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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    New International Representative, TV Negotiations Update

    I am pleased to announce that Dave Shelton, former president of Local 554-635 (Lexington, KY), has become the newest member the Federation’s staff as an International Representative (IR), filling a field position that became vacant May 2017 with the departure of Barbara Owens.

    International Representatives are the first line of help and assistance for local officers in matters pertaining to day-to-day operations and governance issues in running a local. They are readily available to assist local officers with onsite training, preparation of operating plans, budgeting, and compliance issues relative to AFM Bylaws and Department of Labor regulations. IRs are a resource for the development and application of local bylaws, mergers, membership rosters, newsletters, membership meetings, and elections.

    New AFM International Representative for Midwest Territory Dave Shelton

    Dave Shelton is uniquely qualified for service as an IR with his broad experience as a versatile professional musician and as a local officer, symphonic negotiator, orchestra committee chair, union steward, and AFM conference officer. An outstanding musician with many years of orchestral horn and jazz piano performance experience, Dave graduated summa cum laude in 2007 from one of the world’s most respected music schools, the University of North Texas (UNT), with a Master of Music degree in Jazz Studies. At UNT, he served as a teaching fellow and a jazz lab band director. Prior to his study at UNT, Dave earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Kentucky. He has performed as fourth horn with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra for nearly two decades, and also serves as pianist and arranger for that orchestra’s pops series.   

    During his years of service as a local officer with Lexington Local 554-635, Dave excelled in fundraising and development activities, public relations, collective bargaining, and contract negotiations. He was elected as an officer of the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) in 2016, and currently serves as its vice president.

    Dave now joins IRs Allistair Elliott (Canada), Wally Malone (Western Territory), Cass Acosta (Southeast Territory), and Eugene Tournour (Northeast Territory) who are each assigned a geographic territory of individual locals to maintain regular contact and visitation. The IRs’ activities are coordinated by Assistant to the President Ken Shirk, who is based in our West Coast Office, located in Burbank, California. We are delighted to welcome Dave as the newest member of the Federation’s staff. I know he will do an excellent job.

    TV Negotiations Update—Respect the Band!

    The Late Late Show band, members of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), (L to R) Tim Young, Hagar Ben Ari, Guillermo Brown, Reggie Watts, and Steve Scalfati demand fair pay when their work is streamed online.

    On December 15, 2017, the Federation resumed discussions in Los Angeles with representatives from CBS, NBC, and ABC toward a successor agreement covering the services of musicians engaged to perform on live television. Despite three rounds of negotiations, which began 18 months ago, the talks have been deadlocked over the networks’ refusal to bargain over the Federation’s proposals for progressive payment terms for advertiser-supported and subscriber-based streaming of live and on-demand TV. Our proposals for better terms for musicians engaged in the production of live television programs made for initial exhibition on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu were also rebuffed.

    Despite the networks’ stonewalling, our team was determined to break the bottleneck and find ways to turn up the heat. At my request, AFM Organizing and Education Director Michael Manley, together with organizers from Local 802 (New York City) and Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), Recording Musicians Association President Marc Sazer, and player representative Jason Poss of Local 47 worked to develop a plan of action by arranging a series of meetings with musicians working on late night shows, award shows, and prime time variety shows. The musicians identified, discussed, and prioritized issues surrounding the producers’ lack of additional payment when their performances are free to watch online.

    A concerted campaign with a catchy name, #respecttheband, emerged from those meetings and quickly gained traction. As the December negotiations got underway in Los Angeles, audience members waiting in line outside the studios on both coasts received leaflets outlining the issues. Musicians from the bands inside released statements to the press speaking out about producers’ lack of respect and fair treatment when their performances are streamed.

    The Late Late Show with James Corden musicians released a photo from their green room displaying a #respecttheband banner.

    “Other performers are all paid when Jimmy Kimmel Live! streams on YouTube or other online outlets, yet musicians are paid nothing. Musicians just want to be compensated for our likeness and our music,” says Cleto Escobedo III, musical director of Cleto and the Cletones. “I love Jimmy, the producers, and everyone we work with. We just need to make sure the networks treat us and all of our colleagues fairly.”

    “This is about fairness. It’s a travesty that musicians are being treated this way. We are just asking the networks for a little respect—and the networks can certainly afford to treat musicians with the respect we deserve,” says Harold Wheeler, who is well known in the Broadway and recording scene and will be the Oscar’s music director in 2018 for the third consecutive year. He was also the original Dancing With the Stars music director.

    Amen to brothers Cleto Escobedo III and Harold Wheeler, the Corden band, and our organizing team of highly motivated AFM staff, local officers and staff, and dedicated player representatives—bravo!

    With a publicity push from AFM Communications Director Rose Ryan, the musicians’ concerted activities in support of their bargaining objectives received extensive coverage in Deadline Hollywood and Variety.

