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.

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Officers Columns

Here are the latest posts from our officers

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Ray Hair – AFM International President

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    Broadway Is Back on the Road

    by Ray Hair, AFM International President

    I am pleased to report that the Federation has completed negotiations with the Broadway League and Disney Theatrical Productions for an extension to the Pamphlet B Touring Theatrical Musicals and Short Engagement Touring (SET) Agreements and for a comprehensive Health and Safety Manual (“Safety Manual”) applicable to all musicians performing under those agreements. The predecessor Pamphlet B and SET agreements expired of their own terms on March 15, 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic erupted worldwide, effectively shutting down the entire live entertainment industry, including 23 touring Pamphlet B and SET productions.

    League producers restarted touring musical productions in Dallas on August 3 with Wicked. Touring productions of Hamilton resumed soon thereafter in Atlanta and San Francisco. Additional Broadway tours are scheduled to either open or resume touring itineraries in the fall, with bookings set through 2022.

    The extension agreement applies and extends all terms of the expired predecessor Pamphlet B and SET agreements. It was concluded as a prelude to more difficult and comprehensive negotiations over the Safety Manual, which contains protocols necessary to minimize the risk of the virus and deal with the prevention of COVID-19 while on tour. The Federation and the League have agreed that the prevalence and incidence of COVID-19 and efforts to prevent and transmit it will be continually assessed for adequacy based on the changing nature of COVID-19 and its variants. You can view the Safety Manual in its entirety at www.afm.org.

    The Federation and the League also recognize that the Safety Manual may require adjustments to protocols based on new knowledge about the virus. If changes are necessary, they may occur with prior notice and negotiations between the League and the Federation, and if needed, on an individual show or location basis.

    Several key improvements were eventually achieved (over provisions the League initially proposed) for musicians working on the road:

    • Portable HEPA air filtration is required in the orchestra pit.
    • Additional compensation is required for any mandated health and safety training or education.
    • A stipend of $250 is required if a musician must travel away from home to undergo a COVID test on a day when not working for a producer.
    • If a musician is required to quarantine, all hotel expenses, reasonable food delivery expenses, and per diem will be paid by the producer.
    • If the tour moves to the next location before quarantine is concluded, the musician will be reimbursed for ground transportation to/from the plane/automobile transporting musician to next tour location.
    • Musicians will receive up to eight extra sick days for quarantine or isolation related to COVID.

    The League, its bargaining partners, and producers proposed, and the Federation subsequently agreed, that all members of any touring company (including musicians) are required to be “fully vaccinated.” Fully vaccinated means the employee received an FDA authorized or WHO authorized vaccine, and more than 14 days have elapsed following the final dose of the vaccine. Proof of vaccination must be provided no later than the first rehearsal of a production.

    Members of a tour who cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccination because of a qualifying disability or a sincerely held religious belief must contact the employer to request an accommodation.

    We believe the extension and Safety Manual are affirmatively good results, extending the expired provisions of the Pamphlet B and Short Engagement Theatrical Tours Agreement and implementing achievable protocols and guidelines for musicians’ care and protection via the manual. All of this was gained without sacrificing economic benefits and working conditions bargained over the Federation’s long history of negotiations with the League, its bargaining partners, and producers.

    We owe a huge debt of thanks to AFM Touring, Theater, and Booking Division Director Tino Gagliardi and Associate Director George Fiddler for their unparalleled industry experience, focused advice, and superb ability to keep touring musicians’ issues at hand and in mind during these negotiations. Similarly, the contributions provided by Theater Musicians Association President Tony D’Amico, together with superb rank-and-file representation from players Elaine Davidson of Local 72-147 (Dallas-Ft. Worth) and Susan French of Local 802 (New York City), both veterans of decades of roadwork, kept our negotiating team focused on the real needs and lives of musicians performing with the shows.

