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.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE AFM


Officers Columns

Here are the latest posts from our officers

AFMPresidentRayHairW

Ray Hair – AFM International President

Click here for more from AFM President

    Media Talks Driven by Streaming Growth

    This is the first of two articles on the continued rise of streaming and its effect on Federation media industry negotiations.

    Mid-year revenue statistics released by the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) on September 20 underscored the value of the Federation’s January 2017 deal with the recording industry, where major record labels agreed to earmark a percentage of domestic and foreign streaming revenue toward the AFM-EP Fund (US), Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF), and the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund (SPF).

    For the first half of 2017, estimated US retail revenue from recorded music grew by 17% to $4 billion, led by streaming revenue growth, which accounted for a whopping 62% of total income. Total record industry revenues from all streaming platforms were up 48% year over year to $2.5 billion. The industry’s streaming revenue sources include paid subscription services such as Spotify and Apple Music, revenues distributed by SoundExchange (Pandora, Sirius XM and other Internet radio services), and ad-supported, on-demand streaming services (YouTube, Vevo, and ad-supported Spotify).

    Across all sources of streaming income, record high levels were reached. Record industry revenues from paid subscription services grew 61% to $1.7 billion and accounted for 43% of total revenue. Ad-supported, on-demand streaming revenue grew 37% and total revenue from digital radio was up by 21%.

    Digital download sales declined by 24% over the first half of 2016, but sales of physical product (CDs and vinyl albums) decreased by only 1%, much lower than recent trends, due mainly to a resurgence in popularity of vinyl.

    The record industry’s mid-2017 statistics show that the Federation has effectively addressed the decline of digital downloads and physical product by negotiating streaming royalties to provide new revenue for MPTF, SPF, and the AFM-EP Fund.

    But what is happening in the live television and motion picture/TV film industries, where the Federation has bargained musicians’ residual and supplemental market royalties for decades? Has new media—the buzzword for streaming distribution of digital content— disrupted traditional consumption models in TV and film? 

    According to a March 2017 report by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the percentage of free and paid streaming video subscribers in the US has caught up with the percentage of paid cable and satellite TV subscribers. The report also says that the time spent watching traditional TV (down 11% from 2012) is now equal to the time spent watching video content on all other consumer technology devices, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

    The latest quarterly TV viewing figures, issued in July 2017 by Nielsen, confirm that youth aged 18 to 24 are watching less traditional TV, down 41% since 2012. The report also says that viewers aged 18 to 34 spend more time accessing apps and the web on smart phones than they do watching traditional TV.

    Across the board, the numbers for live and pay TV are bad, according to a May 2017 article by Business Insider. Adult viewership of traditional TV is down 6%, cable TV subscriptions are down, and TV ad revenue is stagnant. Over half of US consumers now own a smart TV capable of streaming Internet video and subscribe to streaming video on-demand (SVOD) services, even though traditional TV still represents the majority of viewing.

    Viewers with smart TVs say they spend 39% of their time watching live TV, compared to 24% for streamed video, but daily digital TV streaming is growing quickly. Streaming viewership has doubled in two years, with viewing of original digital video content produced by Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube on the rise. Just like streaming in the music industry moved sales away from downloads and physical product, the increased competition from digital video services and new hardware to access content is accelerating a shift in video consumption away from live and traditional linear television toward streaming.

    What about the film industry? Some say Netflix is snuffing movie box office receipts. The US stock market agrees. Shares of AMC Entertainment (AMC Theaters), the world’s largest movie chain, hit an all-time low in August, after the company said it would report a $175 million net loss for the second quarter of 2017. Regal and Cinemark also took hits. The summer 2017 movie box office is projected to be the weakest in 25 years.

    Some analysts believe the film industry has been too slow to react to changes in consumer habits. Doug Creutz, media analyst at Cowen and Co., told the Los Angeles Times, “People are only going to see movies they think they have to see in theaters, and there aren’t that many of them.”

    A global forecast released in May 2017 by Dublin-based Research and Markets estimated the video streaming market will grow from $30 billion in 2016 to $70 billion by 2021 driven by online streaming, with mobile devices cited as the fastest growing platform.

    Compare those numbers with 2016 global box office receipts of $38.6 billion reported by Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), a paltry 1% increase over 2015.  Against the background of shrinking home video sales, down 7% as consumers switched to streaming, subscription movie streaming grew 23% in 2016. Physical rentals and sales continued to evaporate during 2016, down 18% and 10%, respectively.

