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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


Home » Officer Columns » Executive Board Members » A Tale of Four Bassists

A Tale of Four Bassists


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

Last summer I witnessed a conversation between four bassists at our local and I have been ruminating on the information exchanged. One bassist is of retirement age (not from music); one is in his early 20s. Two are symphonic performers. One focuses primarily on jazz and big band, but also ’50s and ’60s; for another it’s rockabilly, some bluegrass, R&B, and electronic. Two have “day jobs.” One supplements his income with driving for dollar orchestras; another teaches private lessons. Three perform in night clubs; one performs at street fairs. Two have worked under CBAs, one has nominally, and one not at all. Two are in marriages. One is a woman whose teacher was a pioneer for women working in orchestras. Two of them, both primarily freelance musicians, joined the AFM as high school students.

All of them take their music very seriously, are respected by their peers, and work very hard at making a living, balancing music making with having a life. All of them are incredibly busy, but make time to participate in their union. The diversity of lifestyles, genres, and work environments represented by a sample of four bassists living and working in one local is just an example of who we all are: professional musicians and members of the American Federation of Musicians.

Something else we all have in common is the struggle to be recognized as working people, who provide services, and create a product that has value in a society that currently has the tendency of valuing only those who work in a cubicle or sell widgets. Conversations like the one described that took place at a union gathering must continue among musicians. We need to integrate freelance musicians with those who work under collective bargaining agreements, so we can gain a better understanding of the value we bring to our communities and how to communicate that value to those who don’t make music. In that way, we can gain allies.

We have to understand that it is in the best interests of managements, corporations, venues, and the other entities that profit from our services and products, not to have these conversations that lead to mutual understanding, respect, and solidarity. The more we are divided and don’t perceive each other as being brothers and sisters in music based on our variety of work, the better the non-musicians’ profit margins.

Our union is tasked with building strength in order to gain leverage in all the different markets in which musicians work. We are all interconnected. Any area of our work that is allowed to erode will undermine other work and types of work over time. Many opportunities are opening up before us through new technologies. If you’ve been reading the IM over the past few years particularly, you will see that our union is actively working to be a part of it all in order to protect and promote musicians’ interests.

You have already heard about the remarkable AFM Convention this past July. We’ve been through and are still experiencing some “interesting” times, but I have never been so optimistic. The financial package that was passed at the convention will help and is deeply appreciated, but there is something else we must do and that is to grow. Your help is imperative. Participate in your local. Use your voice to help guide it, so you can gain the courage and confidence to reach out to nonmember musicians and encourage them to join us. Peer-to-peer, colleague-to-colleague, teacher-to-students, and teacher-to-parents discussions are the most effective method of bringing in musicians. It’s not only about finances, more importantly, it is about solidarity and leverage. We are responsible for our future and together we can make it brighter. Thank you for your membership!