    Thanks are also due for the hard work, dedication, and perseverance of the entire negotiating team, including AFM International Vice President Bruce Fife, AFM Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert, AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) President Pat Hollenbeck and Secretary-Treasurer Mark Pinto, AFM IEB Member and Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL) President Terry Jares, Local 6 (San Francisco, CA) President Kale Cummings, Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) President Stefanie O’Keefe and Vice President Rick Baptist, Local 72-147 President Stewart Williams, AFM IEB Member and Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) President Ed Malaga, and Local 2-197 (St. Louis, MO) Secretary Vicki Smolik. Finally, I wish to thank Federation Counsel Russ Naymark and Jennifer Garner for their legal expertise, insight, and assistance at all stages of negotiations.

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Jay Blumenthal – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

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    The Passing of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

    by Jay Blumenthal, AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

    On Thursday, August 5, we were all stunned to learn that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka passed away unexpectedly at the age of 72. Rich was the president of the AFL-CIO for the past 12 years. During the four terms he served as president, he built a strong AFL-CIO leadership team and developed productive relationships with Washington politicians who could assist in moving labor’s agenda forward. Rich was a tireless advocate for working men and women and a well-respected labor leader worldwide.

    I was introduced to Rich Trumka when I was a delegate to the 2017 AFL-CIO Convention in St. Louis. I had heard that Rich would be in total control of the convention proceedings at all times and prepared for any eventuality. That proved to be true. Proponents of the convention resolutions that were supported by the leadership were lined up at the microphones, ready to speak to fellow delegates, each time a resolution came before the body. Resolution passage was never in doubt. In the end, 56 resolutions were passed, ranging from a workers’ bill of rights to immigration and citizenship.

    Rich brought the same preparation and tenacity to the battlefield when fighting for social justice or the improvement of working conditions for all men and women. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his devotion to improving our lives. The best way we can repay this debt and honor his legacy is by redoubling our efforts in the fight for justice, fairness, and dignity for working men and women everywhere.

    Fall Is in the Air

    It’s hard to believe that it’s September. Fall is knocking on the door. This summer has been one of many virtual Zoom AFM regional and player conferences. The two exceptions were the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) and Locals Conference Council/Players’ Conference Council (LCC/PCC) conferences, which were held both virtually and in person. At both in-person meetings, strict COVID protocols were in place, with attendees having to show proof of full vaccination before entering the meeting room, as well as requiring mask wearing and social distancing.

    Throughout August, the Delta variant infected people. Many states have reported increased hospitalizations and deaths. This more contagious variant has convinced some who were reluctant to get vaccinated. As of August 12, just over half the US population is fully vaccinated and 70% have received at least one dose. We still have a long way to go to herd immunity, which kicks in when 90% are fully vaccinated. Particularly alarming are the breakthrough cases, which do not typically result in severe illness or hospitalization.

    My fingers are crossed that the current and future COVID variants are brought under control quickly to protect musicians and build audience confidence allowing performances to resume again. 

    Editor’s Feedback:

    The International Musician August 2021 cover story about Local 77 (Philadelphia, PA) was intended to highlight the new leadership. The comments by the subjects in the story were their opinions and recollections of events prior to their election. Some of the text referenced the previous administration who had not been interviewed or consulted about the story.  We apologize for any mischaracterizations that may have been construed.  We meant no disrespect to the previous leadership who served and supported their members for many years.

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Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

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    The Bad, the Good, and an Election

    by Alan Willaert, AFM Vice President from Canada

    The Bad

    Despite the fact that we are all completely fed up with the pandemic, we continue to be hampered by the new realities COVID has served up. Venues are still limited, in terms of occupancy, and now access is often restricted to those who have received two doses of the vaccines. Historically, 1918 should have prepared everyone for the possibility of a long haul, yet nobody expected this to continue into a second, and now possibly, a third year. Live music was the first to go down and will be the last to fully recover.

    The Good

    With that grim prediction in mind, the Creative Industries Coalition—the little lobbying group that we formed along with IATSE, CAEA, and ADV—has been speaking with different folks in government as often as possible, to ensure that it’s understood that, regardless of how quickly other sectors bounce back, the arts are most vulnerable. We have bugged and bothered bureaucrats so often, that now they have begun to call us first, to either ask questions or provide us with a heads-up on what announcements are forthcoming.

