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.

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Officers Columns

Here are the latest posts from our officers

AFMPresidentRayHairW

Ray Hair – AFM International President

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    Public Radio, Live TV, and Relocation

    I am pleased to report that, after two rounds of negotiations, the Federation has reached a successor public radio agreement with representatives of American Public Media and Minnesota Public Radio, which will set the pattern for wages and conditions for musicians who perform services for some two-dozen producers of public broadcasting programs, including Performance Today and Prairie Home Companion. Our successor public radio agreement becomes effective upon ratification and extends three years to January 31, 2019, with wage and applicable benefit contributions retroactive to February 1, 2016.

    Important to this agreement are groundbreaking new media provisions that establish use fees and residual payments for musicians whose public radio performances are licensed to interactive digital service providers such as YouTube, Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix. In addition to a new use fee payable to each musician whose performance is embodied in any clip or program exhibited via new media, 5% of producers’ gross receipts derived from the license for exhibition of any clip or program will be distributed half (2.5%) to the AFM and Employers Pension Fund, unallocated to any particular individual, and half (2.5%) to musicians.

    Thanks are in order to AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, In-house Counsel Jennifer Garner, Electronic Media Services Division Director Pat Varriale, Symphonic Services Director Rochelle Skolnick,
    Symphonic Electronic Media Director Debbie Newmark, and Local 802 (New York City) President/AFM IEB member Tino Gagliardi for their invaluable help with
    these negotiations.

    Live TV Negotiations

    The Federation will convene its fourth round of negotiations with the NBC, ABC, and CBS television networks August 14 toward a successor agreement covering musicians performing in live television variety shows like Saturday Night Live, The Voice, and Dancing with the Stars; late night shows like The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert; and specials like the Academy Awards and Grammy Awards shows.

    As we all know, employers in all quarters of the commercial television industry have continued the fight to deny fair compensation to musicians, to expand their own production rights, and to deny union jurisdiction (and thus the path to negotiating fair deals) over products made for new media platforms.

    Unfortunately, with previous AFM administrations, television employer intransigence was never met with a firm union-like resolve to fight through to reasonable conclusions. As a result, my administration inherited a tangle of television agreements that were expired and/or enmeshed in years-long and seemingly endless negotiations.

    It has taken time to put our television house in order, but we have done so. We took on the tough negotiations, fought nose-to-nose when necessary, and showed the various employer groups an unflagging commitment to asserting our rights and obtaining fair deals. Using an approach that has been both militant and deliberate, we worked through the AFM’s outstanding television agreements and concluded deals—including successors to the TV Videotape Agreement, the Country Music Television Agreement, and the Basic Television Film Agreement—that benefited musicians and put the Federation on a firm footing for the current round of negotiations.

    Of highest priority in our current TV negotiations are our efforts to improve coverage and residual compensation for musicians when programs are exhibited and streamed in new media. With the viewing public transitioning away from traditional linear television, switching off their sets in favor of on-demand online video alternatives, the watching of regularly scheduled broadcast television is dying. Against this background, the Federation’s TV new media proposals, which mirror provisions bargained successfully by our sister entertainment unions, have taken on added importance.

    We have advised the networks that any successor agreement must contain on-demand streaming revenue participation for musicians at least commensurate with levels enjoyed by other workers in the industry. We will be negotiating hard for fair TV new media provisions this month, and given the networks’ difficult attitudes, I expect additional negotiating sessions will become necessary later this year, most likely in Los Angeles.

    Headquarters Relocation

    With the Federation’s lease at 1501 Broadway in the heart of New York City’s Times Square set to expire January 2019, and with full authorization by the International Executive Board, Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal and I have entered into negotiations to purchase an office condo in the financial district in lower Manhattan to serve as the Federation’s new home.

    After comparing the costs of leasing versus purchase, we have determined that owning our offices is significantly more cost effective and will stabilize and reduce office occupancy expenses in the years and decades to come, putting to rest the Federation’s decades-old struggle over acquiring and owning its International Headquarters.

    Protecting the Federation’s long-term financial interests by owning our headquarters office is a no-brainer. We will create equity, and reduce costs. We will reduce liability and increase Federation assets, all made possible by the Federation’s improved financial condition—a direct result of the hard work of our staff and the diligence, dedication, and fiscal responsibility of our magnificent International Executive Board. Watch for more details in this column next month concerning Federation media negotiations and our relocation journey.

