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 » Vice President from Canada » International Federation of Musicians: Lessons Learned from Musicians Unions from Around the World

International Federation of Musicians: Lessons Learned from Musicians Unions from Around the World

  -  AFM Vice President from Canada

Attending the executive committee meetings of the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) in Helsinki brought home the importance of having ongoing relations with the other musicians’ unions in the world. Too often we focus on problems that impact us directly and personally, which leads to isolated thinking, oblivious that others have or have had similar issues elsewhere.

FIM provides an opportunity to observe and meet with representatives from unions in all different stages of development. Several are from third-world countries with oppressive labour laws that present difficult obstacles. Meeting their labour leaders also allows a certain amount of introspection. Observing the trials and tribulations of a blossoming union in many ways reflects the growth of the AFM, and is a stark reminder of past battles. Of most importance is the vast knowledge and experiences that can be shared and learned from each other’s victories and mistakes.

Front and centre on many artists’ minds is the current streaming debate, and just how much of the revenue the artist’s share should be. The musicians’ union in Sweden (FSM) recently took the labels to court, claiming that the artists should receive a 50/50 split on streaming. The recording companies argued that, under their personal services contract with the artists, back catalogue revenue was included in agreed-upon royalties. The courts ruled in favour of the union, maintaining that the current laws on “making available”—covering the semi-interactive services whereby an end user can select which songs are in queue—were not in existence at the time the vast majority of these artists signed. This decision was huge, and will likely be cited in courts in many other countries, including Canada.

FIM Officers were present in Geneva for the Meeting of Experts on Nonstandard Forms of Employment, and reaffirmation of the commitment of the International Labour Organization to implement its mandate, which applies to all workers, including those in nonstandard forms of employment. Under the mandate, full, productive, and freely chosen employment is promoted simultaneously with fundamental rights at work, social dialogue, adequate income from work, and the security of social protection. While this is essentially a Euro-centric action, a positive result may well have a spillover effect to this continent. When I think of pay-to-play, playing for the door, selling tickets for pay, and “showcasing” at festivals and music conferences for no remuneration, having the government step in to enforce minimum wages, working conditions, and other benefits for part-time and temporary (nonstandard) work sounds like a considerable benefit. In some ways, the ongoing dialogue in Europe is more advanced, and certainly worthy of study.

A recent area of concern that came to light was relationships with featured musicians’ organizations, both at the national and international level. The International Artist Organization (IAO) currently has seven member countries—the UK (FAC), Germany (Domus), Croatia (CAFM), France (La Gam), Belgium (FACIR), Spain (CoArtis), and Norway (Gramart). With the intellectual property rights debate raging around the world, featured artists have had some success in urging governments to listen. In many countries, these artists receive 45% of the total revenue emanating through Neighbouring Rights (5% to the nonfeatured musicians, 50% to the labels). They have an intense interest in advocating compliance to the WIPO treaties because of the significant potential earnings. Because there is a certain cachet for the politicians to have a photo-op with a well-known artists, they have had some success in meeting with government officials.

As a lobby group, in general, these coalitions are successful and worthwhile. However, they do not function as a union, nor do they provide any of the core services one expects from union membership. Despite this, the trend has been to drift away from their home union, feeling they have “outgrown” the need. Nothing could be further from the truth and this thinking is, in fact, highly detrimental. One of the keys to collectivism is that all things are achievable through large numbers. When artists venture out on their own, that fragmentation means many voices instead of one, resulting in a mixed message, lack of solidarity, and zero results.

I believe the AFM can provide an answer for this situation, by virtue of our history. We have our own “special interest” groups within our organization—the orchestras, the recording musicians, the theatre musicians—and their needs are addressed through the creation of players’ conferences. Perhaps this model can be used in Europe, to allow the featured artists a distinct voice, but under the umbrella of their respective musicians’ unions.

These are only a few of the dozens of issues that came before the FIM committee. Music is more than ever a global industry, requiring expertise that can only be gleaned through a consortium of musicians’ unions from around the world. FIM is that entity, and as the largest entertainment union in the world, the AFM must provide strong leadership and contribute to the collaborative effort required to keep the external forces at bay.

Canadian Steel Workers Victorious

Following up on the Crown Metal Packaging boycott mentioned in my May column, the members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9176 in Toronto, Ontario, have ended their 22-month strike. They will return to work August 10 under a new six-year collective agreement. On July 8, the company finally relented on its attempt to bar striking workers from returning to their jobs. Crown had hired replacement workers during the dispute. Not only will all striking workers now have a chance to return to their jobs, but those who choose not to return will be offered enhanced retirement and severance provisions.

These workers fought for nearly two years against a foreign multinational’s attempt to eliminate their union and their unionized jobs. USW Ontario Director Marty Warren. thanked the many unions, community groups, and consumers who provided tremendous support, both financial and moral, to the workers and their families.

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