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


Officers Columns

Here are the latest posts from our officers


Ray Hair – AFM International President

Click here for more from AFM President

    Pamphlet B and Short Engagement Tour Agreements Ratified, Divisive Issues Remain

    by Ray Hair, AFM International President

    I am pleased to report that the Federation has completed discussions with representatives of the Broadway League and Disney Theatrical Productions for an extension of the Pamphlet B and Short Engagement Touring (SET) Theatrical Musicals agreement, which includes a 3% wage increase retroactive to April 25, 2022. The extension was promptly ratified and approved by musicians currently working under the agreements.

    All terms of the existing agreements are preserved and continued through August 2023. During the summer of 2023, the Federation will commence full negotiations with Disney Theatrical and the Broadway League for successor Pamphlet B and SET agreements.

    In addition to wage increases, producers had also recently agreed to an increase in weekly health benefit payments on behalf of each musician. For Local 802 (New York City) members, the weekly increase is payable to the Local 802 Health Benefits Plan. Musicians not affiliated with Local 802 will receive the weekly increase paid either directly as wages or to any other local union health plan designated by the musician.

    An updated Touring Health and Safety Manual containing protocols and guidelines for North American touring productions, based on preventative strategies from the CDC, WHO, OSHA, state and local departments of health, and medical and infectious disease specialists, is currently under discussion.

    An extended contract for Federation-covered touring musicals that contains progressive wage and health benefit provisions is a favorable result because no economic benefits or working conditions were compromised or conceded. But just as importantly, it buys time to build solidarity among all musicians—including those who are hired locally to augment the tours—in preparation for full negotiations with the producers one year from now. Solidarity is a critical ingredient, vital to the achievement of progressive results in collective bargaining.

    It will take time to develop a comprehensive action plan involving the Federation, our locals, local musicians, and touring musicians, if we are to effectively confront and resolve the “wedge” issues that were embedded in Pamphlet B during the early 1990s and that continue to cause workplace tensions today. Foremost among those issues is a system of regulating the number of local musicians employed by the producers to augment a given production based on the length of a local engagement.

    From time immemorial, Federation touring contracts enforced the promulgated house minimums unilaterally established by its locals for theatrical musical productions, requiring touring producers to hire local orchestras in numbers that met the local minimums. The producers were obligated to comply with local minimums, regardless of whether the minimums were collectively bargained.

    By 1992, the producers had bargained away any contract obligation to observe local minimums. The producers had also won the right to freely establish the total number of musicians they believed were needed for their productions, which would be determined by the score. Thereafter, only in locations where local collectively bargained venue agreements contained existing minimums as of 1992, would producers be obligated to hire local musicians for their touring productions, and then, only according to an allocation scheme that saw the length of the engagement determine the number of local musicians to be hired.

    Venue locations where the new 1992 Pamphlet B rules required local hiring included Dallas-Fort Worth, St. Louis, Toronto, San Francisco, Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. No other locals could thereafter insist that touring producers hire local musicians. The rules remain in effect today.

    Here is a thumbnail sketch of Pamphlet B producers’ obligations regarding the hiring of local musicians:

    1) For a touring engagement of one week or less, the producers are not required to hire local musicians, despite any venue minimum.

    2) For engagements of more than one and up to six weeks, the producers can travel five musicians with the tour, with the remaining compliment filled by local hires as determined by the score.

    3) For engagements of more than six weeks, up to three musicians are permitted to travel with the tour, with local hires filling the remaining positions according to the score.

    The rules eliminated producers’ obligations to hire local musicians to augment the productions, except in applicable venues that existed in certain locals, and then, only with diminished opportunities. For local musicians, the result was a substantial loss of employment.

    In the short term, touring musicians gained additional jobs. And thus, the tensions arose between locals representing local musicians who saw their jobs eliminated, and the Federation with its obligation to fairly represent the touring musicians and seek improved wages and working conditions under Pamphlet B. The producers were the obvious winners, with fewer overall employment requirements.

    Despite it all, the tour producers quickly saw how to eliminate additional jobs of both local and touring musicians through scoring reductions. They used multiple keyboards and midi-sequencing to replace wind, brass, and string parts. More recently, Disney Theatrical has implemented advanced sound reproduction technology that can simulate and replace an entire orchestra, reportedly in a manner indistinguishable to the human ear from the real thing. It is currently in use on Broadway and in Disney roadshows, and it may eventually threaten the continued employment of all theatrical musicians, local and touring alike.

