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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Home » Officer Columns » Executive Board Members » Learn from the Past—Transform the Future


Learn from the Past—Transform the Future

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by Dave Pomeroy, International Executive Board and President of Local 257 (Nashville, TN)

The AFM’s unique history demonstrates a steady pattern of labor and technology intersecting in ways that simply could not have been imagined by those who founded this union in 1896. The constantly evolving relationship between musicians and technology is well documented in our collective bargaining agreements.

As physical product sales continue to decline, and various forms of streaming become the norm, we have made crucial adjustments that have allowed the Special Payments Fund and the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF) to continue to have a positive impact on our members and our communities.

Much of the invaluable work of the MPTF is performed under the radar. The MPTF’s co-funding of live performances in schools gives the AFM an important community connection, and inspires future generations of musicians. Eldercare facilities are also frequent partners for Trust Fund gigs. These events can have a profound effect on residents, adding to their quality of life and making them feel engaged. They also provide a rewarding opportunity for musicians.

Slowly but surely, we see the gradual evolution of our membership demographics. Members are becoming younger and more diverse, in parallel with the worldwide music industry. Musicians and vocalists no longer need to fit visual stereotypes of the past, and major labels no longer rely on radio as their sole promotion tool.

These days, a big budget record by a major artist can be displaced at the top of the charts by a project recorded in a bedroom studio by an unknown artist who goes viral on social media. The music industry is very different today. Yet, many basic realities remain, and the AFM is the glue that holds it all together.

The rise of home studios changed the way many people make records. But for years, there was no AFM agreement that reflected a per-song approach, as opposed to work done by the hour. With a few simple contract tweaks and approval of the AFM and Employers’ Pension Fund, we found a way to make the impossible possible. In 2010, the Single Song Overdub Scale was approved as a standalone national scale that can also be combined with Limited Pressing.

With a $100 song minimum, it is the only scale that allows you to negotiate a higher per song scale. You also have the choice to have the employer pay the pension separately. Or to make things simpler (with the employer’s approval), you can also pay into your own pension out of the total per-song amount.

Make no mistake, there is home recording going on all over the world. This agreement is being used more and more, which is good for everyone—AFM members and their locals. It is affordable for independent artists and small record labels, and most importantly, it fits today’s business model.

The pandemic could have taken the AFM down, but we circled the wagons and found new ways to keep musicians working. We helped them navigate unemployment benefits and more. Our legislative efforts in Washington, DC, and elsewhere are ongoing, and we have made a difference. Next up is the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA), which is currently before Congress. It would be a game changer for AFM musicians whose work is played on terrestrial radio. It would unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in worldwide royalties for US musicians who have been denied what they have deserved for more than half a century.

It takes time to change things, but when we pull together, we can do it. These are challenging times, no doubt, but music has the power to bring people together and help them find common ground. We should never take that responsibility lightly and commit to doing all we can to help break down the barriers between us.

The future of the AFM depends on our ability to continue to adjust to new realities and lead the way toward a music industry that respects musicians. Most importantly, we must find new ways to reach out to the next generation and show them why and how the AFM is an invaluable resource. They are the future, and we must be ready to pay it forward by helping them find their own path to successful careers as professional musicians.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” — Eleanor Roosevelt







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