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


Home » Officer Columns » What’s in a Family?

What’s in a Family?


The answer to that is plenty! Our union, like most families, is not perfect; it is within that imperfection that we usually are able to work out some of our issues and grow. If this is true about biological families, it is also true of our AFM family. Families such as a union are places where its members grow; where they make mistakes and yet still find compassion and caring. We are all products of our upbringing and family roots, where we learn, mature, and nurture our talents and skills. As we get older, and hopefully wiser, we come to realize that the real treasure in life can be found in our own place, home, and family and friends.

Solidarity is the only solution to the many problems we could be facing in the future with employers trying to replace us. The union makes sure we always get our fringe benefits, decent wages, and safe working conditions. We need roots, like in a family, to hold together in these days to come. Know we are unified. At the Federation we share in all your interests and respect all the training it took for you to achieve the level of musicianship you have to withstand these very different times we are living in. It is simply a matter of perspective. Respect and integrity are also key words to abide by. Do your very best not to judge your past; you wouldn’t be who you are without it. Do what you feel is the correct and right thing for you, and everything else will fall into place, guaranteed!

The AFM is doing all it can, with your input and help, to be more focused on organizing and to respond to the various economic and social changes we must deal with. As I have often said, sometimes it is in our greatest challenges that we discover our greatest strengths. Many thanks to all of you who support the direction AFM President Ray Hair and the IEB have been moving in these past years. I, along with my fellow IEB members, rest heavily on our experiences, inventiveness, and insights as we move forward as union officers in these ever-changing times. Keep in mind, politics really do affect the lives of musicians.

We all have our own personalities and our own plans in regard to how we want to live our lives. We may think we know what is best for everyone, but ultimately, the choices our friends and loved ones make are theirs, not ours. A wise person once said, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” We hope!

Our union is both the fundamental unit of our lives as musicians, as well as the root of our culture. With harmony, a union will prosper in the most troubling of times. We have a bond with each other that is reinforced by mutual respect as musicians. Many of the traditions we have abided by over the years counter alienation and confusion. In truth, a union is what the members make it. We take your suggestions and provide structure and stability. Unions have more values and ethics than some of the politicians that we pay our hard-earned tax dollars to.

You don’t always get what you wish for; you get what you work for. We, as musicians, must decide that any predominant thought that’s not in any way positive has no room in our minds, or in our lives. I really believe we musicians have everything it takes to be successful in all we do. Plan for your success every day, just like you do regarding your daily routines. You can do it. Just imagine that spot, take aim, and stroke the ball, it will go in the pocket. As Rumi once wrote, “You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?”

Our pension plan, the AFM and Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM-EPF), unites a large majority of AFM members. Unity is the key word a labor union should abide by. Again, it puts the family and the union in sync. Our plan is funded by employer contributions and investment returns. Employer contributions are based on a participant’s covered earnings pursuant to the terms of the respective collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) between the employer and the AFM, or other approved agreements, at various fixed contribution percentage rates.

We address the needs of our biological families and rightfully so. We also must address the needs of our union family. Many of these needs may require the rethinking of our policies and bylaws. Social policies can be intensified by some of the troubled waters we face in the music business. Every ingredient needs to be carefully looked into, and that is why we, as a union, a family, will be able to overcome the obstacles employers throw in our paths. If we stick together in solidarity, like a functional family, it will work.

‘To compose, all you need do is remember a tune that nobody else has thought of.”
— Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Check out a great book written in 2000 by the late Gene Lees, Arranging the Score: Portraits of the Great Arrangers.