    One such call advised us that the subsidies which were made available to our industry would be extended further, in light of the slow recovery. In addition, further considerations were promised, which include:

    Supporting the recovery of arts and culture venues—Introduction of a matching programme to address revenue loss for cultural venues. The programme will match revenue coming from the sale of tickets for venues that are subject to reduction in audience or attendance capacity due to measures imposed by local health authorities until May 2022. Admissible venues include performing arts and culture venues, live theatres, and museums. The government will ensure that funds provided by this programme will be used to support workers in the industry.

    Insurance coverage for production stoppage due to COVID-19—The Compensation Fund for Canadian audiovisual productions is a temporary measure administered by Telefilm Canada, which fills the void left by the lack of insurance coverage for filming interruptions and production shutdowns due to COVID-19. To be eligible, productions need to qualify for the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit and apply a COVID-19 safety plan in accordance with the current requirements. The government would extend the fund from March 31, 2022 to December 31, 2022 to provide predictability to the sector by covering the upcoming production season. This programme will help support this important CA $9.3 billion industry and help maintain well over 150,000 jobs for the industry’s artists and workers.

    Transition programme for workers from the live performance sector who continue to face economic challenges caused by COVID-19—The government will provide $50 million to the Canada Council of the Arts in order to implement a transitional financial support programme managed in collaboration with third parties and nonprofits allowing access to emergency relief to out-of-work artists, craftsmen, creators, and authors who are primarily self-employed or independent contractors who continue to face economic challenges caused by COVID-19.

    An Election

    A snap general election has now been called and Canada goes to the polls on September 20. Should there be a change in government, the above-listed measures would be meaningless, in favour of whatever the incoming party decides. While I make every effort to not make this political, it must be noted that, for many of our members, any disruption of the subsidies and programmes now in place for the benefit of artists will be catastrophic. As for our lobbying efforts and any gains which have been made, we’d be starting over.


    La brute, le bon… et une élection

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

    La brute

    Nous en avons tous par-dessus la tête de la pandémie, mais les nouvelles réalités liées à la COVID-19 nous tiennent toujours en otage. Les salles doivent encore limiter leur taux d’occupation, et maintenant, l’accès est souvent limité aux personnes qui ont reçu deux doses de vaccin. Historiquement, 1918 aurait dû nous préparer à une épreuve de longue durée, pourtant personne ne s’attendait à vivre une deuxième et peut-être même une troisième année de ce désastre. La musique live a été le premier secteur à succomber, et elle sera le dernier à s’en remettre complètement.

    Le bon

    Avec cette pénible réalité en tête, la Coalition des industries créatives, le petit groupe de pression que nous avons formé avec l’IATSE, la CAEA (Canadian Actors Equity Association) et l’ADC (Association des designers canadiens), parle avec différentes personnes au gouvernement le plus souvent possible afin de bien leur faire comprendre que, peu importe combien rapidement d’autres secteurs se rétablissent, ce sont les arts qui restent les plus vulnérables. Nous avons embêté et dérangé les bureaucrates tellement souvent que, maintenant, ce sont eux qui nous contactent, soit pour nous poser des questions, soit pour nous renseigner relativement à des annonces à venir.

    C’est par un de ces appels que nous avons appris la nouvelle prolongation des subventions à notre industrie pour tenir compte de la lenteur de la reprise. De plus, d’autres mesures ont été promises, notamment :

    Un soutien à la reprise pour les lieux de présentation des arts et de la culture – Introduction d’un programme d’appariement visant à combler la perte de revenus des lieux de présentation culturels. Le programme offrira une somme égale aux revenus de billetterie des lieux dont l’auditoire ou l’assistance est réduite en raison de mesures sanitaires imposées par les autorités locales, et ce jusqu’en mai 2022. Les lieux de présentation admissibles incluent les salles de spectacles et les installations culturelles, les théâtres et les musées. Le gouvernement veillera à ce que ces fonds servent à soutenir les travailleurs de l’industrie.

