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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Home » Officer Columns » A Summer of Social Distancing


A Summer of Social Distancing

  -  AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

I have always associated summer with a time to relax just a bit, attend concerts at outdoor venues, barbecue with family and friends, and yes, recharge the batteries for the upcoming fall season. This summer will be so different. All the summer activities I’ve come to enjoy year after year will either be changed significantly or not be possible due to social distancing.

As we all have heard, social distancing will be the “new normal” until there is an effective vaccine that is widely available to the public. Until then, distancing will remain, affecting every aspect of daily living. Most affected is our ability to return safely to the concert halls, nightclubs, orchestra pits, and sound stages. Never before has any event so affected musicians.

April through August is the time of year when many AFM regional conferences take place as well as the Player Conferences (ICSOM, ROPA, OCSM, TMA, and later in the year, RMA). This year, OCSM held part of their conference virtually with more to come. Some of the other conferences will meet virtually or are still deciding what they will do and one of the regional conferences (Eastern) has postponed until next year.

Pre-pandemic conference attendees were all able to come together face to face. That experience tends to be so much richer than a conference agenda would indicate. The social moments in the evenings often result in the sharing of ideas that can help solve common workplace issues and new acquaintances can turn into lifelong friendships. Fond memories are made that live on long after the conference has ended. Unfortunately, with virtual conferences the opportunity for social moments will not be the same, but the hope is that next year we will be able to return to something more like what we are used to experiencing.

So, this summer will be different. All of our lives have changed due to the pandemic, and I for one long to go back to the pre-pandemic days. But for now, we must be thankful that technology allows us to safely meet virtually and remain focused on strategies to get through this most challenging time.

At first, a short duration of pandemic protocols was the hope, but this hope faded with each passing day. Musicians remain out of work (for the most part) affecting their income and, consequently, AFM revenues, which have also been severely compromised.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in the United States, so helpful to small businesses, provides assistance through a loan that can be forgiven if used to retain their employees. The PPP however has not been made available to unions in the United States. This is indeed unfortunate and places a heavy burden on AFM locals and the Federation in the US. Canada, however, does offer its own form of payroll assistance to unions and this is helpful.

The Federation maintains offices in New York City (headquarters), Los Angeles, Toronto, and Washington, DC. Each of these offices performs essential functions in our ability to conduct union business. One might think that with the membership out of work, there would be little for union officers and staff to do, but quite the opposite is true. If anything, we are busier now than ever. Efforts to shape pandemic assistance legislation and government stimulus programs require constant communication with Washington to make our musician advocacy positions clear, with constant shepherding to keep things on track. The unemployment fallout resulting from the pandemic has created a need for guidance to members that the Federation and locals have been providing. Additionally, streaming requests have required some contract flexibility during the pandemic to allow for a media presence during a time when live performance is not possible. Allowing for some flexibility without the situation turning into the “Wild West” is a constant challenge.

I wish everyone a safe and healthy summer. Try not to overstress yourself, and do take time to relax and enjoy the warm weather while remaining safe. Let’s all do our part to avoid a second wave of the virus and remember to remain hopeful. Be good to yourself during this stressful time. Eventually this will all pass.







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