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.
November 1, 2014IM -
by Michael Manley, AFM Touring/Theatre/Booking and Immigration Division Director and Assistant to the President
In a landscape where an artist’s big break can take place on YouTube as often as in a concert hall or club, musicians can reach an international audience with a few swipes of a tablet screen. Jazz artists and indie bands may play festivals and tours around the globe. A theatre musician may conduct Gypsy in Germany, and a violinist might play Brahms in Brazil. While the barriers to getting on the international radar may be coming down thanks to technology, the very real borders and immigration regulations governing international gigging are still very much a reality.
What are some basics you need for global gigging? Entertainment Visa Consultant David King, who specializes in cross-border artist employment, gave me the run-down. “Each country has its own requirements for musicians wanting to perform in their country,” he notes. This begins with the proper visa allowing employment to take place. King’s general rule is, “No visa, no show, no earnings.” And this usually means a different visa for each country, if there are multiple country stops on the route.
“Wherever you are going, you need to remember to allow plenty of time to process the paperwork,” King continues. “Treat this as the most important aspect of your travel plans.” Here’s his checklist:
While navigating this process can be a daunting task, there are service agencies and immigration lawyers who can do the heavy lifting for a fee.
Aside from the visa and clearance hurdles, there are the regular concerns about any gig—do I have an enforceable contract, and who is responsible for it? It is ideal for the employer to be based in the US or Canada, as the AFM has jurisdiction in those countries and a union contract can be entered into covering the foreign employment. Employers not based in those two countries have no obligation to enter into union agreements to cover work performed in their own countries. In that case, it’s best to do as much research as possible on the employer to ensure it is reputable and professional, in addition to answering the following questions:
Because of the lack of AFM jurisdiction, and because of the many unknowns and potential traps with foreign employment, it is ideal to have a booking agent or artist manager working with you or your band on foreign engagements. In cases of disputes, an agent or manager can be much more effective in resolving problems than a single musician or band. Good agents can also negotiate an agreement that will address the above areas of concern. You can search for an AFM signatory booking agent on the afm.org website at: http://www.afm.org/resources/booking-agent-search.
Foreign employment isn’t hassle-free, but it can be relatively painless with the right resources and precautions in place. Just don’t forget your passport.
Thanks to attorney Jonathan Ginsburg, Fettmann Ginsburg PC, Fairfax, VA for his assistance in preparing this article.