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.
January 3, 2019Jay Blumenthal - AFM International Secretary-Treasurer
As 2018 comes to a close and we begin a new year, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the past year and plan for what will be coming in 2019. All in all, 2018 was not as financially robust as 2017, but I am predicting the year will end with a comfortable surplus for the AFM. Of course, actual numbers will not be known until our auditors complete their work in April.
There were some unusual expenses during 2018. Our attempt to purchase office space required us to perform due diligence to see if we were going to fit in the new space. This required engaging an architect to do what is called a “test fit.” We also hired a real estate attorney to represent us in negotiating the terms of the sale and inspectors to test for the presence of asbestos, etc.
As you know, the purchase did not work out. However, negotiations for a lease at 1501 Broadway were concluded successfully. We are currently moving forward with the buildout of the 9th floor. Leasing generated expenses, some of which will be accounted for in 2018 and the remainder in 2019. We look forward to moving into the fresh new office space in 2019.
The Arts, Entertainment and Music Industry (AEMI) unions, under the umbrella of the Department for Professional Employees (DPE) at the AFL-CIO, has been very supportive of our efforts to build a relationship with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The AFM, along with other entertainment unions, provides consultation letters for foreign artists desiring to perform or tour in the US.
On March 15, 2018, DPE set up a meeting with USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna, providing an opportunity for the entertainment union leaders to meet the new director, ask questions, offer suggestions, and in so doing, further develop our relationship with the USCIS. The meeting resulted in some positive procedural changes that improve the USCIS’s ability to identify fraudulent consultation letters. Unions play a crucial role in the visa application process. We are best able to determine if performers are making a legitimate application and are coming to share their unique artistry, rather than providing generic foreign labor that undercuts our prevailing standards.
We continue to work with DPE on various other issues such as full funding of National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities.
The AFM attended quarterly National Music Council (NMC) meetings throughout 2018. The NMC provides “… a forum for the free discussion of this country’s national music affairs and problems. It was founded in 1940 to act as a clearinghouse for the joint opinion and decision of its members and to work to strengthen the importance of music in our life and culture.” Organizations represented either on NMC’s board of directors or as members at-large include the AFM, along with BMI, SESAC, NAFME, MTNA, NAMM, SGA, RIAA, CMA, and others. Important topics affecting AFM members include performance rights and copyright.
The #MeToo movement raised awareness of how wide-spread sexual harassment has become in general and exposed particularly shocking stories in the entertainment industry. The AFM has revised its sexual harassment policy to comport with federal and state laws. Also, we have educated AFM staff about our revised sexual harassment policy and have made it crystal clear that the AFM will not tolerate sexual harassment among our staff members.
Year two of officer education workshops took place adjacent to the various AFM regional conferences and the LCC/PCC meeting during 2018. The program has been adjusted to reflect what was learned from the prior year’s post-workshop survey responses. The workshops continue to receive praise from attendees.
The AFM and the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) held an international conference entitled “The Economy of Streaming Media” in Burbank, California, October 2-3, 2018 (see October 2018 IM President’s Message). The conference was well attended with participation by representatives from countries around the world, including Japan and India. Speakers and panelists consisted of music industry “movers and shakers” who are in a position to provide insight into the future of streaming.
2018 has been an interesting and fulfilling year for the AFM and I expect this will continue into 2019 as well.