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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    Negotiations Roundup – A View of Talks in Progress

    The Federation’s negotiations with its bargaining partners in the US and Canada, whether on an industry-wide, single- or multi-employer basis, are a never-ending process. Other than contracts with touring theatrical producers such as the Broadway League, most of our negotiations are with producers and distributors of media content when musicians are engaged to perform electronic media services, whether streamed, broadcast live, or captured for analog or digital distribution.

    Our purpose is to improve the wages and conditions, health benefit and
    pension contributions when we create the content exploited by the producers. We
    also negotiate for additional compensation when content is re-played or re-used
    in domestic and foreign analog markets, and when content is distributed
    digitally by subscription video on-demand (SVOD) or advertiser-based video
    on-demand services (AVOD).

    Our program of collective bargaining and contract enforcement is
    aggressive, and is accompanied by a member-driven program of concerted
    activity, led by the Federation’s organizing department with assistance from
    locals and also with financial support authorized by the International
    Executive Board.

    The Federation’s emphasis
    in all of its media negotiations is streaming, and the potential of digital
    distribution to provide new money for musicians whose services are embodied in
    streaming content, and also for our residual and benefit funds. Media
    consumption has transitioned away from traditional physical products such as
    compact discs and DVDs toward digital formats and streaming. As a result, we
    are bargaining for our digital future—concentrating on replacing musicians’
    declining residual revenue from traditional physical and analog sources with
    revenue from digital media distribution.

    What follows is a
    thumbnail sketch of negotiations and talks in progress:

    Motion Picture TV
    Film and TV musicians are engaged in a heated campaign toward the
    studios to obtain and improve industry-standard wages, conditions, and residual
    payments when content is made for streaming. The Federation and the Alliance of
    Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) have operated under a contract
    extension (with annual wage increases) following the April 5, 2018 expiration
    of the predecessor agreement.

    As major film and
    television studios prepare to launch their own streaming platforms, they are
    refusing to bargain a fair deal for the musicians who work for them. Musicians
    have traditionally received a small portion of secondary-market revenue from
    the films and TV shows they work on, along with actors, writers, and directors.
    But, in the production of content made for streaming, the major studios are
    excluding musicians from their fair share, effectively reducing musicians’
    overall pay.

    The existing AMPTP agreement covers sidelining, scoring, and music preparation services for theatrical motion pictures and films made for television, whether distributed traditionally or digitally. We will continue to address these concerns when discussions reconvene on November 20 (which will occur after this issue of the IM goes to print). Please visit for the most up-to-date information on our members’ campaign for fairness in the making of content for original streaming productions.

    Commercial Announcements (Jingles). The production agreement between the Federation and the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies is set to expire on March 31, 2020. The existing agreement, negotiated in June 2014, achieved significant increases in pay and pension benefits for exhibition of online commercial announcements. However, we expect that discussions next year toward a successor agreement will necessarily focus on an uptick in the licensing of pre-existing tracks by advertisers and their agencies, which has resulted in a reduction in the production and use of new, original recordings for jingle content.

    Live Television. Negotiations
    began in 2016 with the TV broadcast networks for a successor agreement covering
    musicians performing on all live or pre-recorded television shows, including
    all late night talk shows, all variety shows such as Dancing With The Stars,
    awards shows such as the Grammys, and live morning shows where guest artists
    frequently appear. After five rounds of formal negotiations and additional
    informal meetings spanning three years, the networks have finally begun to
    address the Federation’s proposals covering streamed distribution of program

    Intense concerted
    activity by musicians working in the TV and film scoring workplace, in an
    effort to achieve fairness on streaming issues, helped open the door toward
    more realistic conversations with the producers and networks on those issues.
    Our next round of negotiations with the networks will occur early next year.

    Pamphlet B
    The Federation’s “Pamphlet B” agreement is negotiated with
    the New York City-based Broadway League and establishes wages and conditions of
    employment for musicians working on the road in touring theatrical musical
    productions. The contract is administered by the Federation’s Touring and
    Booking Division headed by my assistant, Tino Gagliardi, and will expire March
    15, 2020.

    Historically, Pamphlet B
    provisions cover only musicians traveling with the show. It does not set wages
    and conditions for local musicians who are engaged to augment or replace
    traveling musicians in the cities and jurisdictions where the shows are eventually
    booked. But beginning in 1992, provisions in the contract were modified and
    implemented to allow producers to restrict and reduce the allocation of work
    between local musicians and touring musicians previously governed by local
    collective bargaining agreements.

    The tension in the distribution of touring employment and
    attempts by producers to avoid hiring local musicians will again figure
    prominently in our discussions. As the Federation prepares for Pamphlet B
    negotiations, we will meet with stakeholders to help identify, articulate, and
    prioritize our members’ needs and develop plans of action to address those

    Read More

jay blumenthal

Jay Blumenthal – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

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    AFM Budgeting Process Begins for 2020

    As 2019 draws to a close, the International
    Executive Board (IEB) will soon be holding its December meeting. As in the
    past, we use the current year’s financial numbers to date (actuals) to estimate
    the budget for the upcoming year (2020). We go through the budget lines to
    determine what we anticipate will be monies coming in (income) and monies going
    out (expenses). Budgeting is not an exact science, but rather a best guess
    estimate based on past actuals and the expectations for the upcoming year. Income
    is never guaranteed, and unforeseen expenses often arise affecting the way the
    financial numbers turn out at year’s end.

    The AFM budget process begins with a preliminary
    budget meeting that includes BDO Director Bob Hamilton, BDO Audit Manager and
    CPA Jessie Mabutas, AFM President Ray Hair, AFM Comptroller Michelle Ledgister,
    and myself. Once we all concur on the preliminary budget, the budget is brought
    to the AFM Finance Committee (currently Alan Willaert, John Acosta, Dave
    Pomeroy, and Ed Malaga) for review, discussion, and adjustment if necessary.
    The final step in the budgeting process is a day at the IEB meeting reserved
    for discussion, answering questions, and a vote on the final budget by the full
    IEB. The AFM bylaw Article 3, Sec. 9(u) states in part, “the projected
    operational expenses shall not exceed the projected annual income for that
    year.” Therefore, this bylaw requires that we have a balanced budget.

    Our main budgeting objective is to create a healthy
    financial position for the upcoming year so that AFM programs and initiatives
    can be implemented or continued that improve the lives of AFM members.

    2019 AFM Convention Official Proceedings

    The 2019 AFM Convention Official Proceedings is now
    available on the AFM website in the Document Library – AFM International
    Conventions folder. Hard copies of the booklet were recently mailed to each
    2019 AFM Convention Delegate.

    AFM Bylaws (revised 9-15-19)

    The AFM bylaws (rev 9-15-19) in English are currently available online at Log in with your AFM ID and password. Go to the Document Library and open the Bylaws folder. Click on AFM Bylaws (rev 9-15-19).

    The printed bylaws booklet (English version) will be
    mailed to locals shortly. We are in the process of translating and printing the
    bylaws (French version). We will post the bylaws (French version) as soon as we
    receive the translated file. The bylaw booklets in French will be mailed to the
    appropriate Canadian locals as soon as we receive them.

    2020 US Federal Election

    Recently, we entered the US federal election
    campaign cycle. Regardless of any party affiliation you may or may not have, it
    is critical that you vote in the general election next November. If you think
    your vote will not make a difference or feel going to vote is a waste of time,
    I urge you in the strongest terms to reconsider. Democracy depends on
    everyone’s participation. Please take the time to educate yourself on the
    issues and exercise your right to vote.

    We are less than a year away, so the election will soon be
    upon us. Make your voice heard.

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alan willaert

Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

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    2020: Fighting For the Right to Make a Living

    Pour voir cet article en français, cliquez ici.

    Much has been
    written in the past several months, by President Hair and others, about the
    motion picture/TV film negotiations that have commenced once again in Los
    Angeles; however, it cannot be stressed enough how important this round is. At
    stake are residuals on New Media, a form of broadcast which has risen above the
    others as being the choice for consumption in the future. On the one hand, we
    have the industry, which is loath to give up even the most miniscule amount of
    their vast profits, simply because corporate greed is a real thing. On the
    other hand, we have the musicians who do the film and TV work, collectively
    looking at that future in dismay.

    The players have
    done their research. They can see that diminishing music budgets mean less
    union work as composers are forced to go dark, record off-shore, or simply
    produce music “in the box.” Where, then, will sufficient earnings be found to
    sustain a viable career in music? The simple answer is that fees must be tied
    to the back end—as the content generates profits through distribution,
    subscriptions, or advertising revenue, a piece should be carved off for those
    involved in the music.