    And post-pandemic, we are seeing a proliferation of non-union tours, which we intend to remedy in concert with our sister unions, through joint organizing activities and legal action. These runaway rump tours are destroying good union jobs and lowering our employment standards. They must be stopped.

    We will need unity across the board if we are to fight the producers and win better economic terms and protections against further erosion of employment from reduced orchestrations, the use of electronic devices, and nonunion tours. We have a year to develop a plan to dovetail the interests of local musicians, touring musicians, our locals, and the Federation. We must focus our power. Without delay, we will work to develop an action plan that addresses these destructive, divisive issues.

    Read More

jay blumenthal

Jay Blumenthal – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

Click here for more from AFM Secretary-Treasurer

    2022 AFL-CIO Convention Supports Music Fairness and Artists’ Rights

    The 29th AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 12-15. The AFL-CIO is a federation of 57 affiliated unions with 12.5 million members. Our AFM delegation to the convention consisted of AFM President Ray Hair; Lovie Smith-Wright of Local 65-699 (Houston, TX); and me. Preconvention events included an AFL-CIO Unity Summit and a Global Organizing Symposium. The convention’s slogan was: “Building the movement to meet the moment.”

    With the sudden and unexpected passing of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on August 5, 2021, the AFL-CIO Executive Council elected Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler president on August 20, 2021, to complete Trumka’s term. At that time, Fred Redmond was elected to complete Shuler’s term as secretary-treasurer. On March 5, 2022, Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre resigned.

    The normal in-person election by the delegates took place at the convention with Shuler elected president (the first woman to hold that office) and Fred Redmond elected secretary-treasurer (the first African American to hold the office).

    The position of executive vice president, created to provide officer diversity and previously held by Gebre, was eliminated by vote of convention delegates. Proponents of this change stated that, with a woman and an African American holding the two top officer positions, the effort to create officer diversity had been achieved. Additionally, there would be financial savings by merging the executive vice president’s responsibilities into the secretary-treasurer’s responsibilities.

    American Music Fairness Act (AMFA)

    Many resolutions were adopted by the delegates, ranging from building worker power and healthcare for all to ensuring public education remains a beacon for democracy and retirement income security for all. However, more specific to musicians was the adoption of Resolution #39 —Supporting Music Fairness and Artists’ Rights. This resolution was co-sponsored by the AFM and SAG-AFTRA. AFM President Hair helped introduce the resolution to the delegates from the podium.

    The full text of the resolution is:

    Vocalists and musicians are not paid when their music plays on the radio. Thousands of union member artists are working all across America to build a thriving career by playing and recording the music they—and we—love. But the rules are rigged against them.

    For far too long, our broken and unfair system has let AM/FM radio stations—many of which are owned by just a few massive media corporations—get away with refusing to pay artists when they play their music. While these big corporate broadcast companies gobble up billions upon billions in advertising dollars, the union vocalists and musicians, including session and background performers, whose work make all of it possible, receive no compensation whatsoever for their creations. It’s unfair, plain and simple.

    And the COVID-19 pandemic has made things even worse. With many venues shuttered for months and live performances virtually nonexistent for more than a year, thousands of artists have lost one of their primary sources of income—exposing many to extreme financial hardship. For each blockbuster artist, there are countless working performers across the country fighting for a living with each song and every gig. They literally cannot afford to stand by and watch big corporate broadcasting companies make billions in profits off their uncompensated works.

    It’s time to right this wrong, and the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA) aims to do just that. The AMFA will require corporate broadcasting companies to fairly compensate artists when they play their songs on AM/FM radio—because paying people for their hard work is the right thing to do.

    Fairness and equity are bedrock American principles and yet, the United States is one of only four countries in the world that don’t pay artists for radio airplay. The other three are China, Iran, and North Korea.

    As the country recovers from two years of tremendous personal loss and economic suffering, it is vital that Congress protects the livelihoods of those who create the music we know and love. And therefore, the AFL-CIO commits to continue working to pass the American Music Fairness Act to protect all performers, vocalists, musicians, and all music artists.

