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 » Eating the Elephant One Bite at a Time

Eating the Elephant One Bite at a Time

  -  International Executive Board Member and President of Local 105 (Spokane, WA)

Union activism has been growing over the past several years as workers have come to understand that the strength of their union relies on them. The goal of every contract negotiation is to take steps forward, or, as a mentor of mine says, we “take a bite”—referring to the old story about how to eat an elephant. Very rarely does significant change happen overnight, but setting goals and figuring out the steps necessary to reach them creates the path to achievement. Patience and persistence is a necessity for every union leader or committee. Some of these goals may be focused on collective bargaining but that is not the only arena we can work in.

You’ve undoubtedly been asked to support actions for the AFM-EPF, the streaming campaigns, strikes, and lockouts. Oftentimes, campaigns are reactive out of necessity. However, we can take on other issues at the local level that could be proactive and effective. The musicians in your area know best the needs of your local music community, so I encourage you to work together to create a brain trust. Gather under the umbrella of your local and identify others (unions and/or community partners) in the community who may be impacted by your ideas or be able to provide information, advice, or general support. A great place to find help is in your central and state labor councils, or federations of labour and labour councils in Canada. Creating an effective system for working together to solve our collective problems is really where local unions can shine.
We have seen successes such as when Local 105 (Spokane, WA) worked through the city council to get rid of the cabaret license imposed on venues with live music and/or dancing and helped create a city ordinance requiring that entertainers performing shows in the public parks must be compensated. Local 99 (Portland, OR) worked with various groups to block proposed legislation that would have prevented musicians under the age of 21 from being able to work with bands in venues that serve alcohol. Several local unions have been able to create musician load-in zones on streets fronting venues. Another recent example comes from Local 76-493 (Seattle, WA) working with a coalition of unions and entities that got statewide non-compete legislation signed into a law going into effect January 1, 2020, which includes reducing blackout dates to no more than three days before or after a show.

These types of activities can be fun, challenging, and rewarding. Every time we communicate with our city or state representatives, we have the opportunity to explain the value of musicmaking in a community. Identifying and working on the issues facing your music community is something all members can participate in without regard to political party.
The best way to get anything done is by reaching out to all representatives; they pay more attention when their constituents speak directly to them. As a union of musicians, we can double down by lobbying with both the arts non-profits as well as our union brothers and sisters. It’s an opportunity to build understanding, relationships, and support for professional music making in your hometown.

Reminder: The 2020 MLK Jr. Human and Civil Rights Conference will be held January 17-19, at the Capitol Hilton, 1001 16th Street NW, Washington, DC.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Give Us the Ballot,” drawn from Dr. Martin Luther King’s pivotal voting rights speech delivered at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom gathering in Washington, D.C., in 1957. More than 60 years after Dr. King laid out for the nation the innumerable gains that would be made possible if every citizen had full access to the voting booth, we are still facing voter disenfranchisement at alarming levels. For more information, visit

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