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Sam FolioW

Sam Folio – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

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    Union Plus Programs and Department of Professional Employees

    Union Plus

    Unions are all about improving the quality of life for hardworking men and women. The contractual gains enjoyed by bargaining unit members have a direct correlation to the solidarity within the unit. We are strongest and able to achieve maximum results in bargaining when we act together as one. Simply put, collective action translates into better contracts.

    There are many ancillary benefits that come from being a union member. One such benefit is access to Union Plus. In 1986 the AFL-CIO founded a nonprofit organization called Union Privilege. The Union Plus programs harness the collective buying power of 13 million union members and their families offering a variety of exclusive consumer benefit programs. Credit card, mortgage, auto insurance, life insurance, and accidental death and dismemberment insurance are just a few of the programs offered by Union Plus. Participating in some of the programs bring additional benefits such as strike, mortgage, and hospital assistance, as well as credit counseling with a free budget analysis, savings on prescription drugs, and discounts on movie tickets, car rentals, gifts, and flowers.

    A little known benefit is the Union Plus Scholarship Program. Since the program’s inception in 1991, more than 2,800 union families have benefitted from the $4.2 million awarded to students who want to begin or continue their post-secondary education. This year I am pleased to announce that we have an AFM recipient from Local 105 (Spokane, WA). Kristin Joham will be receiving a $1,000 scholarship. She was one of 160 recipients. Congratulations to Kristin! 

    Next year’s scholarship application deadline is 12:00 pm (Eastern Time), January 31, 2018. More information about Union Plus scholarships and other Union Plus programs can be found on the UnionPlus.org website.

    Department for Professional Employees

    In 1977 the AFL-CIO formed the Department for Professional Employees (DPE) to meet the growing needs of professionals who are unionized. The DPE has 23 national union affiliates who represent more than
    4 million professional, technical, and highly skilled workers. Musicians, actors, engineers, teachers, nurses, psychologists, and computer scientists are among those represented. DPE meetings provide a forum “to discuss matters of common concern and coordinate efforts to address them.”

    Under the DPE umbrella is the Arts, Entertainment and Media Industries (AEMI). Entertainment unions that are AEMI affiliates meet regularly in New York City where we discuss issues that impact the entertainment industry such as federal funding for the arts (NEA, NEH, CPB), visas for artists entering the US and/or Canada, legislation that impacts Internet usage, and airline policies for musical instrument carry-on. These issues are important to musicians and AEMI enables the arts and entertainment unions to speak to the federal government with one clear and consistent voice.

    Recently, I attended the DPE General Board and Quadrennial Election meeting in Washington, DC. I feel honored and privileged to have been elected one of the nine general vice presidents who serve on the DPE Executive Committee. I look forward to representing the AFM on the DPE Executive Committee and bringing our issues and concerns to that forum.

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awillaert

Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

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    While Talks with WCMA Hit a Wall, New CBC Agreement Comes to Fruition

    The Canadian Office continues to bargain with music festivals, award shows, and music industry events, with a view to having all such work under a union scale agreement. We were successful recently in negotiations with The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), who each year present the Juno Awards, along with several days of young artists performing live in venues surrounding the host city. The three-year deal represents significant enhancements, including a pension and a streaming component that is separate from the broadcast deal. We are currently working on a similar agreement with the Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMA), another major event held in a different Canadian city each year. Saskatoon is the choice for 2017.

    WCMA Stalemate

    In pursuing what is best for musicians, we have run into the proverbial brick wall with the West Coast Music Alliance (WCMA), which since merging its event with both the Western and Prairie Music Awards, has hosted a festival and awards week called Breakout West. After several unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a more than reasonable agreement, the WCMA has refused to come back to the table.

    There is much more at stake than making sure the awards show and live streaming are properly contracted and paid. Inexplicably, the position the negotiators took was: “Musicians should not think of Breakout West as a paid gig. They should consider it a networking opportunity.” In other words, showcasing at the event pays zero. There is no payment, no pension, and no protection against unauthorized recording and streaming.

    Yet the organization receives roughly a half-million dollars in government grants and private sponsorship, let alone what it charges for admission and participation. Where does all that money go? Therefore, the CFM office had no choice but to request placement of the West Coast Music Alliance, and its board of directors, on the AFM International Unfair List. Members must not perform at, or in association with the Breakout West event in September 2017. While we continue to be open to bargaining, we are committed to all the pressure we can administer in an effort to bring fairness to this unconscionable working environment.

