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 » More is Better When it Comes to Membership

More is Better When it Comes to Membership


Let’s talk about membership. I’m often asked, “Why should I be a member of the musicians’ union?” I’ve probably made the answer too complicated. My mind races through all of the different things that the local is working on, and then all of the things the union is doing, and try to tailor my answer to the musician who is asking the question. Actually, the answer is very simple: if you’re a musician, you should be a member of the union that serves and benefits musicians. 

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with approximately 40 students in a Business of Music class at one of our local community colleges. One of the first comments from a student, which was accompanied by many nodding heads, was that, prior to taking the class, he didn’t know that musicians had a union. It isn’t the first time I’ve heard that said. It’s a real problem, both for musicians who would benefit from membership, if they knew about us, and also for all of us currently making up the union who would benefit from having greater numbers of musicians working together for each other. How do we get the word out? 

The musicians in the class represented a variety of genres, including hip hop and metal. One of the questions was if those musicians were welcome. Of course they are! One of the things I love about being a musician is that, with all of our diversity, we are essentially the same. We are all musicians! While we may produce different types of sounds, we all face the same issues, which include having fulfilling work that is fairly compensated; opportunities to develop our talents and skills; and a meaningful voice in our workplaces; as well as living and working in dignity. (See the AFM Bylaws, Article 2 Mission Statement). 

Just about every musician has run across a person who, upon finding out you’re a musician, says, “so what do you do for a living?” We’ve all run across managements who tell us, that they had to pay everybody else who was working and they don’t have enough to cover the musicians. When we protest, the response is that we should be grateful to have the opportunity to share our talent.  

If we didn’t have a union and were completely on our own, like so many young musicians feel they are, would we individually be able to tolerate the disrespect that the uninformed have for our profession? Would we have the wherewithal to pursue making music at a high level if we didn’t know there was a support system and precedence to be fairly compensated? Or would we have fallen into the great abyss of discouragement and poverty that is the great killer of creativity and art? Isn’t part of our responsibility as musicians to help those coming up after us, not only with their musical skills, but also to give them information that can make the difference to achieve their potential, instead of reaching that hopeless point when they will pay to play or work for free? 

All of us who have achieved a level of professionalism had a mentor at one time or another. My father was one of mine. I grew up knowing that his musical work helped to support our family and therefore it was natural for me to expect to get paid for providing musical services. Not everyone is so fortunate, and many of the problems we face as musicians are exacerbated by young musicians who don’t know about the union, haven’t learned the benefits of mutual support, and are susceptible to managements of all kinds who are more than happy to take advantage of them and exploit their skills. 

My “ask” of you is to help us to help ourselves. When you meet other musicians, ask if they’re members and tell them they should join us. If you have a student or family member who is entering the performance world, bring them down to your local and sign them up. More members equates to better help creating solutions for our problems, better support for our issues, and better promotion for the services of professional musicians. More is better!