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

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    AMPTP and Pamphlet B Negotiation Updates

    I am pleased to announce we’ve reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers Association on the most recent Basic Theatrical Motion Picture and Basic Television Motion Picture contracts. After the initial 10 days of negotiations in January, we returned to the bargaining table February 21 and 22 determined to secure our core demands. And in the early hours of February 23, we did it! We have secured historic breakthroughs in streaming residuals, established critical guardrails against the misuse of AI, gained meaningful wage increases, and secured other important gains. The agreement, unanimously recommended by the bargaining committee, represents a significant victory for musicians working in film and television.

    I want to congratulate the negotiating team, the steering committee and all the bargaining unit members who supported our campaign and commend them on their undiminished commitment to fighting for a contract that fairly compensates us for our invaluable contributions to film and TV. The AFM Fair Share for Musicians committee’s dedication and resolve ensured that the needs of AFM members were heard and addressed. It was this resolve, solidarity, and commitment that enabled our union to get the respect, compensation, and protection we all deserve. This was a data driven negotiation, but our bargaining positions were strengthened by our team members’ real life experiences and the intimate knowledge of the work that we do.

    I also want to thank our staff and legal counsel for their tireless work and assiduity that enabled us to accomplish our goals. Everyone’s hard work is a testament to the commitment to making the lives of all musicians better and raising the standards for our agreements.

    We were not alone in these negotiations and were proud to have the full backing of fellow unions: SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, Teamsters, and the Writers Guild of America. It was yet another powerful reminder that, when we have solidarity in the labor movement, we can achieve great things.

    Earlier in January, we reached a tentative agreement with representatives of the Broadway League and Disney Theatrical Productions for new Pamphlet B and Short Engagement Touring (SET) contracts. We are now finalizing the documents and will send them out to the bargaining unit in the coming weeks. Our members who work under these touring contracts will see many improvements, including salary, health care, and pension contributions.

    It was the hard work and input of our negotiating team and our staff that provided the strength and representation needed to achieve our goals in these negotiations.

    Once language is finalized on both agreements, they will be sent to the respective bargaining unit members for ratification. We are proud to have achieved groundbreaking success in these negotiations and look forward to the ratification of these agreements by the members who work under these contracts.

    But in the meantime, let’s celebrate these victories! These successful negotiations are a testament to our talent and dedication to solidarity. Together, we’ve reinforced the value of our contribution and artistry to the entertainment industry.

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jay blumenthal

Jay Blumenthal – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

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    Arts Councils – Public Funding Traffic Managers

    Every major city in North America has an arts council—some type of public service organization whose mission is to disburse dollars, usually public funds, in support of visual or performing arts. These fund granting councils are staffed by professionals but depend on volunteers from the community to assist in allocating those funds and deciding which are the meritorious projects that fit the community’s needs.

    Serving as a volunteer board member on one of these councils is both a privilege and a serious responsibility. A good arts council member would be a person of selfless integrity, with an awareness of the locale’s arts scene, and perhaps endowed with a particular knowledge about a specific aspect of the arts.

    Not so many decades ago, local union officers or prominent members of a local music community were fixtures on these arts council boards. It made sense, of course. An arts council would need a specialist’s eye and mind to vet grant applications, and where a musical performance project was being proposed, who better than someone tied to the instrumental community to help with that task.

    In the years that have since passed, however, union representative participation on these arts councils has dwindled. In the 1980s, “union” was considered an unseemly term by the local culture vultures. As union representatives’ terms of service on these councils ended, they tended to be replaced by lawyers, financiers, municipal “influencers,” and societal ladder climbers. The union’s influence and expertise were gradually airbrushed out of the local arts scenes.

    As an adjunct to my recent participation with the AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees work on prevailing wages for projects funded through the National Endowment for the Arts, I did a quick survey of the membership of arts councils across the Canadian provinces and US states. The survey revealed that today the working musician has virtually no representation on these councils.

    True, the performing arts are represented, but often by an entrepreneurial personality, or a lawyer who represents a bunch of musical organizations, or a banker or other business exec, each of whom may be simultaneously serving on parallel councils at the state, provincial, or national levels. I was struck by the similarities between the populating of arts council boards and corporate boards—an emphasis on networking and connections, with only a tip of the hat to specialized expertise.

    It’s time to put our expertise back into the deciders’ arena. Take a look at your municipal, county, and state or provincial arts councils. Is your local represented on the council? Or is a respected and fair-minded rank-and-file member of your local union on the council?

    If the answer is “no,” bring it up with your local officers, or at a union board or membership meeting. Help start the process of learning what it takes to get your union voices back on those councils to regain the influence over how those public dollars get spent and, when it’s for music performance, that the musicians get paid appropriately.

