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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Vice President from Canada

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Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

    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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    Coming Soon: A Blockchain Copyright System

    Three of the world’s most significant collection societies—ASCAP (US), SACEM (France), and PRS for Music (UK)—are working together on a project designed to improve the future of music copyright management. According to an article in Music Business Weekly, they have announced the building of a blockchain system, which could manage the links between music recordings International Standard Recording Codes
    (ISRCs) and music work International Standard Work Codes (ISWCs). Blockchain is a software platform, a protocol for managing digital assets. Their website is www.blockchain.com.

    A recent ASCAP press release stated: “Establishing robust links between these two pieces of data (ISRCs and ISWCs), offers a practical solution with enormous potential for improving the processes of royalty matching, which will in turn speed up licensing, reduce errors, and reduce costs. The goal of the project is to prototype how the music industry could create and adopt a shared, decentralized database of musical work metadata with real-time update and tracking capabilities.”

    Working with IBM, the partnership plans to leverage the open source blockchain technology from the Linux Foundation, Hyperledger Fabric, to match, aggregate, and qualify existing links between ISRCs and ISWCs in order to confirm correct ownership information and conflicts. Blockchain is used in payments systems, noted for its ability to manage records without centralized governance. This valuable characteristic will be utilized to resolve issues between conflicting identifiers for the same work across multiple rights holders.

    Jean-Noël Tronc, SACEM’s chief executive officer, has a vision “to ensure a diverse and sustainable future for music, where creators are rewarded efficiently for their work.” He went on to say, “Through this partnership, we aim to develop new blockchain-based technologies that will tackle a long-standing issue with music industry metadata—a problem that has grown more acute as online music rights distribution has become increasingly decentralized with the rise in digital channels. By developing this blockchain technology in partnership with ASCAP and PRS for Music, we will unlock value to the benefit of music creators worldwide.”

    Elizabeth Matthews, ASCAP’s chief executive officer, noted that the music industry “has been calling for greater transparency and accuracy.” Blockchain has the ability to capture real-time data and transaction updates that can be shared with multiple parties. While the data improves, the costs of administration will diminish, leaving a greater percentage for distribution to the rights holders.

    Robert Ashcroft, PRS for Music’s chief executive, added: “Establishing authoritative copyright data has long been a goal of PRS for Music and is one of the biggest challenges the industry faces.” The digital market requires real-time reporting on behalf of multiple stakeholders across the world, if the goal is to increase accuracy of royalty payments and release value for rightsholders.

    If none of this makes sense to you, try to imagine the number of times a given song may be used somewhere in the world, and for the sake of argument, in a given year. A young person in Australia may synch the song to a homemade video, and post it; a music supervisor in California decides to use the song in a movie or it’s streamed a few million times by that many listeners. In each case, revenue should be generated for the rightsholders. In a paper world, it’s impossible.

    However, the technology exists to accurately monitor and track each use, using algorithms. And now—using blockchain protocols—this data could be centrally stored and linked, and a methodology derived to instantly identify and distribute revenue to the rights holders.

    We have long known that copyright was broken with the advent of the Internet. It appears that at long last, the system will be catching up to address proper monetization of what were before, illegal and unpaid uses. The sad part is, the technology has been there a while, but the will to utilize it was not. We have apparently turned that corner, for the benefit of musicians everywhere.

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    CFM Focuses on Festival/Award Show Negotiations

    Members were recently advised that the newly-negotiated agreement with the East Coast Music Association was overwhelmingly ratified. This was the first time in many years that the Canadian Office was directly involved with a primary labour dispute. While the necessity of such action is regrettable, status quo was not an option and neither was the absence of a workable agreement for musicians.

    At the last meeting of the Canadian Conference in June 2016, the delegates were presented with some agreement templates suitable for use with festivals and award shows, particularly ones that change venue/city from year-to-year. While there is always room for negotiations, the conference deliberated on format language that could serve as the basis regardless of location. As a result, when the ECMA first indicated they were not interested in renewing the previous agreement, the CFM had no choice but use all means available to reverse that decision.