    Une assurance pour arrêt de production dû à la COVID-19 – Le Fonds d’indemnisation pour productions audiovisuelles canadiennes est une mesure temporaire administrée par Téléfilm Canada qui vise à pallier l’absence de protection d’assurance contre les interruptions de tournage et les arrêts de production causés par la COVID-19. Pour y être admissibles, les productions doivent se qualifier pour le crédit d’impôt pour production cinématographique ou magnétoscopique canadienne et mettre en œuvre un plan de sécurité lié à la COVID-19 qui réponde aux exigences en vigueur. Le gouvernement prolongerait ce fonds du 31 mars 2022 au 31 décembre 2022 afin d’offrir de la prévisibilité au secteur en couvrant la prochaine saison de production. Le programme contribuera à soutenir cette importante industrie qui représente 9,3 milliards de dollars, et aidera à maintenir plus de 150 000 emplois pour les artistes et les travailleurs.

    Programme de transition pour les travailleurs du secteur des arts vivants qui souffrent encore économiquement des défis liés à la COVID-19 – Le gouvernement versera au Conseil des arts du Canada une somme de 50 millions de dollars pour la mise en en œuvre d’un programme d’aide financière de transition. Géré en collaboration avec des tierces parties et des organismes sans but lucratif, le programme permettra d’offrir des fonds d’urgence aux artistes, artisans, créateurs et auteurs qui sont essentiellement travailleurs autonomes ou entrepreneurs indépendants, et qui continuent de souffrir des défis économiques liés à la COVID-19.

    Une élection

    Le gouvernement a lancé des élections surprise, et les Canadiens se rendront aux urnes le 20 septembre. S’il y avait un changement de gouvernement, les mesures énoncées ci-haut ne tiendraient plus et seraient remplacées par ce que voudra bien faire le parti élu. Bien que je m’efforce de ne pas politiser la question, je dois souligner que, pour un grand nombre de nos membres, toute perturbation des subventions et des programmes qui sont en place pour soutenir les artistes serait catastrophique. Quant à toutes les pressions que nous avons exercées et à tous les gains que nous avons obtenus, ce serait un retour à la case départ.

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dave pomeroy

Time to Ask “The Question”

by Dave Pomeroy, International Executive Board Member and President of Local 257 (Nashville, TN)

Over the past few decades, even before the pandemic, almost everything about the way we make records has been transformed. Hit recordings are being made in bedrooms and basements as well as big commercial studios. Music consumers have more choices than ever, so the old rules no longer apply in many cases. However, one thing that has not changed is the lasting power of an AFM contract.

An AFM B-Form is a digital paper trail that verifies and protects the work you have done, not just in the short term, but for the long run. We have a wide variety of recording agreements that cover almost every scenario, including co-op bands, single song overdubs, and limited pressings as well as master scale. We have your back, but in many cases, someone needs to step up on the front end to start the process. I’ve done it many times, and so can you.

Employers need to understand that an AFM agreement protects them as well. When a legitimate licensing company wants to use a song recorded under an AFM sound recording contract in another medium, such as a commercial, TV show, or film, they know they have an obligation to not only pay a license fee to the artist and/or label for the use of the recording itself, but also to pay the musicians the prevailing AFM wage. These licensing companies know that the AFM is authorized to collect these payments, which saves the employer money.

If a recording is used in another medium and you worked for cash or signed a work-for-hire agreement, you might have a moral and ethical right to ask your employer to give the musicians a share of their money, but you have lost your leverage by working nonunion. By the way, never sign work for hire documents—they are asking you to give away all your intellectual property rights, something they don’t even have the right to do. So, how do you get around this problem?

We understand that sometimes producers are handed a chunk of money by a signatory label who is supposed to be filing contracts on every release. However, sometimes the labels do not keep up with their legal obligation to file contracts on everything that they release. Many producer/engineers also play on the records they are working on, and I have found that many of them are not aware of the “musician money” they are leaving on the table.

