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.
September 17, 2018IM -
by Marc Sazer, Recording Musicians Association (RMA) President and Member of Locals 47 and 802
The Recording Musicians Association (RMA) plays a variety of roles in our AFM: we are advisors, researchers, activists, educators, and bridge builders. We currently have chapters in New York, Nashville, and Los Angeles, and there are AFM members elsewhere who also choose to support us with their membership.
We work to advance the interests of musicians working in records, Live TV, motion pictures, TV film, jingles, games, and demos—wherever musicians record on union contracts. Sadly, much of our history is fraught with division—film musicians vs. live TV musicians vs. records, games, or whatever. Recording musicians vs. others.
The world has moved on. We can no longer afford to be at odds with each other. Our issues are converging day by day; the issues at stake in one contract are the issues at stake for all. As all media becomes streaming media, we are faced with an existential threat. We must negotiate sustainable contracts for when musicians create music for streaming media.
Even as budgets for streaming service shows are rising, music budgets are falling. We are in a golden age of television. The AFM is scoring a record number of shows, including award-winning streaming hits like The Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock on Hulu, Vital Signs on Apple, Luke Cage and She’s Gotta Have It on Netflix, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon. But musicians’ wages in television are flat—we’re working more, but not sharing in the bounty.
The brilliant performers who create the music for live TV—Cleto and the Cletones (the Jimmy Kimmel Live! band), Stay Human (on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert), the bands for Saturday Night Live, The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and more—get cut out of the loop when their work makes money for the networks on YouTube. And as live TV shows begin to move to streaming first, musicians are left even further behind under our current contract.
These issues matter for every member of the AFM. Our residuals fund, the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund, provides millions of unallocated dollars to support our pension fund. The major record labels similarly provide $6 million each year to support the current and future health of our pension fund. Just as critically, our strength at the table with major media companies is a template for our union’s position with other employers.
As each of our sister unions—International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), Teamsters, SAG-AFTRA, Writers Guild of America (WGA), and Directors Guild of America (DGA)—have faced the media conglomerates, they have recognized the life and death imperative of winning a fair share of the vast revenues from streaming.
From the beginning of this round of bargaining, in early 2017, all the unions, union after union, have been driven to militancy. The WGA threatened to strike in 2017. SAG-AFTRA has only just completed a successful strike authorization vote for streaming residuals in TV animation. IATSE broke off talks twice before finalizing a deal over streaming revenues that remains controversial with their members; at the time of this writing their contract had not yet been ratified by their membership.
This fundamental transformation of media and music recording is happening against the backdrop of a crescendo of general attacks on unions in here in the US. The recent US Supreme Court Janus decision undermined union security for public employees nationwide and attacks on private industry unions like ours are in the works. The existential threat to our ability to make a living in a streaming-first world is mirrored by the threat to the general survival of unions.
And yet, the very real movement we created across the table in the live TV negotiations sends a clear message: musicians have a voice. Musicians speaking across the table and in public have real and rarely tapped power. We can thrive and we can win.
So what can we do? What can you as an individual do? The simplest things can be the most powerful. Show up. Be present. When your local, the AFM, or a player conference invite you to attend a meeting, fill out a survey, or sign a petition—just do it!