    Finally, a warm welcome was extended to US President Joe Biden who appeared and delivered an inspiring speech to the delegates. Biden has proven himself to be the most pro-labor president in recent history. Also, Stacey Abrams, Georgia gubernatorial candidate gave a rousing and motivating speech to convention attendees. We owe so much to both Biden and Abrams because it is doubtful the American Rescue Plan (which provided funds for our AFM pensions as part of the plan) would have ever made it through Congress and been signed into law without their efforts.

    Read More

alan willaert

Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

Click here for more from AFM Vice President from Canada

    Canadian Bargaining Roundup

    “Apparently, some believe musicians are unworthy and should be afforded less rights than movie stars’ dog walkers.”

    As the sixth wave driven by the Omicron variant begins to fade, hope springs eternal that life may soon return to whatever normal will be. Bargaining with employers has been particularly difficult, since two-dimensional negotiating via zoom is a poor substitute for in-person table pounding. Add to that the inherent risks of air travel, and the preference has been to extend agreements with appropriate increases. Following, is the status of some of our Canadian collective agreements (CA).

    National Film Board (NFB)—Upon expiration of the CA, an extension was agreed to that included 4% increases. The extended period is up, and the NFB has indicated they are not available for bargaining at the moment and are proposing we extend one more time. A date for an online meeting is being sought, where a further increase can be addressed. Ideally, regular bargaining can resume in late fall.

    Commercial Announcements—This agreement has also been extended to August 31, for reasons other than the pandemic. First, the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA) and Institute of Canadian Agencies (ICA) lead negotiator had fallen ill, and the meeting in her absence would be unproductive. Next, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) has been in very tough negotiations for over a year, and even after signing a one-year deal with the ACA, they have filed a bad faith bargaining charge against ICA. ACTRA claims that ICA’s insistence to reduce bargaining rights amounts to nothing more than union busting. While it is unlikely that the CFM would extend again, in lieu of negotiating an updated agreement, it certainly will be far more difficult against the backdrop of these charges, which are before the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

    TV Ontario—TVO, which is operated by the Ontario Educational Communications Authority, has been problematic. Various roadblocks and events caused the agreement to expire; however, neither side issued the other with the mandatory notice to terminate. In the interim, TVO has continued using musicians, except through third-party producers, some of which have applied for recognition under other film/production agreements. However, others have seized the opportunity to utilize questionable contracts with shoddy hiring practices.

    While the CA specifically calls for all musical content to be produced pursuant to our agreement, TVO has ignored the commissioning obligations. Further, now that we have had our first bargaining session, they are alleging that they are not subject to the federal Status of the Artist Act, and therefore not compelled to bargain an agreement with the CFM. We have requested clarification from the registrar at the Canadian Industrial Relations Board. If that is not sufficient, we will file a notice of dispute with our own bad faith bargaining charges. That said, TVO has already offered additional dates to bargain.

    General Production Agreement (CBC)—Our long-standing contract with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will not expire until July 31, 2023, and contains increases to fees on a year-over-year basis. This has been the go-to agreement for television and new media, the latest example being the May 16 national broadcast of Canada’s Juno Awards, produced for the CBC by Insight Productions. The CFM logo was prominently displayed in the closing credits.

    Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA)—COVID-19 has been the primary reason why we are entering a fourth year of negotiations with the CMPA—but it has not been without strife. The objective is to develop a brand-new agreement, tentatively called the Independent Production Agreement (IPA) to fill a void specific to Canadian productions. There are roughly 500 independent producers in Canada, from tiny mom-and-pop shops to large corporations such as Entertainment One. Unlike their US counterparts, the majority are not distributors, but are engaged by a broadcaster (Canadian or foreign) to produce one movie or a series. They set up shop for a specific shoot under a number company, and when the production wraps, that company closes down.

    Since they are not broadcasters, our GPA is ill-fitting. Promulgated in the mid-1990s, the agreement of choice has been our Canadian Content Production Rules (CCPR), which was authorized by the IEB as an addendum to the Motion Picture/TV Film Agreements. At the time of its inception, a distribution buyout (for a much higher scale) was the preferred avenue to produce Canadian content. However, with new media’s dominance of the broadcast world and the CMPA being engaged by an increasing number of non-Canadian companies, CCPR is no longer sufficient. Therefore, our objective is to create the IPA as a replacement.