    As a direct result, the networks have now agreed to engage and negotiate over the Federation’s proposals for fair and equitable compensation when musicians’ performances are streamed. Our next round of TV talks will occur this spring.

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Sam FolioW

Sam Folio – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

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    Union Plus Mortgage Company: New Mortgage Option for Union Members

    by Jay Blumenthal, AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

    There is a new and different mortgage brokerage company available to many AFM members: the Union Plus Mortgage Company (UPMC). What makes it different from other mortgage companies is that it is owned by the AFL-CIO, Union Plus, and a group of affiliated unions (including the AFM). The revenue generated by UPMC belongs to the labor movement—not the big banks or Wall Street. UPMC offers a variety of financing options—Federal Housing Administration loans (FHA), VA loans, 15- and 30-year fixed rate loans, and adjustable rate loans.

    Currently, the UPMC is licensed in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington DC, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. If you are seeking to purchase a property in one of these states, the Union Plus Mortgage Company may be an option you wish to consider. To find out if a state where you wish to purchase a property has been added to the list or to learn more, go to the UPMC website

    One year after obtaining a UMPC mortgage loan, union members can benefit from the Union Plus Mortgage Assistance Program. This program provides hardship mortgage assistance in the event of income loss due to disability, unemployment, or strike/lockout. And a new mortgage customer can expect to receive a $500 Visa gift card after closing!

    “As a mortgage broker, UPMC shops the top lenders in the country to find the best mortgage rates and products for its union customers. The UPMC team members have an average of 18 years’ experience in the mortgage industry, and as the company grows, the staff and loan officers’ right to union representation will be supported and encouraged. The program is available to active and retired union members as well as spouses (or domestic partners), parents, and children of those union members.”

    Note: The AFL-CIO, Union Privilege and a group of unions own Union Plus Mortgage Company and will benefit if you get your loan through the company. However, you are not required to use Union Plus Mortgage for your loan and are free to shop. For your Affiliated Business Arrangement Disclosure Statement please visit

    IM Ad Revenue and NAMM

    Last year I attended the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Show in Anaheim, California, for the purpose of meeting and thanking our current advertisers and soliciting new advertisers for the International Musician (see “NAMM Show Hits the Mark!” IM March 2017). I’m pleased to report that the leg work at NAMM, done in conjunction with the amazing staff at Bentley-Hall (the company that produces the International Musician) resulted in a 10% increase in IM advertising billing last year, surpassing our 7% goal.

    This positive result played heavily in my decision to attend this year’s show, which took place in January. It’s difficult to know whether this year’s attendance will produce the same positive results as last year, but time will tell.

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Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

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    2018 Negotiations to Bring More Covered Work

    by Alan Willaert, AFM Vice President from Canada

    The Canadian Office has several negotiations occurring simultaneously. Some of these negotiations are ongoing and others are just beginning. We have been at the table with the jingle industry for more than a year. When bargaining a successor agreement began, there seemed to be a taste from the other side for more inclusive packaging, where several platforms could be purchased up front in one-year increments. That has now changed, and the emphasis is now dubbing different iterations for web use. What was once being referred to as “new media” is now simply “digital.”

    When the current agreement was written, Internet advertising was in its infancy, and the revenue was small in comparison with television and radio. Now, of course, the Internet has become a mainstay and is treated as a third and equal platform.

    These rather massive shifts in how advertising agencies spend their dollars have made it imperative that we completely revise the language and find ways to simplify pricing. While there are several obstacles to be overcome, there is light at the end of the tunnel and finalization of a new Commercial Announcements Agreement is imminent.

    After many years, we have finally been successful in getting the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) to agree to negotiate. This will be the first independent production agreement for use in Canada, an important step because our General Production Agreement (currently negotiated with the CBC) is not a particularly good fit for independents. Once in place, it will represent more covered work for our members, and we should be able to capture productions that are now either done dark or offshore.

    The first meeting took place January 31. Representing the Federation were AFM President Ray Hair, Michael Murray of Local 149 (Toronto, ON), EMSD Supervisor Dan Calabrese, Executive Director Liana White, and myself. The next bargaining date will be March 12.

    The same team will be in place for negotiations set to kick off March 13, as we begin bargaining with the remaining three terrestrial broadcasters: Corus Entertainment, Rogers Communications, and Bell Media. The hope is that the current General Production Agreement (GPA) can be used as a template. Right now, certain music programming is being done under a letter of adherence to the GPA, such as CTV’s The Launch (look for the CFM logo in the credits), the Junos, and other award shows. This will allow us to capture all productions with live musicians, as well as scoring.

    With the assistance of Local 293 (Hamilton, ON) President Larry Feudo and Secretary-Treasurer Brent Malseed, we have entered into negotiations for a successor contract with the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA), in anticipation of this year’s awards, hosted by the city of Hamilton. CCMA has agreed to a three-year deal to avoid repetitive bargaining.

