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 » Executive Board Members » Music Is a Team Sport, and So Is the AFM!

Music Is a Team Sport, and So Is the AFM!

  -  International Vice President and President of Local 257 (Nashville, TN)

The shared experiences that come from the creation, reproduction, and live performance of music bring people together in ways that no other art form can. Two people who cannot speak the same language or are miles apart philosophically can be united, if only for a few moments, through music. A hit song broadcast on the radio can be simultaneously enjoyed by people of all ages, colors, and diverse backgrounds, all around the world. Imagine a film with no music, whether it is subtle background music or a key element in the story. Think about how diminished the film experience would be.

As we finally emerge from the pandemic (fingers crossed!), the joy of live music, both from the stage and in the audience, is more obvious than ever. We can find common ground through the power of music that connects us on many levels. Making music is a product of collaboration and teamwork, whether in composition, preparation, recording, or performance. Bands and ensembles of all sizes require internal cooperation to be successful. Music is a team sport in many ways.

The AFM is a team as well. We are always more effective when we communicate, share information, define common goals, and work together to adjust and improve our collective mission to represent and promote respect for musicians in a constantly evolving music industry. As I regularly tell potential and new members, you can take on the music business by yourself, or become part of a much larger group with similar, yet diverse, interests and goals. In the long run, making the choice to join the AFM gives a musician power to make better choices career-wise. It is the right thing to do for many reasons.

When I moved to Nashville in 1977, I knew only one person. I was advised to join AFM Local 257 (Nashville, TN). I joined one month later. It was the best decision I made since picking up the bass at age 10. Being a member has enabled me to have the kind of career I could have only dreamt of.

I couldn’t have done it on my own. Other members paved the way for me and helped me learn how to do things the right way. That meant paying attention, asking questions, and learning from those with more experience. Nashville has a long tradition of getting work “on the card” with an AFM contract.

In the decade after Tennessee’s “right to work” law (or as we say “right to work for less”) was passed in 1947, Local 257 members Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins were hired by the Decca and RCA labels to run their Nashville operations. They both insisted that all recording work be under AFM contracts. The core group of session players were their peers and colleagues and they politely refused to let big companies take advantage of their friends.

This tradition of voluntary compliance continues to this day. I was able to make a gradual transition from being a touring musician to a full-time session player because the wages established over the years by Local 257 were enough to provide a living wage to help me feed my family and build a pension for my later years.

My next step was getting more involved in my local. I served on the hearing board, then the executive board, and was elected president of Local 257 in 2008. This part of my journey was very different from what I had imagined my career curve might look like when I moved to Music City, but I don’t regret it for a moment. Looking back, I am grateful for all I have learned in the process, and for the opportunity to pay it forward by helping to modernize and improve how the AFM works, under very different circumstances than when I began my career.

We are always stronger when we work together, but we must also be willing to listen and learn from each other to maximize our potential. After all, it is our union, and we all have a stake in making the future as positive as possible. Young musicians are the future of the AFM, and you can make a difference. Joining the team is a great start, but it’s only the beginning. I urge you to consider stepping up, getting involved, and helping us to harness the collective power that results from teamwork. This is how we change, evolve, and create our collective future.

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