    However, the employers have other ideas. CMPA has, up until now, vehemently opposed our insistence that secondary platforms (such as subscription or advertising-supported distribution) should generate additional payments for musicians, as should additional years of use. They have maintained their position of demanding a complete buyout, in perpetuity, worldwide, all markets and platforms, including moral rights. In posing as typical greedy corporations, they are demanding this because big tech is placing those same expectations upon them—in either a sale or for the duration of the licence deal. Interestingly, while CMPA continues to tell us our demands are unreasonable, the same protections already exists in their agreement with ACTRA. Apparently, some believe musicians are unworthy, and should be afforded less rights than the movie stars’ dog walkers. Well, we’ll see about that.

    Résumé des négociations canadiennes

    « Apparemment, certains pensent que les musiciens sont indignes et méritent moins de droits que les promeneurs de chiens des vedettes. »

    par Alan Willaert, vice-président de la FAM pour le Canada

    Tandis que s’estompe peu à peu la sixième vague portée par le variant Omicron, l’espoir renaît éternellement que la vie retrouve sa normalité, quelle qu’elle soit. Négocier avec les employeurs a été particulièrement difficile, les rencontres en deux dimensions via zoom étant un bien piètre substitut pour un bon coup de poing sur la table en personne. Ajoutez à cela les risques associés aux voyages en avion et voilà, nous avons préféré prolonger les ententes existantes avec des augmentations appropriées. Voici un état des lieux de certaines de nos ententes collectives canadiennes.

    Office national du film (ONF) – À l’expiration de l’entente collective (EC), nous avons convenu d’une prolongation comportant des augmentations de 4 %. Cette période est maintenant terminée, et les représentants de l’ONF ont fait savoir qu’ils ne sont pas disposés à négocier pour le moment; ils proposent plutôt une autre extension. Nous cherchons une date de rencontre en ligne en vue de discuter d’une nouvelle augmentation. Idéalement, des négociations normales pourraient reprendre à la fin de l’automne.

    Messages publicitaires – Cette entente a été prolongée également, jusqu’au 31 août, pour des raisons qui n’ont rien à voir avec la pandémie. En effet, la négociatrice principale des deux agences, l’Association canadienne des annonceurs (ACA) et l’Institut de la publicité canadienne (ICA), est tombée malade, et se rencontrer en son absence aurait été peu productif. Et puis l’ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) connaît des négociations très difficiles depuis plus d’un an et, si ses dirigeants ont paraphé une entente d’un an avec l’ACA, ils ont par ailleurs déposé une plainte contre l’ICA pour négociation de mauvaise foi. L’ACTRA soutient que l’insistance de l’ICA à réduire les droits de négociation équivaut à rien de moins qu’une tentative de démanteler le syndicat. Bien que la FCM ne prolongera probablement pas l’entente encore plutôt que d’en négocier une nouvelle, le chemin à parcourir sera certainement plus ardu dans le contexte de ces accusations, qui sont à l’étude devant la Commission des relations de travail de l’Ontario.

    TV Ontario – TVO, exploitée par l’Office de la télécommunication éducative de l’Ontario, a posé problème. Divers événements et obstacles ont mené à l’expiration de l’entente; toutefois, aucune des deux parties n’a signifié à l’autre l’avis obligatoire de résiliation. Dans l’intervalle, TVO a continué à faire appel à des musiciens, mais par l’entremise de producteurs tiers dont certains ont demandé la reconnaissance en vertu d’autres ententes de production de films. En revanche, certains ont sauté sur l’occasion pour avoir recours à des contrats douteux et des pratiques d’embauche mesquines.

    Bien que l’EC exige explicitement que tout contenu musical soit produit au terme de notre entente, TVO a ignoré ses obligations en la matière. De plus, depuis que nous avons eu notre première séance de négociation, la partie patronale prétend qu’ils ne sont pas assujettis à la loi fédérale sur le statut de l’artiste et donc pas tenus de négocier avec la FCM. Nous avons demandé des éclaircissements auprès du registraire au Conseil canadien des relations industrielles. Et si cela ne suffit pas, nous déposerons un avis de litige pour cause de négociation de mauvaise foi. Cela dit, TVO a déjà offert d’autres dates de négociation.

    Entente générale de production SRC – Notre contrat de longue date avec la Société Radio-Canada/CBC n’expirera pas avant le 31 juillet 2023, et il prévoit des augmentations annuelles de cachets. Il a été l’entente de référence pour la télévision et les nouveaux médias, le dernier exemple en date étant la diffusion nationale, le 16 mai, des prix Juno du Canada, produite pour la CBC par Insight Productions. Le logo de la FCM figurait au générique de façon bien visible.

