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 » AFM: New Answers for Old Questions

AFM: New Answers for Old Questions


by Wiliam F. Thomas, AFM EMSD Director and Assistant to the President

Welcome to the July 2014 edition of International Musician! In addition to being my first article for this esteemed publication, the July IM also marks the return of more regular coverage of the Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD) in the publication. From our cover feature on Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) member, bassist, and recording and touring musician extraordinaire Nathan East, to this series of articles about all things EMSD, we hope to give you a sense of what is happening in the world of recorded music here at the AFM. 

Since joining the EMSD staff in January 2014, I have spent a tremendous amount of time with AFM members, elected leaders, and the Federation’s professional staff in order to learn more about our work, our struggles, and the opportunities for future success. In addition to studying contracts and sitting in on numerous negotiations, I have taken the time to think strategically about how to create more opportunities for our members to work under AFM contracts. That is usually my first thought in the morning and the last one in my head as I go to bed at night.

In these first six months, I have had countless conversations with AFM musicians, union leaders and staff, contractors, composers, songwriters, agents, studio managers, other labor leaders, music execs, the AFM’s music industry partners, and most importantly, our customers—the employers who pay us to make great music. Most of those talks have included some variation of these five questions, and I ask people to be very direct:

  • What are the AFM and EMSD doing right?
  • What are we doing wrong?
  • In those areas where EMSD is doing something badly, how can we work together to fix it?
  • If you could change one thing about doing business with EMSD, what would it be?
  • What do you think is AFM’s single greatest opportunity right now?

As you can imagine, setting up a conversation with open-ended questions like these has led to some interesting observations—although I might suggest wearing your Kevlar body armor at times. Still, as the “new guy” at AFM, with a tremendous amount to learn, I need to find out what people think, and most importantly, where we need to improve and create opportunity for members.

As the newest member of the EMSD team, I am very excited to be here, and to apply my focus to advancing the careers of AFM members. I am impressed by the dedication and hard work of my colleagues. We will work hard to maintain the standards that work well, while improving in those areas where we may have fallen short in the excellence our members deserve.

If we fall short in any area of contract administration or member/customer service I would appreciate it if you let me know how we can improve. You can contact me directly:  Please refer to the EMSD section of the AFM website ( for a directory of personnel.