    With the Juno Awards less than a month away, our office is on the verge of signing a national agreement, which—again according to Conference mandate—would follow Junofest to wherever the event will take place in the next few years. Like the ECMA contract, we are working on pension being applicable to the showcase performances, as well as contracted events and the award show.

    We have also entered into negotiations with the Western Canadian Music Alliance, with a view to establishing an agreement to cover the Break-Out West festival, which takes place in the fall. This year, it travels to Edmonton, Alberta. At the crux of these negotiations is the fact that this festival has evolved into a “networking” opportunity, making this a nonpaid event. Again, status quo is not an option and having no agreement in place to protect the musicians is unacceptable.

    Next up will be the Canadian Country Music Association, with their event taking place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, later on this year. We have just begun to make contact, again with a view to establishing a mobile, national agreement.

    While I am ex officio as a member of the negotiating team, our Standards Committee has come up with a workable format to spread the workload of bargaining. Therefore, International Representative Allistair Elliott will also serve, along with an officer from the host city where the event takes place in the current year, as well as officers from the previous and next host cities.

    It’s important to understand how these negotiations impact upon you, the members. Without a CFM negotiated agreement in place, there would be no minimum standard fee. Without a CFM agreement, pension could not be paid. And finally, without a media agreement outlining the parameters of what can be recorded, for what purpose, and at what additional fee, there would be no control over ownership, replays, or other new uses of the tracks.

    These events are also popular venues for emerging artists, many of them not yet AFM members. In Canada, we are able to extend our umbrella to protect them by establishing a Temporary Membership Permit (a version of the Rand Formula), which allows nonmembers to work under a union contract, if they pay a fair share of the cost.

    Of particular importance is pension. While the subject matter of a retirement fund is a conversation most young musicians are not willing to have, we must bear in mind that our pension is a reality because of past generations of musicians who contracted for and negotiated pension into their contracts, in order to ensure that future members would have a comfortable retirement. The responsibility lies upon each of us to do the same for ourselves and generations to come. By not contracting for pension, you are letting the employer escape an obligation, and making it difficult for our pension to survive through a poor investment market. Please do your fair share so that we all may benefit for years to come.

    The CFM is committed to establishing agreements with all festivals and award shows that feature live performance of musicians to establish fair wages, pension, and a level playing field for all musicians. It’s the right thing to do.

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    Bargaining to Begin with ECMA

    Pour la version française cliquez ici

    Since the writing of this column, the parties have successfully negotiated a successor agreement.

    The 2017 edition of the East Coast Music Awards is scheduled for April 26-30, with the host city being Saint John, New Brunswick. During those five days, the city will be immersed in music in every venue, culminating with the gala award event Sunday night. However, in early December, the East Coast Music Association (ECMA) was placed on the AFM’s Unfair List by the Canadian Office.

    The ECMA and the AFM had enjoyed a long, mutually beneficial relationship, with the signing of the first agreement in the mid-1990s. Contracts that included pension were always in place for sponsored showcases, events, and the awards show. The AFM would often sponsor an award, and was omnipresent every year with an informational booth, workshops, and seminars on topics of interest to musicians embarking on careers in music.

    Two years ago, something changed. The ECMA refused to come to the table and renew the agreement. Although the broadcaster of the awards show signed a letter of adherence, the showcases and other events were not under AFM contract.

    Without the renewed agreement and/or a properly executed AFM contract in place, there could be no pension contributions. In addition, recording was rampant and streamed both during the week and well after.

    CFM representatives met with four members of the ECMA board in October. It became clear, after considerable dialogue, that a reasonable fee for the musicians was not the issue. Having the “union” involved was, for all the philosophical reasons.

    In many of our agreements, including this one, a temporary membership permit (TMP) is required to be deducted from the fees of nonmembers. It seems this became a bone of contention. In Canada, this is an application of the RAND formula, under which nonunion employees have a portion of their wages deducted as their share of servicing the CBA under which they are working.