    We’ll be expounding on this topic in subsequent issues. Stay tuned.

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alan willaert

Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

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    What Were They Thinking?

    Membership in the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) is indicative of arrival as a professional and carries with it a certain amount of respect and pride and has infinite monetary value. Many of the collective agreements negotiated on behalf of members are also administered by the AFM, but there are a number (both negotiated and promulgated) that leave some responsibility with the member. It is with this latter group that a multitude of problems and neglect have arisen, which results in a disservice for the members themselves. The examples below demonstrate how/where members literally drop the ball, for unfathomable reasons. Membership is an axiom in that for every service or benefit there is a corresponding duty or obligation.


    The creation of commercial announcements can be extremely lucrative for the musicians who are available for this type of work. In Canada, we have the General Production Agreement for Commercial Announcements, which specifies the fees and destination of music made for jingles. However, there are jingle production houses who choose to either not be signatory or contract work outside the agreement. The latest example is when a musician is offered a finite amount (let’s say $200) as an all-in payment for their work on a jingle. Too many times, these offers are being accepted, and the work is done “off the card,” or as non-AFM product.

    There are several problems with this. First, the fee is low. For a maximum of three minutes of music, the fee should be $250, leader $500, with 12% pension. Next, that only allows for a cycle of 13 weeks. If the jingle is used beyond that, it’s a payment of an additional 50% for each 13 weeks. Oh, and this payment is for a single platform, such as television. If it is “moved over” to radio or new media (internet), the original session fee must be paid for each. There are also additional payments if the jingle is used outside of Canada and the US. It’s easy to do the math and see that a commercial that has a long run on multiple platforms can generate a great deal of money for the musicians involved. How does that $200 look now? In addition, if the jingle is re-used after a dormant period of two years, an original session fee is paid as if it was a new commercial. So, for those doing jingles “off the card,” what were they thinking?

    Movies and Television

    These types of gigs may be covered under one of several different agreements, depending on the location of the employer, either Canadian or US. Once again, some musicians are talked into accepting a flat fee, as opposed to having the work contracted as AFM. The result? Lower initial fees, no pension, no step-ups, and no residual payments. What were they thinking?

    Audio or Audiovisual Recording

    Many years ago, most of the tracks heard on the radio were released by one of the major labels, which are signatory to the AFM Sound Recording Labour Agreement (SRLA). That meant several things: an established session fee, pension contributions, special payments, and new use fees. New use is a payment to the musicians if the track is used in a different medium, such as TV or a jingle. New use is paid each time a track is repurposed, as is pension. There is a large number of legacy recordings that surface in movies, television, etc. Our electronic media department is busy scouring the credits to determine which musicians are owed (often a substantial amount of) money.

    Today, there are countless independent record labels, most of whom are not signatory. In addition, many musicians have found they would rather self-produce and release tracks on their own label or cut a direct deal with a streaming platform. The problem with these scenarios is that the musicians are not using AFM paper to report these sessions. The result is no pension, special payments, and no new use, since the Federation has no data for these recordings. This could result in the loss of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. Again, what were they thinking?

    Is it that they are doing a favour for someone? Or is filing a session report too much trouble? There are several ways to get a track covered without having a signatory to the SRLA, including Limited Pressing, Single Song Overdub, and Joint Venture contracts. Check with your local as to which is best suited for the tracks you are recording. If you ensure that AFM paper has been filed on all your recorded product, a very lucrative revenue stream is available, which can be equal to or greater than what is available through copyright laws.

    We are seeing a disappointing trend in the new use department in Toronto. Most invoices sent to producers for use of AFM tracks are for legacy recordings that were recorded many years ago. Increasingly, new tracks do not generate income since they were recorded off-contract. The Federation therefore has no authority to bill for their use, meaning that this large revenue stream is unavailable. What were they thinking?

    Live Engagements

    Years ago, bands doing “the circuit” were generally booked through agencies covered under the Booking Agent Agreement, and therefore AFM live engagement contracts were utilized and filed with the local where the engagement took place. This ensured several things. The band was guaranteed payment as per the contract, including pension contributions. If they were fired, cancelled, wrongfully disengaged, or simply not paid, the AFM would enforce the contract (through the courts, if necessary) as well as provide up to three days scale wages to the musicians in the interim. There was a clause for force majeur, protecting the musicians against liability in the event of an act of God, and many other clauses of benefit, including noncancellation. These contracts still exist, have been updated, and are required in most locals for live gigs. Yet many musicians no longer use them and are content with either a verbal agreement or an email. What are they thinking?

