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.
March 1, 2022Alfonso Pollard -
With our focus right now on Capitol Hill, two pieces of critical legislation guide our actions. HR 4130, the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA), is now the primary focus of our legislative work and of this month’s International Musician. AFM President Ray Hair’s column focuses on the merits of the legislation and explains the details of the bill. The AFM plays a huge role in pushing for passage.
Work on passage of any bill requires a strong coalition component. The MusicFIRST executive board, comprised of music industry leaders, including President Hair, works diligently to oversee the success of our lobbying efforts. Behind those efforts is a highly experienced team of Capitol Hill influencers, lobbyists, and political public relations professionals, led by former Congressman Joseph Crowley. The team includes lobbyists from SoundExchange, the AFM, SAG-AFTRA, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Recording Academy, the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), and a host of other industry organizations.
Passage of this legislation is critical for AFM recording musicians’ efforts to extract a performance right from terrestrial broadcasters who for almost 100 years have used the intellectual property of recording musicians to raise billions in advertising profits for themselves. Having worked on this issue under the direction of President Hair for more than five years, the legislation has made tremendous progress thanks to this incredible team.
Thanks go to the many former AFM legal minds who helped carefully craft the primary principles behind this bill. With this iteration of the legislation, we are beginning to see the fruits of our labor pay off. Crafting an insightful legislative plan, this team was first able to ensure support of the powerful Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), to move the bill forward in his committee. With Nadler’s support, HR 4130 was given new life by identifying a bipartisan team of highly respected congressional intellectual property experts—co-sponsors Ted Deutsch (D-FL) and Darrell Issa (R-CA), who holds several patents and other intellectual properties.
Through their leadership, we have been able to carefully name a bipartisan set of congressional co-sponsors. In addition, the MusicFIRST Coalition and its executive board, led by Crowley, tasked the lobbying team with blanketing the Hill with detailed information about the importance of protecting musicians’ intellectual property.
The AFM internal strategy team, led by AFM Executive Board Member and Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President Dave Pomeroy, kicked things into high gear. First and foremost, the team focused on AFM member participation. With the help of AFM Communications Director and International Musician Managing Editor Antoinette Follett, the team initiated an AMFA sign-on petition distributed on our ActionNetwork that garnered more than 900 letters to members of Congress. Emails were sent to our members asking for support of the legislation and members were encouraged to watch the February 2, “Respecting Artists with the American Music Fairness Act” congressional hearing, which included Pomeroy as an AFM/MusicFIRST expert witness.
Prior to the hearing, Pomeroy worked with me to present a briefing to the staff of the 140-member bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus, co-chaired by Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY). The caucus is sensitive to arts issues. The MusicFIRST lobbying team is working on finding a sponsor for a Senate companion bill.
Our second focus remains firmly on the Performing Artists Tax Parity Act of 2021, sponsored by Judy Chu (D-CA) and Vern Buchanan (R-MI). The Tax Parity Act was originally created by President Ronald Reagan to provide tax deductions for artists earning their livings in every facet of the performing arts. HR 4750, along with its Senate companion bill S 2872, sponsored by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), would restore unintentionally lost tax deductions.
The Department for Professional Employees (DPE) Arts, Entertainment, and Media Industry Coordinating Committee (AEMI) has made considerable progress with the House Ways and Means Committee as well as with the Senate Finance Committee. AEMI includes the AFM, Actors’ Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA, and a host of other arts and entertainment union representatives. This legislative effort is led by Actors’ Equity Association legislative representative Brandon Lorenz.
After some tweaking, the bill now includes several improvements, bringing the tax deduction issue up to date. The House legislative office wrote: “This bill modifies the tax deduction for the expenses of performing artists (including commissions paid to managers or agents) to provide for a phaseout of such deduction for taxpayers whose adjusted gross income exceeds $100,000 ($200,000 for joint return filers). The $100,000 phaseout threshold is adjusted for inflation annually for taxable years beginning after 2021.”
This bill has become a priority for the AFM and its members with an eye toward helping to recuperate these deductions. We are currently in communication with the House Ways and Means Committee to determine placement of this tax bill at the end of fiscal year 2022. In addition to the AMFA, this bill was also discussed in detail at the House Arts Caucus staff briefing, with an eye toward increasing congressional co-sponsorship and raising the issue prominently in the offices of our congressional allies.
A number of AFM musicians have contacted my office to express their need to have this problem corrected. As with the American Music Fairness Act, the AFM is working diligently to make our members whole. Thanks to AFM President Hair and AFM Vice President Bruce Fife for taking a direct leadership role in bringing in key legislators to support this bill.
In closing, many professional musicians are or will one day be involved in recorded products, and we all do our civic duty in paying our taxes each year. Your union is doing all it can to help ease the burdens that you face. Please help us move these two important bills forward by contacting your House and Senate representatives.
Whether or not you have recorded music, one day you may be asked to do so. As artists, if we do not look out for ourselves and each other, no one else will. Please remember that we are stronger together. Thank you for your membership in the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada.