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.
January 1, 2024IM -
Unfortunately, finding success as an independent musician often requires more than high musical proficiency and a professional working demeanor. As most of our freelance musicians already know, you’re a small business and quite a bit of work is required outside of your performance. Here are a few things to think about, as well as a few tools the AFM has in place that may help you along the way.
These days a website doesn’t need to be a social destination where visitors remain for an extended time and engage with gimmicks and special effects. In most cases, a simple digital business card will suffice with some photos, a brief bio, and maybe some streaming video or cloud-sourced audio of you or your group. There are a lot of webhosts out there who market their services with simple drag-and-drop site building and lots of templates. Be aware that sometimes these services can get pricey and their site builders are proprietary. This means that, even if you migrate your site successfully to another host (a big if), any future editing will require raw coding.
The AFM’s GoProHosting can take migration from most popular site building platforms, if you don’t anticipate needing to make many changes to your site. Our real strength, however, is our simple site building with WordPress and extremely low price point (remember—GoPro Hosting isn’t a for-profit entity). It may not be the best hosting money can buy, but it’s full-featured, and for most of our users, the savings can fully offset their annual membership dues. Not to mention, the platform is easy to learn, and you own your site and can take it anywhere you want!
The Federation has a site for selling your digital music products directly to consumers as well. With some high-quality .wav files of your album (or individual songs) and digital documentation that you filed the correct paperwork, we can list your album on www.GoProtunes.com at no cost. You can link to our secure checkout from any of your sites. Our members keep 100% of the purchase price, minus a small fee for payment processing. If you’re interested in having your album listed on GoPro Tunes, reach out to the Freelance Services Department for assistance.
Social media can be tricky, but it can be a pretty important component of a freelance musician’s toolkit. It’s a great informal way for people to get to know you. Remember that, as a working musician, you’re a brand and a business. People vet their musical hires the same way they do the rest of their purchases and services. Extreme political views and commentary, or any content that may be interpreted as inappropriate, could potentially cost you a job. There are potential pitfalls in the musical community too. There’s a fine line between documenting all the work you’re doing and oversharing. Always make sure you have permission before tagging others (especially if you’re subbing for them). Be mindful of humble brags and seemingly self-deprecating “obligatory gig pics” that may lead to resentment from your musical peers.
Listing yourself or your act with a booking agent can be an effective way to connect with potential buyers. Many acts in the US and Canada are still booked via booking agencies and even more musicians find work via various booking websites. The AFM continues to offer a booking agent program with a small roster of signatories. We are always open to adding new agents. A list of our current booking agents and agencies by region is accessible online at members.afm.org. Many of our agents have a national presence and operate across many areas.
The Federation also offers the AFMEntertainment.org site for listing members and their acts available for booking. The AFM handles all communication with the buyer and will act on your behalf to guarantee a contract and rates at or above the minimum. There is no additional fee for this service, but if you book a gig, there will be an agency fee deducted from the final amount. (We usually add this to the buyer’s fees, so the musicians still receive their quoted amount.)
Be cautious when listing with third-party booking sites, as they may require a fee just to be listed or use various methods to upsell premium listings and placement. Without a guarantee that you’ll even be connected to potential buyers, this can get expensive, especially with low-cost options available elsewhere. Remember, you can link your listing on the AFM sites to other platforms. That way, you’ll appear in more searches across multiple apps and build a greater presence.
One of the best ways for freelance musicians to better engage with their musical community is through direct social interaction. You meet people on the gigs you play, but there are other avenues to come together with your fellow Federation members. It’s important to have a voice in your local. All of our AFM locals have regular membership meetings where you can meet others who are likely doing the same or similar work and facing similar issues. Many locals also organize social gatherings for their members.
Participation in committees and focus groups is especially valuable. Many locals have sub-groups centered around a specific genre or area of work—symphonic music or jazz, freelance and independent musicians—or even opportunities to participate in transformative social change with diversity and equity committees. If your local doesn’t have anything like this currently, chances are that other members will be interested. Become the change you want by reaching out to your local officers and starting a committee with their assistance or reach out to our Freelance Services Department to find out how to begin. Smaller locals with often over-burdened officers will be grateful for the enthusiasm and engagement, and you’ll be taking an active role in growing and preserving your music community.