    Musicians have all kinds of excuses. “The club owner doesn’t sign contracts” is common. Well, yes, he does, if he wants liquor and food delivery, plumbing, or custodial services. He’s just pulling a power trip on you because he can. If all bands took the position that without a contract they would not appear, contracts would quickly be signed.

    Or, the musicians may feel that the venue owner is their friend (more so than their local), when they are not. These owners collude with each other more than musicians do and together determine exactly how much they are going to offer which band. You are not their friend; you are a commodity. Do not take the position that they are being nice by offering you a place to perform for your friends. Take the position that you are providing a valuable service, which draws an audience and increases the venue’s profits.

    On a separate related issue, do these musicians declare the income made from music? Many times, no. They don’t realize that by doing so they could avail themselves of a huge list of deductions, including instrument cost, maintenance, supplies (drum sticks, guitar strings), stage clothing, grooming, and travel expenses, to name a few. In worst case scenarios, there are instances where the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has audited musicians (having done some investigating) and assessed the musicians an exorbitant amount of tax, late fees, penalties, and interest based on a wild estimate of musical income. Had the musician bothered with contracts, they would have been able to demonstrate that the income was far less than the CRA estimate, and by applying the deduction, likely reduced the tax owed to zero, or perhaps even earned a credit. What were they thinking?

    What were they thinking, indeed. Don’t fall prey to bad advice or social media influencers. The Federation has agreements, contracts, and report forms that cover any kind of musical performance or service. Using them, and filing the requisite paper allows the musician access to the services and benefits negotiated on their behalf. To not take advantage is a monumental error in judgement and may make the difference in being able to retire comfortably down the road.

    Broadbent, Canadian Labour Champion, Honored with State Funeral

    Longtime labor champion Ed Broadbent, a social democracy stalwart who helped build up Canada’s leftist New Democratic Party (NDP), died at 87, on January 11. A state funeral was held for him on January 28 in Ottawa.

    A former university professor who eventually became leader of the NDP, Broadbent was “a fierce champion for ordinary Canadians,” according to a statement from the Broadbent Institute, the progressive policy organization he founded in 2011. Broadbent served as a member of Parliament for more than two decades and led the NDP for 14 years in the 1970s and 1980s.

    Broadbent’s advocacy on behalf of workers and his unwavering support for unions made him a pillar of the Canadian labor movement. According to Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, “Ed Broadbent was a giant among us, a man with incomparable heart and integrity. Ed championed workers’ issues and always stood up for the most marginalized among us.” She adds, “We are committed to honoring Ed’s legacy by keeping up the fight for workers’ rights, social justice, and the preservation of democracy in Canada and around the world.”

    À quoi pensaient-ils?

    par Alan Willaert, vice-président de l’AFM pour le Canada

    L’adhésion à la Fédération américaine des musiciens des États-Unis et du Canada (AFM) est une indication de réussite professionnelle. Elle va de pair avec respect et fierté, et comporte une valeur pécuniaire infinie. Plusieurs des ententes collectives négociées par l’AFM au nom de ses membres sont également administrées par elle, mais il y en a un certain nombre (négociées et promulguées) qui laissent une part de responsabilité au membre. C’est cette catégorie qui a donné lieu à une multitude de problèmes et de négligences, qui nuisent aux membres eux-mêmes. Les quelques exemples qui suivent illustrent comment et où les membres échappent véritablement le ballon, et ce, pour des raisons incompréhensibles. Devenir membre de l’AFM est un engagement en ce sens qu’à chaque service ou bénéfice correspond un devoir ou une obligation.


    La création de messages publicitaires, de jingles dans le jargon du métier, peut s’avérer très lucrative pour les musiciens. Au Canada, nous avons l’Entente collective générale pour la production de messages publicitaires où sont précisés les cachets et la destination de la musique créée pour les jingles. Toutefois, il y a des maisons de production qui choisissent de ne pas la signer ou de réaliser le travail hors de l’entente. Une pratique récente consiste à offrir un montant limité (disons 200 $) à un musicien comme paiement forfaitaire. Trop souvent, ce genre d’offre est accepté, et le travail est exécuté en dehors du cadre syndical ou comme produit non-AFM.