If the song is used elsewhere, even if they are only getting producer fees and royalty payments on the front end, their musical contributions create revenue on the back end—but only if they are listed on an AFM contract. Many independent labels and artists have bought into the stereotype that only big artists and major labels deal with the AFM. That is simply not true. Here’s the bottom line: someone (maybe it’s you) has to ask what we sometimes call “the question.”

“Hey, I was just wondering … do you think there is any way we could put this session on an AFM contract this time?” said the bandleader/arranger/side musician to the artist and/or producer. “Things are going good, but doing it ‘on the card’ (aka on an AFM contract) would really take it up a notch and create a bunch of potential revenue streams. I’ve been talking to the players, and they would really like to do that. What do you think?” It’s not that hard, and once you have done it a time or two, it gets easier. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do.

In most cases, I have seen employers, producers, and artists refuse to discuss working under AFM contracts because they are trying to take advantage of musicians. However, sometimes, they just need someone to explain the logic to them and help them take care of the details. This is why session leaders make double scale. To be clear, this does not have to be a confrontational discussion in either scenario. You are simply standing up for what is right. No one wants to, or should be, fired for speaking up. You may give up money in the short term by saying you won’t work without a contract, but you are also saying “no” to being exploited. If what you bring to the equation is something they need, it can become a whole new conversation.

This is not old school intimidation. You are a professional asking a fair question, in an era where any recording could blow up beyond all comprehension. From Local 257 (Nashville, TN) member Taylor Swift to Billie Eilish, all bets are off as to what will catch the public’s imagination and become the next big thing. You can go along for the ride, or you can give your future revenue away—the choice is yours. The power of an AFM contract ensures you can be paid years from now for your intellectual property. We can help with the details, but it all starts with someone being willing to ask “the question.”

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Build Back with a Strong Union

As the US and Canada begin to re-emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, the road to an economic recovery will be long and arduous. Recessions hurt low-income and middle-income families the most, dragging down wages and decimating the savings of the working class. Without targeted solutions by governments, the effects of this pandemic will be long lasting, hurting those workers at the lower end of the spectrum the most.

In the US, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) would authorize financial penalties for employers that violate workers’ rights, improve the possibility of workers joining boycotts and strikes, and enhance the ability to collectively bargain, along with other reforms. The PRO Act would do much to modernize federal labor laws in the US.

Senate Republicans seem to resist taking up this legislation, with claims that it is stacked against employers. But, after the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, lawmakers have an obligation to do right by the working class. Without government intervention, the recovery will be fleeting and, at best, unbalanced.

As our sector begins to rebound, we must build a stronger union. A strong union will be critical to the recovery, equalizing the economic effects while ensuring that wages, benefits, and working conditions reflect what is truly fair compensation. As the union bargains back stronger, those effects will reverberate across the industry with improvements in conditions for all workers, union and nonunion alike.

Our union has been blessed by the amazing work we see in both small and large locals alike, from the Western Conference to the Southern, from the Eastern to the Mid-States, and our sisters and brothers in Canada. Our local and national leadership have demonstrated a selfless commitment to our cause, all in the name of music and musicians. They have kept our federation intact, pulling us through the unprecedented challenges and the once in a lifetime crisis that COVID-19 has dealt us.

As governments continue to debate what path will lead our nation to a true recovery, focused and commonsense solutions must include support for labor unions. And with these targeted solutions, we will emerge stronger together.

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“We the Willing”

by Tina Morrison, AFM International Executive Board Member and Vice President of Local 105 (Spokane, WA)

We’ve all been through a particularly rough year and a half, but the situation is improving, people are gathering, and work is coming back. It’s exhilarating to reconnect with colleagues and bandmates and perform in front of live audiences again. But there’s something else: we have to remember that the “good old days” were not so good. Many workers struggled to cover basic needs, even while working long hours providing essential services. We have an opportunity to change the narrative, to build power and create a better future. I firmly believe that musicians and music making are an essential part of achieving this generational correction.