    As noted above, the change in traditional consumption habits for live television and motion picture films toward the growth of streaming has negatively impacted TV and film producers in prime markets of traditional TV viewing and movie box office, and in supplemental markets such as pay TV (cable) and home video/DVD sales and rentals. These trends have presented extraordinary challenges at the bargaining table in our current discussions with the major television networks, and will factor greatly in our discussions with the film industry early next year.

    With the recording industry, the Federation overcame the challenges presented by digital distribution and concluded a progressive agreement. These issues will be tested in film and television.

    Next month: What streaming provisions does the AFM have in TV and film? What do we want, and what do other unions have?

    Read More

Sam FolioW

Sam Folio – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

Click here for more from AFM Secretary-Treasurer

    Hurricane Aftermath: Please Help Your Union Brothers and Sisters:

    Now that the floodwaters of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have receded and the focus of the press has moved on to other topics, AFM members affected by the storms are beginning to put their lives back together. We all sat horrified as we watched storm surge waters inundate businesses and residential communities, collapse buildings, and float cars and trucks as the hurricanes made landfall and worked their way inland. I can’t remember a time when three category 4 or 5 hurricanes followed so closely on the heels of one another.

    Read More

awillaert

Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

Click here for more from AFM Vice President from Canada

    Don’t Quit Your Day Job

    The campaign to get musicians paid for showcasing at the BreakOut West festival in Edmonton this year spawned three weeks’ worth of radio interviews, print, and online media coverage, as well as social media jousting, and effectively polarized two viewpoints. While most articles were fair in representing the views of the CFM, as well as the festival’s organizers, the notion that musicians should be paid for their performances should have been a clear winner in the opinion polls, especially with effective adhesion to the social justice issue of a fair minimum wage.

    Yet out of the woodwork came arguments so ludicrous (albeit to me) that I had to stifle the chortles and guffaws. Somewhat miraculously, those arguments were embraced by a portion of the media and, by extension, their readership. I think it is noteworthy to review, if for no other reason than to apprise members.

    One assertion by the festival organizers was that many of the musicians were, in fact, being paid to perform through individual grants from the provincial government or their music industry association, and in some cases, the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings (FACTOR). They claimed that this was the “model” of the future. This claim was usually followed by, “There was once a need for a musicians’ union, but not anymore.”

    I consider this to be one of the most ludicrous positions ever presented. The notion that musicians should no longer encumber an employer with such trivial things as fees and pension, in favour of asking for government handouts as a means for surviving in the music industry, borders on ridiculous. Only an employer would have the audacity to suggest this and musicians are the only genre of worker that would give it a morsel of credibility. Imagine the response from actors, directors, screenwriters, or stagehands were it communicated that they should no longer look to the film producer for remuneration, but instead seek government grants to provide for their families.

    As for the value judgement on a need for the AFM, that rhetoric is not new. It’s used by every employer to dissuade every member of every union in the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) from participation. It is part of the perpetual attack upon the labour movement, right-wing style.

    Another offering by the press suggested that it should be the musicians’ choice whether they wish to donate their services, or that perhaps the whole thing should be treated as a large audition, not a gig. Perhaps this would have merit if the organization involved was a charity, not a well-oiled machine that makes deliberate “policy” to pay everyone involved, except the musicians (who, by the way, are the folks the event is all about).

    In addition, these nonpaid “showcases” take place in licensed venues, packed with festivalgoers and making huge profits from liquor sales. A venue that would normally be required to pay for their entertainment, during the festival, gets to watch the bands sweat the night away for free. As for treating it as an audition, I pick no. Real auditions are in a private room to a select few, not in a club where the audience dances, tickets are sold, and beer is swilled. You audition to find work, not to be selected for a chance to perform gratis at yet another festival, and then another. And no, there is no major label A&R person waiting to sign you at 2:00 a.m. in an Edmonton bar.

    Finally, the big carrot offered by the festival—a wristband; in other words, a free pass to your own show. By my loose calculations, each band spends hundreds of dollars for travel, accommodations, and food, but are not offered even the price of parking.

    The bottom line is that festivals providing no remuneration for services have no regard for the music industry at all. If they did, they would acknowledge that musicians are a fragile part of the music ecosystem, the roots if you will, and must be nourished and fostered to encourage them to seek music as a viable career option. Instead, these festivals choose to build an industry that, as a part of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is larger than mining and lumber combined, yet there appears to be no sustainable livelihood for the musicians.

    So in the end, the BreakOut West Festival did, indeed, impart great wisdom upon those musicians in attendance, a message of enormous gravity and substance: Don’t quit your day job.

    Read More

Other Officer Columns:

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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

Read More




NEWS





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