    Or, cela pose plusieurs problèmes. Premièrement, le cachet est bas. En effet, pour un maximum de trois minutes de musique, il devrait être de 250 $ et de 500 $ pour le chef, avec 12 pour cent de cotisation à la caisse de retraite. De plus, ces montants ne couvrent qu’un cycle de 13 semaines. Si le message est utilisé plus longtemps, il y a versement d’un 50 pour cent supplémentaire pour chaque tranche de 13 semaines. Oh, et ce paiement ne donne droit qu’à une seule plateforme, telle que la télévision. Si le message est transféré à la radio ou à un nouveau média (Internet), le cachet de la séance d’origine doit être payé de nouveau pour chaque média concerné. Il y a également des versements supplémentaires si le message est utilisé hors du Canada et des États-Unis. Le calcul est facile à faire : un jingle qui tourne pendant longtemps sur de multiples plateformes peut générer beaucoup d’argent pour les musiciens qui l’ont réalisé. Comment vous paraît ce 200 $ maintenant ? De plus, si le message est réutilisé après une période de dormance de deux ans, un cachet correspondant à la séance d’origine est versé comme s’il s’agissait d’une nouvelle publicité. Alors, ceux qui font des jingles hors entente, à quoi pensent-t-ils ?

    Films et télévision

    Ces types d’engagement peuvent être couverts par une ou plusieurs ententes différentes selon où se trouve l’employeur, au Canada ou aux États-Unis. Encore une fois, certains musiciens se laissent convaincre d’accepter un montant forfaitaire plutôt que d’effectuer le travail aux termes d’un contrat de l’AFM. Le résultat? Cachets initiaux plus bas, aucune cotisation de retraite ni versement de droits de suite. À quoi pensent-t-ils ?

    Enregistrements audio ou audiovisuels

    Il y a de nombreuses années, la plupart des pistes qu’on entendait à la radio étaient issues des grandes maisons de disques, qui sont signataires de l’entente de l’AFM sur les enregistrements, la Sound Recording Labour Agreement (SRLA). Cela assurait plusieurs choses : un cachet établi pour les séances, des cotisations à la caisse de retraite, des paiements spéciaux et des cachets pour les nouvelles utilisations. La nouvelle utilisation est un cachet versé aux musiciens lorsqu’un enregistrement est réutilisé dans un média différent, tel que la télévision ou un message publicitaire. La nouvelle utilisation est payée chaque fois qu’une piste est utilisée à une fin nouvelle, tout comme la cotisation à la caisse de retraite. Un grand nombre d’anciens enregistrements refont surface dans les films, à la télévision, etc. Notre service des médias électroniques s’occupe de passer au peigne fin les listes de musiciens inscrits aux contrats afin de déterminer à qui verser des sommes (souvent importantes) d’argent.

    De nos jours, il existe d’innombrables maisons de disques indépendantes dont la plupart ne sont pas signataires de nos ententes. De plus, de nombreux musiciens préfèrent se produire eux-mêmes et lancer des pistes sur leur propre étiquette ou négocier une entente directement avec une plate-forme de diffusion continue. Le problème dans ces scénarios, c’est que les musiciens ne documentent pas leurs séances d’enregistrement auprès de l’AFM. En conséquence, ils n’en retirent aucune cotisation de retraite, de paiement spécial ou de nouvelle utilisation. Au cours d’une vie, il s’agit possiblement de milliers de dollars perdus. Encore une fois, à quoi pensent-t-ils ?

    Est-ce qu’ils font ainsi une faveur à quelqu’un ? Est-ce que déposer un rapport de séance d’enregistrement demande trop d’efforts ? Il y a plusieurs moyens de couvrir une piste sans que le producteur ne soit signataire de la SRLA, y compris les contrats pour un tirage limité, pour la superposition d’une chanson et pour les projets conjoints. Vérifiez auprès de votre section locale lequel de ces contrats convient le mieux à la piste sur laquelle vous travaillez. Si vous vous assurez de déposer des documents auprès de l’AFM pour tous vos enregistrements, vous pourriez accéder à un flux de revenus très intéressant, qui peut rapporter autant ou plus que ce qui vous est offert en vertu des lois sur le droit d’auteur.

    Notre service des nouvelles utilisations constate une tendance décevante à Toronto. En effet, la plupart des factures que nous envoyons aux producteurs sont liées à l’utilisation de pistes réalisées en vertu d’une entente de l’AFM il y a de nombreuses années. De plus en plus, les nouvelles pistes ne génèrent aucun revenu parce qu’elles sont réalisées hors contrat. La Fédération n’a donc aucune autorité pour facturer leur utilisation, en conséquence cette généreuse source de revenus est inaccessible. À quoi pensent-ils ?

    Engagements live

    Il y a de nombreuses années, les groupes qui faisaient « le circuit » étaient généralement engagés par l’entremise d’agences signataires de l’entente sur les agents artistiques, et donc leurs engagements faisaient l’objet de contrats de l’AFM qui étaient déposés auprès des sections locales où ils avaient lieu. Cela garantissait plusieurs choses. Le groupe était assuré d’être payé comme indiqué au contrat, incluant les cotisations de retraite. S’ils étaient congédiés abusivement, que leur engagement était annulé ou qu’ils n’étaient tout simplement pas payés, l’AFM s’occupait de faire respecter le contrat (par l’entremise des tribunaux, si nécessaire) et leur versait jusqu’à trois jours de cachets minimums dans l’intervalle. Il y avait également une clause pour force majeure qui protégeait les musiciens contre toute responsabilité en cas d’acte de la nature, et plusieurs autres clauses de bénéfices, y compris la protection contre l’annulation. Ces contrats existent toujours, ont été mis à jour et sont exigés dans la plupart des sections pour les engagements sur scène. Pourtant, de nombreux musiciens ne les utilisent plus et se contentent d’une entente verbale ou d’un courriel. À quoi pensent-ils ?

    Les musiciens évoquent toutes sortes de prétextes. On entend souvent « le propriétaire du club ne signe pas de contrats ». Eh bien, oui, il en signe, par exemple s’il veut qu’on lui livre de l’alcool et de la nourriture ou pour obtenir des services de plomberie ou d’entretien. Il abuse tout simplement de son pouvoir avec vous parce qu’il le peut. Si tous les groupes de musiciens refusaient de travailler sans contrat, il signerait sans hésiter.

    Ou alors les musiciens ont l’impression que le propriétaire des lieux est leur ami (plus que leur section locale), mais il n’en est rien. En fait, ces propriétaires se concertent entre eux beaucoup plus que les musiciens, et ensemble ils déterminent combien ils comptent offrir à tel ou tel groupe. Ils ne sont pas vos amis; pour eux, vous êtes un produit. Ne croyez pas qu’ils vous font une gentillesse en vous offrant un lieu où vous produire devant vos propres amis. Dites-vous plutôt que vous leur offrez un service précieux, qui attire un auditoire et qui augmente leurs profits.

    Une autre question connexe se pose : est-ce que ces musiciens déclarent les revenus qu’ils gagnent en musique ? Bien souvent, la réponse est non. Ils ne réalisent pas qu’ils se privent ainsi d’une imposante liste de déductions, y compris les frais liés à leur instrument, à son entretien, à leurs fournitures (baguettes de percussion, cordes de guitare), à leurs vêtements de scène, coiffures et dépenses de déplacement, parmi tant d’autres. Dans les pires cas, il est arrivé que l’Agence du revenu du Canada (ARC) vérifie certains musiciens (après enquête) et leur facture un montant exorbitant d’impôts, de frais de retard, de pénalités et d’intérêts en se fondant sur une évaluation totalement exagérée du revenu qu’ils auraient tiré de la musique. Si ces musiciens s’étaient donné la peine de déposer des contrats, ils auraient pu démontrer que leurs revenus étaient beaucoup plus faibles que ce qu’estimait l’ARC, et en appliquant les déductions, probablement pu réduire leur facture d’impôt à zéro ou peut-être même obtenir un crédit. À quoi pensaient-t-ils ?

    À quoi pensaient-t-ils, en effet. Ne vous laissez pas piéger par de mauvais conseils ou par des influenceurs sur les réseaux sociaux. La Fédération dispose d’ententes, de contrats et de formulaires de rapport qui couvrent tous les genres de prestations ou de services musicaux. S’en servir et déposer la documentation requise permet aux musiciens d’accéder aux services et aux bénéfices qui ont été négociés en leur nom. Ne pas en profiter constitue une erreur monumentale de jugement et pourrait faire la différence entre la possibilité ou non d’une retraite confortable plus tard.

    Hommage à Ed Broadbent, le politicien ami des syndicats

    Le défenseur de longue date du mouvement ouvrier Ed Broadbent, un pilier de la social- démocratie qui a contribué au développement du Nouveau Parti démocratique du Canada, un parti de gauche, est décédé le 11 janvier 2024 à l’âge de 87 ans. Des funérailles nationales ont été célébrées en son honneur le 28 janvier, à Ottawa.

    Ancien professeur d’université devenu plus tard le chef du Nouveau Parti démocratique (NPD), Broadbent était « un fervent défenseur des Canadiens ordinaires » selon une déclaration de l’Institut Broadbent, l’organisme politique progressif qu’il a fondé en 2011. Broadbent a été membre du Parlement pendant plus de deux décennies et a dirigé le NPD pendant 14 ans au cours des années 1970 et 1980.

