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 » New School: New Agreements to Fit Today’s Music Workplace

New School: New Agreements to Fit Today’s Music Workplace

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

The AFM is not what it used to be. That statement could be taken several different ways, but I am writing to tell you how it looks from my perspective. I joined the AFM in 1977, after moving to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a career in music.

Over the years, I gradually got more involved in the business of Local 257 (Nashville, TN), partially because of my frustration with the “old school” way of doing things. It seemed the answer to most questions was “that’s the way it’s always been,” which was not the answer I was looking for. Since I was first elected to the AFM International Executive Board 14 years ago, we have made major shifts in how the AFM takes care of business, both internally and externally. We are seeing a positive upswing in the overall perception of labor unions by the outside world as well.

With all the challenges musicians face in this era of change, it is more important than ever that we have representation that reflects our diversity in every way. I am honored to serve professional musicians as AFM international vice president. You have my solemn pledge that I will do my very best to pay it forward, so the next generation of musicians can have the kind of opportunities I have had. All my dreams have come true, and much more, thanks to the AFM.

Early on, I discovered the value of working under AFM contracts. We played the Meadowlands stadium with Don Williams, and the show was filmed. A month later, our live performance of “Good Ol‘ Boys Like Me” played on Casey Kasem’s America’s Top 10 television show two weeks in a row. Not only was it a thrill to be on a famous TV show, I got paid two more times for a concert I had already been paid for! That is the very definition of intellectual property—getting paid more than once for something you did that has lasting value.

There are many more examples of recordings that continue to generate revenue for AFM members, or their beneficiaries, decades after they were first recorded. But this only happens if recordings are on an AFM contract. Without that protection, what you make that day is all you will ever make. When others make money from your work, so should you. It’s only fair, and that is at the core of what the AFM does—promote respect for musicians, the work we do, and the intellectual property we create.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

In this ever-evolving music industry, we are constantly looking at existing parameters and doing our best to modify and expand the range of our agreements to fit what is happening in the workplace. The AFM Single Song Overdub, Tracks on Tour, and Joint Venture agreements reflect what is happening in the real world, and have given us traction in previously unavailable areas to union members. We are always ready to work with any AFM local that wants to expand coverage of recordings made in its jurisdiction.

AMPTP Negotiations

At the end of January, I participated in the first round of AFM negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) in Los Angeles. The AFM demonstrated our solidarity with other labor unions that work in the film industry with a prenegotiation rally and various strategy meetings held jointly with their leaders. It was exciting to see the many musicians who work under this agreement so very engaged in these negotiations. It makes a huge difference when working musicians get involved with the AFM process. That’s how and why I first stepped up, and it is a decision that I am glad I made. Apathy and complaints with no solutions do not move us forward. It’s all about working together to find new solutions to old problems, and anticipating new issues that may still lie ahead.

AFM at the NAMM Show

It was good to see the AFM exhibiting at the January NAMM Show in Anaheim. We had an excellent booth, manned by members of Local 7 (Orange County, CA), Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), and AFM staff (see page 10). Events like NAMM offer a format for the AFM to get in front of folks who’ve never had much contact with us and explain what we do. We would like to expand our presence at these types of industry events, which will help us in many ways.

Engaging the music industry, empowering our members, and encouraging their involvement in the business of your local and the AFM as a whole, is critical to our continued success and is our pathway to a positive future. We are all in this together.

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