    New CBC Agreement

    On a more positive note, after two years of on/off bargaining, a new agreement has been reached with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Along with substantial increases in fees, there are now residual payments on underscore and themes for episodic and dramatic series, along with older programming from the CBC archives (subject to limitations). Our agreement with Canada’s public broadcaster remains the only union contract to contain a guarantee of yearly expenditure.

    Final language will be completed in the next few weeks, followed by the ratification process. I would like to personally thank members of the CFM negotiating committee, who dedicated many days of their time to ensure a fair deal for our members. They are: Eddy Bayens, president of Local 390 (Edmonton, AB); Doug Kuss, secretary-treasurer of Local 547 (Calgary, AB); Michael Murray, executive director of Local 149 (Toronto, ON); Francine Shutzman, of OCSM  and president of Local 180 (Ottawa, ON); Robin Moir, secretary-treasurer of Local 180; Luc Fortin, president of Local 406; and Varun Vyas, secretary-treasurer of Local 571. Also special thanks to Canadian Office staff members Executive Director Liana White, Administration Director Susan Whitfield, Contract Administrator Dan Calabrese, and Symphonic Services Canada Director Bernard Leblanc.

    SoundExchange Acquires CMRRA

    Of interest to Canadian artists and publishers, SoundExchange has acquired the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA). For many years, CMRRA collected mechanical rights for artists and also handled synchronization rights. But for the past few years, CMRRA passed that responsibility along to the Canadian Music Publishers Association (CMPA). SoundExchange, now the largest Collective Management Organization (CMO) in the world, is expected to keep the operations separate, at least for the time being. Watch for more information in this regard.

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Other Officer Columns:

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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Light Summer Reading: A Real-Life Fairytale

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

Once upon a time there was a musicians’ local of the AFM. They didn’t really know much about the ways of the nonmusician or “civilian” world. The local did its best to assist member musicians. They were generally happy in their musician world, talking about music and instruments, telling and listening to stories about their lives and gigs, and solving problems in the symphonic workplace. But they weren’t satisfied. Musicians were still struggling to find work and they could tell the civilians were being deprived of the amazing art form that had been developed and passed along through generations.

The local knew they would have to do something different. They sent one of their officers out into the world to meet with civilians and start communicating through different, nonmusical means. The local wasn’t sure where they were going but knew it was the right path.

The officer ventured out slowly, testing the grounds and becoming braver. With the encouragement of another member musician, she joined a local service organization where she was one of only two musicians. She observed their meetings and learned to communicate with them. She told them the stories of musicians and the members of the organization became interested in supporting the musicians.

As the officer gained more knowledge of this strange world, she was introduced to the local arts community. She started attending and then volunteering for their events. She told them the stories of the musicians, the difficulties they faced, including a city ordinance that made it more expensive to have live music and dancing, which was influencing potential venues to choose other forms of entertainment.

She made friends and eventually was appointed by the mayor to serve on the arts council. She learned from the arts commissioners that politicians could make decisions that would help the musicians, so she volunteered to chair the legislative and lobbying committee.

Political figures were people on TV or in the newspaper but, nervously, she decided to treat them like people and quickly discovered they were flesh and blood just like musicians. One of her friends on the arts commission decided to become a politician, ran for a city council position, and was elected!

This friend quickly became very busy learning a new job and performing a new role in the community. A few years went by, but he never forgot the musicians and the problem created by a particular city ordinance. He stayed in touch with the local officer and eventually the time was right for them to go to work to change the ordinance. The local officer introduced him to the new generation of officers. They worked together rewriting the ordinance and the city council voted for their changes, supporting musicians in a way they never would have thought of themselves. The End … beginning!

Have an enjoyable summer and please be involved with your local and your community. Without the encouragement, support, and expertise of the musicians of the local, none of the above would have come true

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Traveling Engagements

Traveling Engagements—Who Plays and Who Gets Paid?

by Joseph Parente, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 77 (Philadelphia, PA)

Over the next several months, outdoor venues will be presenting various types of entertainment in many locals throughout the Federation. These engagements provide added employment to many musicians. However, there seems to be an issue as to which musicians are to be employed for this work and what is the correct scale for these traveling engagements.

A symphony orchestra traveling to another jurisdiction to perform a symphonic concert is normally covered by their collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and is not at issue here. However, in cases where symphony orchestras are hired to travel to other jurisdictions to back a name act or to perform the soundtrack for a motion picture or video game, there have been problems.