    De par sa défense des intérêts des travailleurs et son appui inébranlable aux syndicats, Broadbent a été un soutien important du mouvement ouvrier canadien. Selon Bea Bruske, présidente du Congrès du travail du Canada, « Ed Broadbent a été un géant parmi nous, un homme au cœur et à l’intégrité incomparables. Ed s’est fait le champion des causes des travailleurs et travailleuses et a toujours défendu les personnes les plus marginalisées. ». Elle ajoute « nous nous engageons à honorer l’héritage d’Ed en continuant à défendre les droits des travailleurs et travailleuses, la justice sociale et la préservation de la démocratie au Canada et dans le monde entier. »

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Other Officer Columns:

There’s No Culture Without Artists and No Music Without Musicians

by Luc Fortin, IEB Officer and President of Local 406 (Montreal, PQ)

Often the music industry, governments, CEOs, or boards of cultural organizations consider musicians to be just another cog in a company’s wheel. Their logic seems reversed, placing the cultural product above the artist, as if the product existed independently of those who bring it to life. Let’s be clear: musicians are the music; they are the artistic product that the music industry is trying to sell. We must be at the center of the industry’s concerns and should be considered essential to the success of any cultural organization.

Despite this self-evident fact, all too often we are faced with a tendency in society, and among decision-makers, to overlook the fact that musicians are highly skilled professional artists who have dedicated their lives to perfecting their art. To do so, most musicians have had to make sacrifices in their personal lives and have gone through periods of economic and emotional stress. This must change, and we need to work together to make it happen.

As the primary and initiating element of the music industry’s value chain, musicians must be a top priority. We must constantly remind all levels of government and business that we are the foundation of the music ecosystem, and without us this system would collapse. To maintain an essential balance, we must always ensure that artists are well treated and have the right to the same social safety net as other workers in the economy.

Unfortunately, musicians don’t always have the same employment rights as the rest of the population. Without satisfactory working conditions and recognition of our worth, our profession becomes less and less appealing. Over time, the lack of recognition for our profession has led to disillusionment among some of our members.

Let’s face it, AFM membership isn’t what it used to be. Since my first AFM Convention in 2007, membership has fallen by almost 30%. We need to redouble our efforts to convince musicians that, united and in large numbers, the AFM will be stronger and all musicians, as well as society in general, will benefit. We are more than a union; we are a movement that not only demands better working conditions and benefits, but also wants the value of music and the indispensable contribution of professional musicians to society to be recognized.

We need all of you to help us recruit more members and work together to make our voices heard in our workplaces and communities. We need to help our members acquire the tools they need to make a difference in their communities as union activists, artists, and musicians and to encourage them to sit on committees and get involved at all levels of decision making.

In these very difficult times, as we strive for world peace, music takes on added importance as a universal language that unites nations. Musical expression and creation know no borders, and the musicians of the AFM are more important than ever.

Pas de culture sans artistes et pas de musique sans musiciens

par Luc Fortin, membre du conseil d’administration international (IEB) et président de la section locale 406 (Montréal, Qué.)

Cela semble si évident, mais… Trop souvent l’industrie de la musique, les gouvernements, les chefs de direction ou les conseils d’administration d’organismes culturels considèrent les musiciens comme un rouage parmi tant d’autres dans une entreprise. La logique semble alors inversée, on place le produit culturel au-dessus de l’artiste, comme si ce produit existait indépendamment de celui qui lui donne vie. Comprenons-nous bien : les musiciens sont la musique, ils sont le produit artistique que l’industrie de la musique essaie de vendre, nous devons donc être au centre des préoccupations de l’industrie et considérés comme essentiels au succès de toute entreprise culturelle.

Malgré cette évidence, nous faisons trop souvent face à une tendance dans la société et chez les décideurs de ne pas reconnaître que les musiciens sont des artistes professionnels hautement qualifiés qui ont consacré leur vie à parfaire leur art et qui, pour y arriver, ont dû faire des sacrifices sur le plan personnel et traverser des périodes de stress et d’insécurité économique. Cela doit impérativement changer et nous allons y travailler tous ensemble.

Comme élément primordial et fondateur de la chaîne de valeurs dans l’industrie de la musique, les musiciens doivent être au centre des priorités. Nous devons sans cesse rappeler à tous les échelons gouvernementaux et économiques que nous sommes à la base de l’écosystème musical, et que sans les artistes, ce système s’effondrerait. Pour garder un équilibre indispensable, il faut toujours s’assurer que les artistes sont bien traités et ont droit au même filet social que les autres travailleurs dans l’économie.

Malheureusement, les musiciens n’ont pas toujours les mêmes droits en matière de travail que le reste de la population, et sans de bonnes conditions de travail et la reconnaissance de notre valeur, notre profession deviendra de moins en moins attirante. À la longue, le manque de reconnaissance de notre métier a fini par créer de la désillusion chez certains de nos membres. Ne nous en cachons pas, le membership de l’AFM n’est plus ce qu’il était.

