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.

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Officer Columns, Secretary-Treasurer

Ken Shirk – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

Waddaya mean, “It’s just the way things are!?”

I recently watched the documentary, Power, which describes the evolution of policing on our continent. Being American-centric in nature, it maps out policing in the US over the decades and centuries—from its original purpose of re-capturing escaped enslaved people, to Reconstruction where police violently enforced laws suppressing social and economic advancement of the formerly enslaved, […]


When Crisis Is Opportunity

Whether it be on a local or national level, changes in industry practices—or in a union that represents the employees in that industry—generally come slowly. An institution with many constituent parts will rarely move far from the status quo, lest that institution get too far away from its perceived existential center and thereby alienate the […]


A Couple of Things

Musical Equipment Insurance Program Update In February, I gave an update on the search for a replacement carrier for the AFM’s instrument insurance program. AIG/New Hampshire, the previous carrier, pulled out of the business at the end of 2023, offering one-year renewals only to those participants whose policy dates fell earlier than December 31, 2023. […]


Arts Councils – Public Funding Traffic Managers

Every major city in North America has an arts council—some type of public service organization whose mission is to disburse dollars, usually public funds, in support of visual or performing arts. These fund granting councils are staffed by professionals but depend on volunteers from the community to assist in allocating those funds and deciding which […]


Instrument and Band Liability Insurance History and Update

In the early mid-1980s, the administration of former AFM President Victor Fuentealba introduced a groundbreaking musical equipment insurance program designed expressly for professional musicians, and in particular, for musicians whose working environment placed their gear at higher risk—club and lounge players, traveling acts (whether steady or a series of one-nighters). These were musicians who insurance […]


Subways, New Yorkers, and Musicians 

I’m a native of the Pacific Northwest, born and bred. We of that soggy land always viewed places like New York City as evil, dark, and scary nether regions, to be avoided at all costs. So, when I moved to New York City for the first time to take a job with the AFM in […]


The Mayan Calendar and Us

The Mayan calendar was said to “end” on December 21, 2012, and with it would come the end of the world. Or so said the Western societal New Age Q-Anon-ish popular belief. As that supposed doomsday drew nearer, I happened to be keeping company from time to time with a First Nations elder in Southern […]


[de]Generative Artificial Intelligence, Creators, and Us

Generative artificial intelligence (AI), a sinister triad of words, has captured the interest of policymakers everywhere this season. In the US, the world of copyright law has determined that machine-generative AI product cannot be copyrighted. The US Copyright Office is now busily hoovering up comments from interest groups about how it should think about AI […]


Artificial Sweeteners, Artificial Intelligence, and Us

The modern human is a strange species—particularly, the variety of the species that is intent on amassing wealth and goods far beyond what could possibly ever be needed for a comfortable existence. Our economic system has conditioned us to embrace and honor maximally extractive behavior to satisfy our continual quest for transient comforts in support […]


Complacency, Simmering Pots, and Frogs

Complacency is a curse. It’s a curse because it lulls us into a routine, diminishes our ability to see ourselves through the eyes of others, and siphons off our wherewithal to confront authority. It’s a curse because complacency is the mortal enemy of progress. Those of us who live within the comfortable walls of what […]








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