing this in December and who knows what January is going to look like. I, for one, am weary of reactionism. 

We know that making music is progressive. Learning the instrument, building muscle memory, and developing our “ears.” And then, using those skills, we create vibrations in the air that evoke emotions, enriching the lives of those who listen. Music flows like a river through the air—moving and changing, not always happy or pretty or predictable, reflecting life.

Taking what we’ve learned, we can choose notes, chords, and rhythms that work together to create melodies and harmonies. We can influence our audience to dance or to cry. It is a learned skill that comes with work, effort, and a plan. We train ourselves to react in some ways, listening to those around us to enhance the sound, and not allowing ourselves to be distracted by outside influences that could interrupt the flow. It takes discipline.

So, now is a time for great discipline. We need to trust what we know and not allow outside influences to distract us. We know that working together we have strength and can build. It’s a time for solidarity. So, let’s lean on our strengths and focus on our plan as defined in our mission statement, which you can find on the AFM website ( under the “About” section, by clicking on “Mission & Bylaws.” Use your voice meaningfully by being involved in your AFM local. Your knowledge and experience, blended with other member musicians, can help create or maintain a solid foundation for professional standards in your community.

I would be remiss not to take a moment and comment on the rise of women and women’s issues over the last year—pointed conversations, actions, and publicity unlike anything I can remember. How does all of this relate to musicians and our union? It’s been a work in progress for a long time and there have been successes. The drastic changes in our orchestras due to “blind” audition requirements that were negotiated into collective bargaining agreements are a testament to a thoughtful process. As proof, compare pictures of orchestras in the 1950s and 1960s with those of today.

The freelance world is more complicated. Generally, there is no collective bargaining process to provide influence. “Purchasers” of freelance music are less likely to consider the gender make up of the band they engage. Female band leaders can still run into discrimination. It’s very difficult to prove, much less change whether a band is hired or not. We can be part of the conversations to drive changes that will help erode old prejudices and open the door for more fairness and opportunity in musical work. Participation and developing consensus are keys to meaningful change.

Cultural changes such as what we are experiencing are very exciting. As we celebrate the new enlightenment empowering women, I suggest we also remain thoughtful so that the changes that come are the changes we want.

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nightlight office

Nightlife Office and Advisory Committee

by Tino Gagliardi, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 802 (New York City)

Across this country, musicians are playing in bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels, and other performance spaces in an effort to hone their craft, share their artistry, and make a living. American art, performance, and music have been born, bred, raised, and developed in the nightlife establishments of our cities. These musicians play an outsized role in shaping the cultural heritage of our nation. As a result, the nightlife that drives municipal economies and our nation’s culture, owes a great deal to the musicians and performers of our nightlife industry. Yet, does our society adequately support those individuals who make it vibrant and strong? No.

In New York City we are working on changing that. New York City Council Member Rafael Espinal (Democrat, District 37) recognizes the role that the city’s nightlife industry plays in its economy and began working on legislation that would create an Office of Nightlife and Nightlife Taskforce to address issues frequently faced by nightlife establishments and their communities.

Though this office was originally conceived as a combination industry liaison and issue resolution facilitator between the city, small businesses, and communities, we at Local 802, saw this as an opportunity to provide support for a frequently ignored community of workers that has traditionally been exploited, discriminated against, and undersupported.

With the council member’s support and partnership, we were able to expand the original scope of the office and taskforce, advocating for language in the legislation that would commit the office to addressing workforce issues like wage theft and misclassification, and require them to make policy recommendations that would benefit performers and workers by addressing some of the industry’s unique issues. On August 24, the bill passed. We are closer to the creation of an Office of Nightlife than ever before.

Advocates and performers who live and work in the nightlife scenes of other cities should pay attention—the Office of Nightlife could be worth replicating.

This Office of Nightlife could provide a new type of government partner for performer advocates to work with to address issues that countless musicians face on a nightly basis: exploitation, misclassification, pay-to-play schemes, and more. The challenge is providing the tools with which the office can effectively and efficiently do its job.

There are many agencies and offices that regulate small businesses and mandate specific employment practices and safety requirements. However, the tools available to these agencies often do not apply to the unique nightlife industry or are ineffective in addressing common business practices at bars, restaurants, clubs, and hotels. How do we mandate fair employment at a performance space where it is arguable who the employer legally is? This is just one example of how complicated the nightlife industry is.

If this office is to be impactful, and if other municipalities are to follow New York City’s example, the Nightlife Office must work with locally elected community leaders and administration to develop regulatory mechanisms that empower the director to protect performers who are otherwise unsupported and unprotected. Without impactful regulatory and enforcement frameworks, the city will lack the ability to prevent pay-to-play and unfair employment practices, and will be unable to help us in our work to ensure that all musicians have the opportunity to make a fair living that dignifies the contributions they make to our common cultural heritage.

Luckily, New York City is the perfect test case for such an office. Mayor Bill de Blasio has shown that he understands that the city’s nightlife is an important part of our economy. As a former consumer affairs commissioner, Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin has experience developing both consumer and worker protections. Council member Espinal has shown sensitivity and appreciation of the challenges that workers and performers face.

These leaders must be applauded for their advocacy and vision. We are extremely hopeful that this office will soon play an important role in advocating for musicians. We will work closely with these leaders and this office to support our union’s agenda—raising the wage floor for musicians and ensuring that New York City remains a place where musicians are celebrated and where performers can live, work, and raise a family. This work is important, not just for New Yorkers, but for musicians across the US.

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Official Journal of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada