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 » An AFM for All Musicians: We Will Listen, Organize, and Fight

An AFM for All Musicians: We Will Listen, Organize, and Fight

  -  AFM International President

As I write this, I am transitioning from president of Local 802 (New York City) to my new role as international president of the AFM. As I do so, I close one chapter of my journey as a union leader and open another, in which I foresee unique challenges and opportunities ahead for this great union.

I want to personally thank the delegates of the 102nd AFM Convention for putting their faith and trust in me to carry the torch of leadership for all the musicians and locals of the United States and Canada. I am also looking forward to working with newly elected International Secretary-Treasurer Ken Shirk, International Vice President Dave Pomeroy, returning Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert, and of course, the elected members of the AFM Executive Committee Tina Morrison, John Acosta, Ed Malaga, Luc Fortin, and Dusty Kelly.

I also want to acknowledge retiring officers President Ray Hair, International Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, and International Vice President Bruce Fife. I had the personal pleasure of working with the Hair administration for nearly a decade, and the work of that administration has laid the foundation for the continued growth and success of our union. Thank you, Ray, Jay, and Bruce!

The AFM is entering a new era with a new administration. The International Executive Board (IEB) has the unique ability to address the issues we encounter by virtue of the diverse and varied experiences each member of the IEB brings to their service. It is incumbent on this administration to ensure that our organization as a whole is well represented and that we lift up the musicians who work in every segment of our industry, and that their voices inform all the work we do.

There is no place in union leadership for personal agendas. This administration will be driven by the core belief that it is our role as union leaders to put aside personal agendas and consider what is best for our union and all of its members. To do that effectively, we must be informed and knowledgeable about the issues and listen actively to our members to better understand where our differences lie and why such differences exist. Lively, informed debate will result in sound decision-making and effective action.

The entertainment industry is faced with myriad challenges for which we need to be prepared. As a union, being prepared means being organized. We must develop organizing models and tailor them to the specific discipline we are organizing. We cannot organize film musicians the same way we organize symphonic musicians; we cannot organize pit musicians like we organize jazz, freelance, or club musicians. Each of these disciplines is essential to our union and by finding effective ways to reach these musicians, we will grow and strengthen our union.

In addition to organizing new groups of musicians, we must also continue the work of building strong internal organizing within existing bargaining units. Underpinning effective organizing is a corps of dedicated and educated local leaders. To that end, we must commit to expanding our existing programs to offer local leaders the knowledge and resources they need to grow and strengthen our locals and, by extension, our Federation. It was gratifying to see that our convention delegates also saw the significance of education and organizing and communicated that these programs should be a top priority for the new administration. I look forward to working to make their vision a reality.

Looking ahead to aggressive campaigns against bad employers—whether a rogue producer, presenter, or the AMPTP—the AFM will fight to protect the job of every musician. It is not a new fight for us to protect against the theft of our intellectual property when our product is exploited without compensation or the continued replacement of the human factor in our art by technology and artificial intelligence. But that fight today, with the advent of ever more sophisticated AI technologies, has reached a point of no return. If we lose that fight today, we lose jobs and livelihoods that will not be reclaimed in our lifetime. Many of our employers do not appropriately value our product. The first step in changing that is for us as musicians to understand the value of our product and to stand together and insist on being paid fairly for the initial and subsequent use of the content we create.

We are on the eve of preparing to negotiate with the Broadway League for the Pamphlet B Theatrical Touring Trade Agreement. There are major issues facing us on the road. The use of technology, fair treatment and pay for our traveling musicians, and meaningful health care for the musicians on the road are just a few issues to be addressed in these talks.

Motion Picture negotiations start in the fall. The WGA and SAG-AFTRA are currently in conflict and on strike against the AMPTP. We are next at the bargaining table, and our issues are the same. Let’s make ourselves visible in support of our colleagues and bring our instruments to rallies and events in support of their struggle. Remind the public that we are the musicians who create the music for motion picture and theatrical television. Ask them to consider how the emotional force of any film or TV show scene—the passion, joy, suspense, grief, or any other emotion—would be diminished without the pulse of the musical score beating beneath the action.

There is not a single component of the entertainment industry the AFM doesn’t have a stake in. We are everywhere. If we draw on our solidarity, we can use our presence throughout the entertainment industry to accomplish our goals of fair treatment, compensation, and respect for the value of our work on behalf of all the musicians who make up our great union. We are the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada. We can do great things if we do them together.

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