    Association canadienne de production de films et de télévision (ACPFT) – C’est principalement en raison de la COVID-19 que nous entrons dans une quatrième année de négociations avec l’ACPFT, mais cela ne s’est pas passé sans heurts. L’objectif consiste à élaborer une toute nouvelle entente, temporairement intitulée Entente de production indépendante (EPI) afin de combler une lacune particulière aux productions canadiennes. En effet, il y a environ 500 producteurs indépendants au Canada, allant de minuscules sociétés familiales à de grandes entreprises telles qu’Entertainment One. Contrairement à leurs homologues américaines, la plupart d’entre elles ne sont pas des distributeurs; elles sont plutôt engagées par un diffuseur, canadien ou étranger, pour produire un film ou une série. Une fois réalisé sous le nom d’une compagnie à numéro, le tournage plie bagage et l’entreprise ferme.

    Puisque ces sociétés ne sont pas des diffuseurs, notre entente générale de production ne leur convient pas. Elles ont plutôt recours aux Règles sur le contenu canadien d’une production (CCPR), qui ont été promulguées au milieu des années 1990 et autorisées par l’IEB (conseil de direction internationale de la FAM) comme addendum aux ententes de production pour le film et la télévision. Au moment de l’instauration des CCPR, c’est le rachat des droits de distribution – pour des cachets beaucoup plus élevés – qui était privilégié pour la production de contenu canadien. Toutefois, étant donné la prédominance des nouveaux médias dans l’univers de la diffusion et l’engagement de membres de l’ACPFT par un nombre croissant de sociétés non canadiennes, les CCPR ne suffisent plus. D’où notre objectif de les remplacer par une EPI.

    Toutefois, les employeurs ne voient pas les choses du même œil. Jusqu’à maintenant, l’ACPFT s’est opposée haut et fort à notre demande insistante que les plates-formes secondaires – telles que la diffusion par abonnement ou soutenue par de la publicité – procurent des cachets additionnels pour les musiciens, tout comme le devraient les années supplémentaires d’utilisation. Leurs négociateurs maintiennent leur position, exigeant un rachat complet, à perpétuité, pour le monde entier, pour tous les marchés et plates-formes, y compris les droits moraux. Elle se comporte comme une entreprise rapace typique et fait cette demande parce que les géants de la techno ont les mêmes attentes vis-à-vis d’elles, dans le cas d’une vente ou pour la durée d’un accord de licence. Fait intéressant, alors même que l’ACPFT soutient que nos demandes sont déraisonnables, elles existent déjà dans leur entente avec l’ACTRA. Apparemment, certains pensent que les musiciens sont indignes et méritent moins de droits que les promeneurs de chiens des vedettes. Eh bien, c’est ce que nous verrons.

    Read More

Other Officer Columns:

Time to Inspire and Organize

What an amazing time this is, complete with dramatic challenges and remarkable possibilities. Plague, war, and social and economic upheaval coexist with a real desire to change the work-life balance and find meaning beyond accumulation. There seems to be an enhanced awareness of individual needs, which must be balanced against others’ needs. We are in a time of change and opportunity.

I’ve attended so many virtual meetings over the past couple years, many of them were not music related, and yet, during “ice-breakers” and conversations many people mentioned that listening to music was on the top of their list of what keeps them going and helps them make it through. Streaming concerts of local live music helped maintain a sense of community, providing hope and resilience.

Other types of workers have re-examined their value and are banding together, demanding to be recognized and compensated fairly for their work. Musicians should be doing so as well. Musicians have a unique power to bring much-needed healing to our communities, to gather individuals together for a shared experience, and reweave the fabric of our societies. It’s important work in these times and a good argument can be made to community leaders and potential sponsors for investing in concerts.

To make anything happen we need a coalition of the willing. Not only willing to perform, but willing to organize. What is needed to reinvigorate the music scene in your community? Develop a vision and plan. Identify effective communicators with experience using the variety of tools available.

Look for other organizations that could be good partners. Don’t limit your scope. Make it a union activity, but be sure to invite others to participate and help. Use it as an opportunity to build strength in your music community—your union. And use it as a steppingstone for other necessary actions to ensure that musicians are valued fairly, treated with respect, and have a meaningful voice in their work and community. Borrowing from what I learned serving on the Spokane County United Way executive board: invite, connect, commit. Who will lead the way?

