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 » Music Business » Crossing Borders: Why Bad Things Happen to Good Artists

Crossing Borders: Why Bad Things Happen to Good Artists

  -  President Baird Artists Management (BAM!)

It is often the things we are unaware of, or the things that slip through the cracks, that can cause bad things to happen to good artists. In the ever-changing and complex world of performance, today’s artist, especially a touring artist, must keep abreast of new regulations and be aware of the basic requirements for contracts, touring, visas, work permits, withholding, and taxation. Here are the most important considerations for any artist:

1) Time Is Paramount: Many artists are not aware of the amount of time needed to prepare and finalize all of the necessary paperwork in today’s performing arts industry. The time required for promoting you and/or your group for performances, taking auditions, participating in showcases, making connections, utilizing social media, etc., may be longer than you think. I have known artists who have worked hard at promoting themselves and are only starting to reap the benefits three to five years later. Getting established in the arts is a long-term commitment.

In addition, the time it takes to negotiate and get a signature on a contract can be prolonged for many reasons. You need to consider all the steps that must be completed to enable the contract to be realized, from applying for and receiving a visa, to dealing with withholding regulations. Give yourself enough time to accomplish your goals.

2) The Devil Is in the Details: An artist must understand what a contract says and/or implies and the two parties to a contract must communicate openly and candidly to avoid confusion. For example, a contract may state what the fee will be, but, in addition, an artist should ask: in what currency the fee will be paid?; will it be paid by cash or check?; exactly when will it be paid (before the performance date; the day of the performance—before or after; a week after the performance, etc.)?; and what happens if the currency loses its value due to weakening of the currency?

Often, contracts are not read with attention to the fine print, especially in contract attachments such as technical and hospitality riders. One artist with whom I worked was shocked to discover, upon arrival at a venue, that the stage was not big enough for the necessary stage sets for the show. A closer examination of the technical specifications of the venue (attached to the contract)would have prevented the surprise. Pay attention to the many details that must be noted and dealt with.

3) Rules, Rules, Rules: There are rules and regulations to many of life’s activities and the touring musician runs into many of them. Crossing a border with pets and/or children can be problematical; too much cash, liquor, or tobacco can be an impediment to crossing a border; and musical instruments containing any endangered species now require permits to cross borders.

One artist approached the Canada-US border and did not think that the DWI of his youth would come back to haunt him. He was not allowed to cross and his tour in the foreign country had to be cancelled.

There are many requirements for additional paperwork involved in visa applications (the gathering of pertinent evidence to support a visa application), work permits (knowing if one is necessary), withholding waivers or agreements (legally avoiding it), and for filing the obligatory tax forms (knowing when to file and what tax forms to file.) Knowing the rules and abiding by them will ensure your success as a touring artist.

—I welcome your questions and concerns. Please send an email to:
While I cannot answer every question in this column,
I promise to answer every email I receive.

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