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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Ear Factor

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Play It Safe When It Comes to Your Hearing

Whether you play for a wall thumping rock band or with a booming brass band, your ears need protection from the loud sounds that constantly bombard them. But just how much noise is too much? Eighty-five decibels, like the level of sound from a blender or city traffic, is enough to reach the threshold level where hearing loss can occur. Even minute-long exposures to a sound at 110 decibels, like a jackhammer or chainsaw, can cause permanent damage. Damage to your hearing would certainly affect your abilities as a musician, especially your ability to tune your instrument and adjust the pitch.

The first step to protecting your ears can be as simple as turning down your volume when possible. You might consider a smaller, low-power amp, maybe even one small enough to hook to your belt or pocket, or even sometimes practicing and performing “unplugged.” Because hearing damage is compounded by the length of exposure, the risk of hearing loss is greatly reduced when you limit exposure.

Musicians can use earplugs and monitors to curb hearing damage. In-ear monitors are a great option for musicians who want to hear themselves while playing in a group setting. They help control the amount of sound going into the ear without losing the ability to hear yourself and keep proper time. Wireless in-ear monitors provide richly detailed high-fidelity sound on stage. They also help to eliminate feedback, lower onstage noise levels, and reduce vocal fatigue for musicians in loud performance spaces and concerts. Two independent signals at the receiver provide a clean, articulate mix that allows performers to hear themselves at a comfortable volume. Monitors can be custom-made by hearing care professionals to fit an individual’s unique ear canal.

Earplugs provide the best protection against hearing loss. Look for products that fit the ear canal snugly for maximum protection. Plugging your ears is effective, not only during loud practice sessions, but also at concerts or other noisy venues. Many earplugs that come in a pack are one-sized so make sure you find a tight fit. Here are some earplug options:

Disposable: Modest protection isn’t hard to find for an affordable price. Many of these earplugs come in multi-packs and can be used and then thrown out. Look for ones made of soft foam with a noise reduction rating (NRR) of at least 22 decibels.

High Fidelity/ Noncustom: These reduce sound levels evenly (approximately 20 dB at all frequencies) so that music sounds clear and natural, not muffled as with other earplugs. They are configured to replicate the natural response of the ear canal so that when sound enters the earplug it is reproduced unchanged, exactly the same as the ear would hear it, only quieter.

Custom Fit: Earplugs that are designed especially for you provide the best protection at a higher price. An audiologist will have to make a mold of your ear canal for the best fit possible. Filters are interchangeable as well, so you can get the exact level of sound reduction you need.

If you’re frequently exposed to loud sound, musical or otherwise, it’s a good idea to get your hearing checked regularly. The website for Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (hearnet.com) can help you find a licensed doctor or audiologist who can diagnose any damage and recommend customized products to prevent further hearing loss. Finding the right ear gear and being proactive about hearing health can save your precious hearing for music making.







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