I’ve had the fortune to examine other unions at a local level through my work at the Spokane Regional Labor Council as well as at the statewide level serving on the Washington State Labor Council executive board. While each local union and type of work is unique, we share a lot.

One strength that is building in labor is apprenticeship and mentoring. The building trades have a long tradition of apprenticeship that helps instill good skills, workplace safety, good work ethics, as well as participating in and valuing their union. I’m seeing this happen more through mentoring in public sector unions and I suggest we consider following this lead in our union.

We’re a bit different in that our work and training as musicians tends to make us competitive with each other, but I think we need to change our mindset. Many of us teach, which creates an opportunity to not only instruct students on technique and interpretation, but also to pass along our knowledge of our performance workplaces, valuing ourselves, and the value of our union. I invite you all to challenge yourself to have conversations with less experienced musicians about how you developed your work and how being part of the union has supported your career. If you’re already having those conversations, I’d love to hear your stories.

Thank you for your work!

Read More

dave pomeroy

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

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.

Read More

Terryl Jares

Chicago’s Gem by the Lake: Grant Park Festival Orchestra

Spring in our Windy City always brings the anticipated opening of outdoor venues with numerous concerts throughout the city. This year marks the 88th season of the Grant Park Festival with concerts on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, from June 15 through August 20. With programming that includes symphonic and choral works and diverse pop attractions, it is the largest and longest running festival in the United States, featuring concerts that are free and open to all.

It took six weeks in 1931 and $15,000 to construct a bandshell in Grant Park as a venue for the Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition of 1933. Band programs were sponsored by the Chicago Concert Band Association. By 1934, James Petrillo was a commissioner of the Chicago Park District. He convinced the Park District that, if he raised the money to pay for the first season of park concerts and it was a success, it should commit to assuming the financial responsibility for an annual outdoor concert series called the Grant Park Festival.

Petrillo paid for this first year of concerts in Grant Park beginning in 1935, saying, “The concerts are not for the purpose of furnishing employment to unemployed musicians. Nor is it an unemployment fund from which these concerts are to be paid. Instead, we are inaugurating a campaign on a large scale, the purpose of which is to bring back music to the parks and outdoor places in Chicago.”

There were 64 concerts that year, featuring groups such as the Chicago Symphony, Chicago’s Woman’s Orchestra, and well-known bands led by prominent Chicago bandleaders. Petrillo was hoping to interest then-Mayor Edward Kelly and Robert Dunham, president of the Park District Board, to expand the program throughout the city and thus create employment.

The Grant Park Orchestra was formed in 1944, when the Chicago Park District assembled a single resident orchestra under the direction of Principal Conductor Nikolai Malko. By this time, Petrillo had a strong influence on the Chicago Park District and it was a natural progression to support a summer orchestra. In addition, with the help of the Music Performance Trust Fund, beginning in 1948, Petrillo and the Chicago Park District established free band concerts in over 175 parks in the city. The Grant Park Chorus was added in 1962, established by Thomas Peck.

By the 1970s, the original bandshell was falling into disrepair and the city raised $2.6 million to build the new Petrillo Music Shell behind the Art Institute of Chicago in Grant Park. The acoustics of the shell were not conducive to orchestral performances. Although the park district spent nearly $100,000 to erect two sound towers, the shell proved to be a better venue for musical events such as the Chicago Blues Festival, Chicago Jazz Festival, and Taste of Chicago.

With the expansion of the new Millennium Park in 2004, the Grant Park Orchestra finally moved to a magnificent concert venue that they now call home. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion, with a stage made of Douglas fir and flooring of Australian redwood, has a semi-enclosed stage allowing the musicians to hear each other. During the colder months, the stage has floor to ceiling glass doors that close the area to allow intimate chamber performances.

The master agreement between the Chicago Federation of Musicians (Local 10-208) and the Chicago Park District was transferred to the Grant Park Orchestral Association in 2016 to stabilize the funding with collaboration between the association, the Park District, and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. This has ensured that the Grant Park Festival Orchestra will continue for years to come.

The Grant Park Orchestra has grown to 83 musicians that come together each summer from across the country including musicians from Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. In addition, there is a musician from Toronto and one from Bern, Switzerland!