Depuis mon premier congrès de l’AFM en 2007, le membership a chuté de près de 30%. Il faut redoubler d’ardeur et convaincre les musiciens que, tous unis et en grand nombre, l’AFM sera plus forte et tous les musiciens, ainsi que la société en général, pourront en tirer profit. Nous sommes encore plus qu’un syndicat, nous sommes un mouvement qui revendique non seulement de meilleures conditions de travail et des avantages, mais veut aussi faire reconnaitre la valeur de la musique ainsi que la contribution indispensable des musiciens professionnels à la société.

Nous avons besoin de vous tous pour nous aider à recruter d’autres membres et être plus nombreux à travailler tous ensemble pour faire entendre notre voix sur les lieux de travail et dans nos communautés. Nous devrons aider nos membres à acquérir des outils pour faire une différence dans leur milieu en tant que militants, artistes et musiciens et les inciter à siéger à des comités et à s’impliquer à tous les niveaux décisionnels.

En ces temps très difficiles pour la paix dans le monde, la musique prend toute son importance en tant que langage universel qui unit les peuples. L’expression et la création musicale ne connaissent pas de frontières, nous sommes plus importants que jamais.

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All Theater Musicians Should Be Protected by AFM Contracts

The musical theater theme of this issue happens to dovetail nicely with my focus during much of this year, negotiating local theater agreements as the president of Local 162-710 (Washington, DC). Our local administers a number of contracts with area theaters. This year, we were able to add a new agreement to that list, which is an encouraging development for our members. I wanted to share some thoughts I’ve had as a result of our recent theater negotiations, with the hope that they may be of benefit.

The participation of a theater orchestra committee in the negotiation process is invaluable. I know I am stating the obvious here, but I think it is important to reinforce this point. Ideally, every theater that has an agreement with an AFM local has an elected orchestra committee in place. Their representation is essential during the negotiation process and throughout the term of the agreement. That is not always the case in the theaters where we have agreements. The seasonal nature of the work and the shifting personnel hired for these productions don’t always lend themselves to the kind of identity you might find in other workplaces.

Nevertheless, when it comes time to bargain, there is no substitute for the perspective that an orchestra committee provides during the negotiation process. This element of rank-and-file participation is one of the most important aspects of union membership. A unified, collective voice will result in member empowerment through the collective bargaining process.

In the agreements that we administer in Washington, DC, the positions of music director, assistant music director, conductor, and copyist are not covered, with just one lone exception among our contracts. I have recently learned that our local is not alone in this regard. Conversations with Theresa Couture, principal theater business representative of Local 802 (New York City), have been extremely helpful in shedding light on the issues that these musicians face when they are contracted to work on productions at our area theaters.

Appropriate compensation, along with the protections and benefits of AFM contracts, should be available to these deserving members. That, unfortunately, is not always the case. As a result, Local 161-710 will be seeking to address this issue in future negotiations. I am grateful to Couture for sharing information about how Local 802 agreements cover this work.

Technological developments such as Keycomp, which have the ability to utilize the recorded tracks of live musician performances in their programming, pose a new threat to musician jobs and the future of the live performance experience. In each of our theater negotiations, we have sought to raise awareness of this issue by proposing language prohibiting the use of this technology, while at the same time reinforcing the commitment to live performance—a concept which tends to be one of the easier points to reach agreement on.

Based on the changes we’ve seen in the orchestrations of theater productions in recent years, it seems logical that we should be engaging with employers to ensure that future audiences will not be denied the authentic live performance. It is my sincere hope that, by creating a united front against this technological abomination, we will chart a new future for our musicians and for our art form.

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dave pomeroy

Learn from the Past—Transform the Future

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

The AFM’s unique history demonstrates a steady pattern of labor and technology intersecting in ways that simply could not have been imagined by those who founded this union in 1896. The constantly evolving relationship between musicians and technology is well documented in our collective bargaining agreements.

As physical product sales continue to decline, and various forms of streaming become the norm, we have made crucial adjustments that have allowed the Special Payments Fund and the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF) to continue to have a positive impact on our members and our communities.

Much of the invaluable work of the MPTF is performed under the radar. The MPTF’s co-funding of live performances in schools gives the AFM an important community connection, and inspires future generations of musicians. Eldercare facilities are also frequent partners for Trust Fund gigs. These events can have a profound effect on residents, adding to their quality of life and making them feel engaged. They also provide a rewarding opportunity for musicians.