    The spring and summer will be extremely busy finalizing agreements, but the payoff will be more covered work for more members, which after all, is the point.

    Click here for this article in French.

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Other Officer Columns:


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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Music Makes the World Smaller

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

These days, as I talk to young musicians on a regular basis, I see more and more awareness of the need to treat the music business as just that—a business. There’s nothing uncool about getting paid what you and your skills are worth. That’s where the AFM comes in. Otherwise, there would be no standards for wages and working conditions, and it would be an inevitable race to the bottom. Even in these times of technology overload and countless entertainment options, music has long-term, tangible value. Think about it. Imagine movies, TV shows, or even commercials without music—boring! Music brings people together under many different circumstances. It is still the common thread in the complex fabric of life in the 21st century.

One way that I describe this phenomenon is to say that music makes the world smaller. This became apparent to me in 1980, when I began working with Don Williams. I worked for Don on and off for 34 years. Don, who just passed away in September, was a Texas born and raised folk singer turned country artist with little or nothing in common with his huge following in the United Kingdom. Those fans hung on his every word as if he was the local priest giving out the secrets of getting to heaven. We played to big crowds overseas. Most of those folks had never been to America, yet they had a strong connection to the everyday truths contained in Don’s music. As they say, it all begins with a song, and Don instinctively understood what his audience wanted to hear. Talking to fans after a show, we soon discovered that they knew more about the minute details of our music and who made it, than we did!

I learned many things from Don Williams about music and life in our time together. I learned how to make records by watching Don and his co-producer Garth Fundis work their magic in the studio. I tried my best to be a fly on the wall and just observe their process. It was a great education. When I finally got my chance to work with Don in the studio, I was ready. I learned how to play fewer notes and make them mean more and to listen closely to the lyrics and complement, rather than compete with, their message. The old cliché, “it’s not what you play, it’s what you don’t play” is not only true, it applies to the whole record and not just the playing. Leaving space in an arrangement or final mix can enhance the power and message of a song. Just because you can fill every space with something, doesn’t mean you should.

Of all the lessons I learned from Don, the most important was respect. He always treated us as equals, and not just his backing band. When we would do TV shows, and the producers would want to push us to the background and put Don way out front, he would simply shake his head and say, “We’re a band. I’m just the singer. I need my guys.” It took me time to realize that not all my friends who worked the road were treated by their bosses as well as we were. As I transitioned into studio work and got off the road, those same lessons I learned from Don applied, no matter what kind of music I was playing.

Passing on the type of respect for musicians I received from Don was a driving force in my increased involvement in AFM Local 257, culminating in my election as 257 President in 2008 and to the AFM IEB in 2010. I am grateful to be able to pay it forward by helping younger musicians figure out this increasingly complex business and making sure that our older members’ work is protected in every way possible. That’s what the AFM does, and we are here to help you in every way possible.

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building a strong union

Building a Strong Union

by John Acosta, AFM International Executive Board Member and Vice President of Local 47(Los Angeles, CA)

Recently in Los Angeles, the California State Labor Federation, along with state labor federations from Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, held a conference to address what is deemed to be the inevitable implementation of national “right to work” legislation by the current US Congress. Several hundred union leaders gathered to discuss best practices for unions already facing right to work. Invaluable information was distributed to those in attendance.

While many locals in the Federation have already been faced with the challenges of right to work, we who are in states that are currently not right to work may be joining this not-so-prestigious club. Some of you reading this article might consider me to be an alarmist, and I hope to be wrong, but the labor movement in California is taking the approach of, not if, but when right to work becomes the law of the land.

Our one choice should be to organize. We as a movement cannot remain stagnant or paralyzed, and we must rethink how we can organize internally to strengthen our ranks; not only resisting the challenges of right to work, but positioning ourselves to fight back. In the current climate, unions cannot be defensive. We must take the offense in our thinking and approach. Some of the recommendations that have come out of the right to work labor conference emphasize member engagement, strengthening workplace structures, and engaging new members.

When a musician joins the union, their first interaction should be a positive one. Too many times musicians learn about our union because they are required to join under our agreements. If we can get out in front of this by creating and maintaining an outreach program in music schools, we may be able to make the first interaction a positive one.

Local unions should look at broadening outreach into the community, building alliances, and finding common ground with our community in areas of shared interest.

Our message is critical. We must remind our colleagues that our union is working people standing together; that real people, not just “union officials,” comprise our union. We need to do better in ensuring that the face of our members is the face of our union. In addition, we need to tell real stories. Let’s dig deep in the well of our experiences to demonstrate how our union has helped our members in tough times, and how, without our union, there would be no safety net for working musicians.

Unfortunately, all of our locals are too overburdened and under-resourced to be effective in all the ways I suggest. Our challenge is to find the means to accomplish our mission, despite this lack of resources. That’s why I believe the key is to get membership to take the lead in these critical internal and external efforts. Without direct member involvement, these goals are unreachable.

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