Music is a universal language that brings people together, a natural bridge, a unique artform that breaks down barriers. Diverse audiences attend concerts and shows, listen to bands in local establishments, experience shared humanity in real time and enjoy music together. We’ve spent so much time isolated and surrounded by “news” preying on our differences. There needs to be a rebuilding of a sense of community and musicians are uniquely qualified to fulfill that need.

However, along with the ability to provide this essential service, there also must be a change in the way that music making is understood and valued. This change is not only necessary generally, but also within the music community. We know what it takes to make music that people want to hear. It’s a lot of work! Though it’s often joyous, sometimes it is not. Besides investing a significant amount of time, we also have to invest in our instruments, equipment, concert clothes, transportation, and rehearsal space. Music making should not be compromised due to lack of resources. The false narrative of the starving artist needs to be put to rest. It undermines our profession. We deserve to be fairly compensated for our work.

Somewhere the sense of value was redirected. This is terrific for those who depend on our services to benefit themselves. For example, there’s the rubber stamp symphony board members who like to list the “service” on their resumes, while not actively doing the necessary work to raise funds for the whole organization, not just the shell of management. Another example is the club owner who gives musicians the “opportunity” to perform while pricing their wares at rates that cover all business costs, with the exception of the musical services that draw people into the establishment.

We have a responsibility to ourselves and those coming after us, to commit not only to making music, but to actively participate in re-establishing the values necessary to maintain our profession in all its forms. Go to the AFM website (www.afm.org) and read Article 2, Mission Statement, in the AFM Bylaws.

Now, close your eyes and envision your career in your community. Are you satisfied with the work you perform, but also generally with how musicians in your community are perceived? Are musicians treated respectfully as professional people or is there a sense that making music isn’t a “real job”? What changes are necessary to improve the lives of musicians in your community? Get involved in your local by participating in or starting a committee. You don’t need to know how; the most important step is to be willing! Thank you for your work!

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As We All Go Back to Work, Know Your Value

by Terryl Jares, International Executive Board Member and President of Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL)

As the world begins to get back to normal, albeit what will most likely be a new normal, we will go back to work. For many of us, this has been more than a year without real employment. The ability to bring our talents to live and appreciative audiences was abruptly taken away by a relentless virus of which we had limited control.

Things are beginning to look brighter as we turn the corner and get back to work. However, it is extremely important to assess your value and know your self-worth. Understanding your musical abilities, remembering what you bring to the workplace, and the contributions you make to musical products are essential as we return to work.

First, you must have positive self-esteem. Feel comfortable with yourself and your abilities. Approach work with confidence and professionalism. Prepare yourself to go back to work and be ready when the time comes. To quote the tennis great Arthur Ashe, “One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”

Next, strive to make a difference. Whatever opportunity lies ahead of you, do your best to meet the challenge. If you are called to serve on a negotiating team, accept the role. Get involved and work to improve your contract. Know what your peers want and work toward achieving those goals. You may not get all you ask for, but you sure won’t get anything if you don’t ask for it.

Try to find and accept work that is exciting and fulfilling. We all have had gigs that we took just for the money and others that we truly enjoyed. Those that were fulfilling stick in our memories, add to our positive attitude, and enhance our creativity. As hard as it might be, try to avoid performances that are stressful and aggravating. They challenge your self-esteem and are not worth the money you may earn.

Finally, set financial goals and don’t allow yourself to undercharge for your musical talent—especially now, at a time when most venues had to abruptly shut down, dates were postponed or canceled, and everyone is struggling to get back on their feet. It may seem appropriate to discount your value or give added services. Employers will offer wages below union rates or even ask you to perform for free. There is a temptation to take the work just to get back into playing. Remember, unionism is based on setting wage standards that allow each of us to earn a living wage. We are stronger when we work together. This solidarity is the core of our existence and one we all must strive to achieve.

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