    Using this formula allows a temporary member to be listed on the contract with members, and receive exactly the same services and benefits for the same classification of service, for the duration of the gig. This includes pension and any ensuing residuals, such as New Use. In addition, the TMP fee can be credited toward membership for one calendar year.

    If the musician does not take advantage of the credit, those fees find their way back into the music community, through the host local’s outreach at seminars and informational meetings, as well as the sponsorship of awards.

    There have been some developments in this rather unfortunate situation, as the ECMA board has contacted our office and agreed to sit down to bargain a successor agreement. Negotiations will take place in Halifax January 18 and 19, with January 20 as a backup date.

    It’s our sincere hope that we are successful, the musicians’ performances are protected and properly remunerated, and the CFM and ECMA can once again join forces as partners in the effort to bring East Coast music to the world, and for the world to recognize the musicians that make this truly unique sound.

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    Canadian Content in a Digital World: 12 Important Points of Our Brief

    Canadian Content in a Digital World is an extremely important consultation process initiated by the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage. As I have reported previously, by opening up many laws and their respective boards, we have an opportunity right now, to equalize what was lost through the evolution of digital distribution. However, this revisit presents imminent danger, as those who utilize digital content and those who profit from it, are also welcome to present their wish list. A detailed presentation by the CFM is imperative, as well as joining other organizations of like minds, in order to counter the demands of a profit-focused industry. The deadline for written submission was November 25, and the following is a short summary of our full brief.

    This consultation should lay the foundation for the regulatory and policy tools and financial support needed to ensure that Canadian professional musicians thrive in the digital environment now and for the years ahead.

    1) Amend the definition of “sound recording.” The current definition of sound recording in the Copyright Act needs to be amended so that performers can collect royalties when their recorded performances of music on the soundtracks of audiovisual works, such as TV programs and movies, are broadcast or streamed on the Internet and when they are presented in movie theatres. Also, we recommend ratification of the Beijing Treaty.

    2) Remove the $1.25 million royalty exemption for commercial broadcasters. Amending the Copyright Act to remove this unnecessary exemption for commercial radio would add millions of dollars’ worth of royalties for recording artists.

    3) Expand private copying to include new copying technology. In the course of this consultation, the government should undertake to prepare the necessary legislative changes needed to update the private-copying regime to reflect advances in digital copying technology.

    4) Reform the Copyright Board. Improvements to the operations and practices of the Copyright Board, which are procedural and regulatory in nature, need to be addressed and implemented as soon as possible.

    5) Reduce piracy in the digital world. Our cultural policies and laws must offer a practical response to piracy that better aligns with how Canadians consume content, and that helps Canadian professional musicians and other content creators succeed in a digital, global market.

    6) Value Canadian content. Valuing culture through up-to-date legislation, funding innovation and creativity, and education is “key to having a strong society, a vibrant democracy, and to promoting Canadian cultural content to the world.”

    7) End runaway post-production. We urge the Minister of Canadian Heritage to make changes to the CAVCO qualifications in order to disincentive domestic media producers from using offshore musicians to record scores for Canadian movies and television programs created by Canadian musicians in Canada.

    8) Continue funding for musicians. We encourage the federal government to continue to support the Canadian music industry through a series of direct and indirect measures.

    9) Update Canadian content regulations. We urge the government to work with the music community to transition content quotas and the MAPL designation from an analog to a digital world.

    10) Support venues for live performance. The federal government needs to work with provincial and local governments to ensure that there is adequate funding to support venues where recording artists can perform live.

    11) Improve music education. We recommend that governments at all levels work together to improve music learning in our public schools.

    12) Support export of Canadian musicians. We ask that the government follow through with its commitment, made in the Music Industry Review, to improve funding and support for Canadian musicians touring domestically and internationally.

    While a thoughtful and comprehensive submission is essential, we continue to lobby Ottawa, attend Department of Heritage seminars/panels, and push hard to ensure the government recognizes that the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada is the only voice they should consider when inviting input from musicians in the artists/creators sector of this country.

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