Due to the pandemic and the closing of all events in Chicago, the 2020 season was cancelled and the 2021 season was abbreviated. However, we look forward to a full season of free concerts in the park in 2022.

Read More

AMFA Judiciary Hearing Testimony

Mr. Chairman, Congressman Chabot, and members of the Committee:

I am honored to speak to you today in support of the American Music Fairness Act. I am a bassist, songwriter, and producer, and a longtime resident of Nashville, Tennessee, Music City. As President of the Nashville Musicians Association and an International Officer of the AFM, I have been advocating on this issue for more than a decade. This long-overdue legislation is critically important for backup musicians and vocalists, the unsung heroes of the music industry, and will end decades of unfair exploitation of their intellectual property.

I fell in love with music at an early age, and I moved to Nashville at the age of 21 to follow my dream. I have played bass on hundreds of albums and dozens of hit singles with artists like Don Williams, Emmylou Harris, Elton John, Willie Nelson, and Trisha Yearwood, including her biggest hit, “She’s in Love with the Boy.” Billboard magazine recently gave Trisha an award for that record being the most played song on radio by a female country artist over the past 30 years. Trisha has never been paid a penny for those millions of radio plays, and neither have I, or any of the other musicians and singers who made that song into a hit record. How is that fair?

Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President and IEB Member Dave Pomeroy testifies before the House Judiciary Committee via Zoom. A recording of the hearing can be accessed at

Backup musicians and singers play a critical role in the creation of the final product you hear on the radio. Every situation is unique. Orchestral recording musicians are under extreme pressure to perfectly execute a written part in one or two takes, and rock bands may camp out in a studio for months at a time, looking for that one moment of magic.

Some records are put together by one or two musicians, one part at a time, using constantly evolving recording technology. In many cases, like “She’s in Love with the Boy,” musicians are presented with a song in its raw form, and work with the producer and artist to create a collective musical arrangement on the spot. There are countless examples of an improvised musical figure or backup vocal part that adds that special something to a song that makes it a hit. That’s what we do.

After all the work that goes into making a hit record, when it is played on AM/FM radio, it generates revenue for the broadcasters, but they only pay the songwriter and publisher. For perspective, the only other countries on the planet that do not pay artists, singers, and musicians for the use of their work on terrestrial radio are Iran and North Korea. Do we really want to be on that list?

This is a balance of trade issue, or more correctly, an imbalance of trade issue. We create the vast majority of the world’s music, but it’s almost impossible for American musicians to get the money they are rightfully owed from overseas radio play. Every year, $200-300 million dollars of our money is being held by foreign collectives who use the poor excuse that the US doesn’t pay foreign musicians for their small share of our AM/FM airplay. The money we have earned is trapped overseas until Congress passes legislation that will unlock that ongoing taxable revenue stream for American musicians. This will make a huge difference in the lives of creators who are struggling to feed their families.

Music is one of the United States’ greatest exports, and its positive impact on our economy and the everyday lives of Americans is immeasurable. But what is measurable is the billions of dollars that US terrestrial radio makes on the backs of those who create the content that drives their advertising revenue. In just three months in the third quarter of 2021, five of the biggest broadcasters made $1.6 Billion in revenue, an average increase of 20% from the previous year. Yet they claim they can’t afford to pay anyone.

The changes the bipartisan AMFA proposes should have been part of the Music Modernization Act of 2018. The broadcasters were the only major part of our industry to refuse to participate in this collective effort. Satellite and digital radio, TV, commercials, and film all pay musicians when their work is used to create revenue, and it is time for terrestrial radio to do the same. The AMFA will not put small stations out of business, or hurt songwriters as the NAB claims. The bill has several provisions to ensure that small independent and community radio stations will not be unduly burdened and will pay as little as $10 a year, and stations that make less than $1.5 million a year will only pay $500. We appreciate the services that local radio provides, but this bill will NOT put them out of business.

Technology has changed the music industry in ways that are making it very difficult for musicians to earn a living wage. The pandemic has only made this worse. This is not about superstars and labels making a money grab. It’s about helping working class American musicians who deserve “Respect,” just as Aretha Franklin, Spooner Oldham, and all the musicians and singers who worked on that iconic record deserve. We urge you to pass the American Music Fairness Act. Thank you very much.

Read More