AFM Bylaws cover both types of engagements. Article 14 Section 3(a) states:

A symphony orchestra may travel freely for the purpose of giving concerts of a symphonic type ... That seems to be clear. Article 14 goes on to say: In the cases where a symphony orchestra travels as a back-up unit to an artist or in a commercial venture that is not self-produced … or the orchestra is not the main attraction ... the wage scale of the home Local or the Local having jurisdiction over the engagement, whichever is higher, shall be payable to the musicians …

Again, this means playing for an act, motion picture, or video soundtrack.

Article 13 covers traveling engagements defined as … an engagement in which any member performs outside the jurisdiction of that member’s home Local. This applies to symphony orchestras as well as freelance orchestras traveling to other jurisdictions.

Article 13 Section 10 states:

Except for services that are covered by a CBA with the home Local or the AFM that provides for wages and other conditions of employment … the minimum wage to be charged and received by any member … for services rendered on a Traveling Engagement shall be no less than either the Local wage scale where the services are rendered or the Local wage scale where the musical unit has its base of operation, whichever is higher.

So there is no misunderstanding, other than an orchestra traveling to give a concert, the orchestra’s CBA is irrelevant. Terms of employment are governed by the local’s (either home local or destination local) wage scale book. Obviously, a promoter or presenter would love to pay only traveling expenses (per diem, lodging, etc.), while the cost of the orchestra is being paid by the orchestra’s management who is burning services under their weekly scale.

Incidentally, this situation doesn’t merely occur during the summer. There are just many more engagements in the summer because of outdoor venues. Similar engagements take place during the year with regional “mini-tours” such as Il Volo, Salute to Vienna, Mannheim Steamroller, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. These are usually freelance engagements, but the same rules apply. Contractors, locals, orchestra committees, and musicians need to communicate with each other before these jobs take place so there is a level playing field for all musicians involved. Once the job takes place, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make things right. Local musicians should not and cannot be cheated out of work that is theirs in order to accommodate others who circumvent the AFM Bylaws.

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help us, help you

Help Us, Help You

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

help us, help youMost musicians don’t fit the stereotypes that some people like to place on us. We are hard-working, productive members of society who provide a soundtrack to the lives of those who may not know what it means to be creative or to try to and make a living in the arts. Many of us are involved in our community as teachers, volunteers, and mentors to the musicians of the future. Musicians often have more obstacles to overcome than the average worker could imagine—yet, somehow we persevere.

The fact that we love to play should never be an obstacle to taking care of business. The major reason why the AFM exists is to help you navigate through the challenges of a constantly changing music industry.

I come from a family of nonmusicians, but I fell in love with the bass at age 10. My love for playing and determination to succeed have helped make many of my childhood dreams come true and I am very grateful for that. I only knew one person in Nashville when I moved there at age 21. I joined AFM Local 257, which helped me connect the dots and have a successful career. My first gigs were as a touring musician. Then I made a gradual transition into studio work, as well as writing, producing, and releasing my own musical projects. For years, my dad would ask, “Are they paying you, son?” And the main reason I could say to him, “Yes, they are,” was because of the AFM.

As I got more involved in my local, I began to see the administrative side of the equation, and recognized the importance of getting employers to sign AFM Agreements in advance of a session or engagement. Nothing is more effective than a bandleader, session leader, or sideman asking that all-important question, “Is this a union session?” and helping to get a signatory agreement in place before the gig happens. Once the gig is over, it is much more difficult to get people to take responsibility for doing things the right way.

Our job is to arm players with the right information, and to help explain to employers that an AFM contract protects everyone involved. For example, when a record is used in a TV show, film, or commercial, the new use payment comes from the third party that is using the recording, and not the original employer. Otherwise, it becomes a game of cat and mouse—the employer hopes the musicians don’t find out about the new use, and the musicians can do little but complain and try to get a piece of the license fee. Without an AFM contract, the chances of that happening are almost nil.

Unfortunately, at almost every turn, there are unscrupulous employers who will try to take advantage of musicians who take them at their word. When these people sign an AFM agreement—whether or not they ever intended to follow through—we have the leverage to make it right. I recently concluded a 4 1/2-year quest to get musicians paid for reruns of TV shows done under an AFM Agreement more than 20 years ago. I have been chasing another deadbeat musician/producer for nearly 10 years, and have recovered more than 25% of what is due, with more coming.

This is all because of the legal protections our contracts give musicians who do AFM work. If these projects had not been done under AFM agreements, I would not have been able to get the musicians involved paid for their work. This has not been easy, but it is important to stand up for treating musicians with respect.

Here’s the bottom line: for 120 years the AFM has been looking out for musicians. Help us, help you, and let’s work together to make things right. If we don’t have your back, who does?

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