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 » Important Message from ASCAP to AFM Members

Important Message from ASCAP to AFM Members


by Paul Williams, President and Chairman of the Board of ASCAP and member of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA)

Creating music is a collective art. Whether you are a musician or a songwriter, what you do with your musical gifts ultimately thrives when you collaborate. As the AFM has been for musicians, ASCAP has been a lifeblood for nearly 500,000 songwriters and composers, supporting them, fostering their development throughout their careers, and advocating for their interests in an ever-changing music marketplace.

I’m an ASCAP songwriter. For over 40 years members of the AFM have given their talents to making my music available to the world. Your art has put food on the table for my kids and gas in the car to take them to school. With both organizations, our strength lies in our members coming together with a unified purpose. As ASCAP celebrates its 100th birthday this year, I’d like to share with you a look at how our role will be more important to the future of music than ever before.

We’ve spent 100 years supporting our members by distributing royalties based on the public performance of their music. Our collective licensing model has put more than $5 billion in our members’ pockets over the last six years, and continues to be the most effective way to serve the needs of all the stakeholders in the music ecosystem. It lets us provide music users with blanket licenses at reasonable rates, while ensuring songwriters and other music creators are fairly compensated. It ensures that fans everywhere will have access to the music they love, making it possible to touch the lives of billions of people around the world. And it keeps musicians playing, too—when songwriters and composers are able to make money from their work, they can hire professional musicians like you to help realize their musical visions.

It’s no secret that the competitive landscape in the music industry has undergone a sea change over the past decade. Technology is creating amazing opportunities for music to reach new audiences. But it’s also creating real challenges for songwriters and other creators when it comes to licensing our work.

That’s because the rules and regulations that govern how we do business haven’t kept pace with this evolving ecosystem.

I firmly believe that America’s ability to keep creating and exporting the world’s greatest music depends on all of us working together to modernize the music licensing system. We need to build a system that allows songwriters and composers to thrive alongside the businesses that revolve around our music.

Our livelihoods depend on the income we earn from licensing public performances and reproductions of our works. And that’s why the songwriting community is so appreciative of the legislation recently introduced by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), called the “Songwriter Equity Act.” It would remove one of the artificial barriers that has kept songwriter compensation below fair market rates, and created a dramatic disparity between what songwriters and other music copyright holders can earn. The bill is an important first step in creating a more effective, modern music licensing system that benefits music creators, music licensees, and music listeners alike.

Now, when we find ourselves in rate court, as we did most recently with Pandora, this bill will let ASCAP present royalty rates for sound recordings as benchmarks for the court to consider when setting rates for public performances. It is a simple and reasonable fix—but one which will begin the process of modernizing the copyright law to the benefit of all stakeholders.

The future of the music industry depends on a system that better serves music lovers everywhere—and allows songwriters and composers to receive the efficiency and support that ASCAP provides them. It is our mission to ensure that all songwriters and composers get the full value of their work; that they’re paid in a fair, objective, transparent way; and that they retain control of their music.

We hope you join us in this effort by signing our petition in support of the Songwriter Equity Act at Working together with our stakeholders across the industry, I am confident that we can create a modern music licensing system that serves the need of everyone and ensures a strong future for American music.

—Paul Williams is an Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe-winning Hall of Fame songwriter, and President and Chairman of the Board of ASCAP.

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