Slowly but surely, we see the gradual evolution of our membership demographics. Members are becoming younger and more diverse, in parallel with the worldwide music industry. Musicians and vocalists no longer need to fit visual stereotypes of the past, and major labels no longer rely on radio as their sole promotion tool.

These days, a big budget record by a major artist can be displaced at the top of the charts by a project recorded in a bedroom studio by an unknown artist who goes viral on social media. The music industry is very different today. Yet, many basic realities remain, and the AFM is the glue that holds it all together.

The rise of home studios changed the way many people make records. But for years, there was no AFM agreement that reflected a per-song approach, as opposed to work done by the hour. With a few simple contract tweaks and approval of the AFM and Employers’ Pension Fund, we found a way to make the impossible possible. In 2010, the Single Song Overdub Scale was approved as a standalone national scale that can also be combined with Limited Pressing.

With a $100 song minimum, it is the only scale that allows you to negotiate a higher per song scale. You also have the choice to have the employer pay the pension separately. Or to make things simpler (with the employer’s approval), you can also pay into your own pension out of the total per-song amount.

Make no mistake, there is home recording going on all over the world. This agreement is being used more and more, which is good for everyone—AFM members and their locals. It is affordable for independent artists and small record labels, and most importantly, it fits today’s business model.

The pandemic could have taken the AFM down, but we circled the wagons and found new ways to keep musicians working. We helped them navigate unemployment benefits and more. Our legislative efforts in Washington, DC, and elsewhere are ongoing, and we have made a difference. Next up is the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA), which is currently before Congress. It would be a game changer for AFM musicians whose work is played on terrestrial radio. It would unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in worldwide royalties for US musicians who have been denied what they have deserved for more than half a century.

It takes time to change things, but when we pull together, we can do it. These are challenging times, no doubt, but music has the power to bring people together and help them find common ground. We should never take that responsibility lightly and commit to doing all we can to help break down the barriers between us.

The future of the AFM depends on our ability to continue to adjust to new realities and lead the way toward a music industry that respects musicians. Most importantly, we must find new ways to reach out to the next generation and show them why and how the AFM is an invaluable resource. They are the future, and we must be ready to pay it forward by helping them find their own path to successful careers as professional musicians.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

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Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra/Local 161-710 Reject Disney Keycomp Request 

The agreement between AFM Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) and the Kennedy Center, covering the employment of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra (KCOHO) for musical theater productions includes an article prohibiting the use of a virtual orchestra machine. This article has recently received the attention of the Disney Theatrical Group, which is bringing The Lion King to the Center this summer. As a result, I have received a request from Disney Theatrical Group to allow KeyComp (virtual orchestra) to be used in this production. That allowance would constitute a violation of our agreement, which is unacceptable to the musicians of the KCOHO and our local.  

I have provided the following response to that request: “As President of the AFM local representing musicians performing in our National Cultural Center, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, our commitment to President Kennedy’s visionary support of the artist in our society is deep and unwavering. 

“This commitment is reflected in our agreement with the Center, which provides that virtual orchestra machine technology (e.g., Real Time Sinfonia or KeyComp) will not be used in conjunction with any work covered by that agreement. We would like to be very clear that the use of this technology serves not only to completely undermine the ideals that President Kennedy championed by denying professional musicians their livelihood, it is antithetical to the principles upon which this monument to the performing arts was established. In the words of President Kennedy, ‘As a great democratic society, we have a special responsibility to the arts.’ We believe there can be no question that support for the arts is not possible without support for the artists.  

“We look forward to celebrating with the Disney Theatrical Group their production of The Lion King at the Kennedy Center, which will honor that commitment to artists, a commitment which is etched on the marble facade of this great monument, through the thrilling performances of musicians performing live as originally intended. We can no more imagine this production without its full complement of musicians than we can imagine Fantasia without the Philadelphia Orchestra.  

“Please accept this letter as official denial of your request to use the keyboard programming technology known as KeyComp for the production of The Lion King at the Kennedy Center for the upcoming engagement with performances June 21-July 29, 2023.” 

In their request, Disney Theatrical Group cited the debilitating effects of the pandemic on the touring theatrical industry as their primary rationale for reorchestrating several of their tours to include KeyComp technology at the expense of musician jobs. I find the implications of that reasoning profoundly troubling. At a time when performing artists experienced an unprecedented and historic loss of work, Disney Theatrical Group made a strategic decision to make this layoff of musicians permanent.  

Now that the worst effects of the pandemic have subsided, it is time that the Disney Theatrical Group shelve their playback machine and once again commit to providing an authentic theatrical experience as originally conceived—live artists performing for live audiences. The future of our art and of our artists depends on it.  

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