    While some negotiations prove to be anti-climactic,
    such is not the case this time. The musicians are engaged—eager to participate
    in both the bargaining and the garnering of public support. The fact that so
    many show up with their instruments at rallies is inspiring. The tour bus,
    carrying musicians to their energetic performances in front of industry
    executives’ homes on an early Sunday morning, is nothing short of fantastic.
    While the prize is still not within sight, these dedicated players have
    certainly gotten the attention of Hollywood money.

    Of course, Los Angeles is not the only location where the digital age has wrought devastation. In a recent CBC Sunday Edition, Matt Zimbel of Local 406 (Montreal, PQ), member of the jazz super-group Manteca, had this to say: “The digital age has given us two ‘gifts.’ The technology used for playback sounds terrible and our recorded music no longer has any monetary value.”

    Matt then
    proceeds to plant his tongue firmly in cheek and explain to a friend how the
    record business is much more profitable than film and television: “I explained
    that last week I received my royalty statements for a TV series I had created
    and produced. It cost $1.2 million to make and had been on YouTube for a year.
    My royalties for 12 months were—are you sitting down?—.01 cent. Cent. Not even
    plural. No “S” required. .01 cent! On the other hand, I got my music statement
    for our 11th CD recording and for only three months we got the whopping sum of
    .01 cent. But it was only for three months. You don’t need an MBA to see how
    much more profitable music is!”

    And then his
    statement of the reality: “Hey, our chart numbers are off the hook. The shows?
    Man, standing room only. Likes are in the millions. Hit me on Insta—we’re
    killing it! But really, truth be known, we’re not killing it, we’re just

    Add that to the fact that over 200 musicians recently signed a letter demanding that the Québécois government take action so that they can receive fair compensation from music streaming services such as Spotify—most of them long-time, prominent members of the musicians' guild (Local 406)—and the desperation begins to become crystal clear. The US-based market posted profits of $5.4 billion during the first six months alone. Meanwhile, Spotify pays artists $0.004 per stream, on average. As for the non-featured musicians in Canada? Forget about it.

    And so, 2020 is
    shaping up to be a year when disgruntled, unfairly-treated musicians put on
    their union hats and begin a collective effort to restore to the music industry
    what has been ripped away by technology and corporations—the right to make a

    I would like to take this
    opportunity to wish all of our members in the US and Canada peace and
    fulfillment during this Holiday season, and the very best for the New Year.

    Read More

Other Officer Columns:

I Am Proud to Join the International Executive Board

What a surprise getting the word from President Hair that I was being considered to fill a vacancy on the International Executive Board. It is an honor to accept the appointment, and I promise to serve the membership to the best of my ability.
I have been an active AFM member since 1975, when I began my journey from a violinist/violist working as a freelance player in Chicagoland to my current position as president and first woman officer of the Chicago Federation of Musicians (CFM).
I started my career in the labor movement as a board member of the CFM, which lasted for nine years, where I had the distinct honor of working with CFM President Ed Ward and Vice President Tom Beranek. During this time, I represented our city in the grassroots beginning of the Theater Musicians Association where officers and musicians came together to address issues in our theaters. I served as the secretary-treasurer of the organization from 1997-2001.
Moving from the CFM board to vice president in 2004, I participated in negotiating collective bargaining agreements for the local along with our president, Gary Matts. We worked closely with the player’s committees to hear their needs and bargain for positive wage increases and working conditions. I also was successful in organizing many small theaters and ensembles.
In 2016, I was elected by acclamation as the first woman president of the Chicago Federation of Musicians. I now sit behind the original desk of our great labor leader James Petrillo, which gives me inspiration every day.
I believe in creating strong relationships within our political community. As a local officer, I serve as a vice president representing the musicians on the executive board of the Illinois AFL-CIO, a position I have held since 2004. I sit on the finance committee of the Chicago Federation of Labor and have held all offices of the Chicago Entertainment Industry Labor Council. Recently, I was invited to serve on the transition team of our new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, where arts leaders across the city had the opportunity to give input into the future activities of the arts and cultural community in Chicago.
As president of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, I led two of the longest strikes for both the Lyric Opera Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony. The issues of each group were vastly different, however, by collective action, we were able to make significant gains that might not have been reached without a job action.
I believe in working together, listening to every voice, and finding solutions to the issues at hand. Please let me know if I can give you help along the way.

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dave pomeroy

Unity: The Key to the AFM’s Future

dave pomeroy

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

My first real interaction with the leadership of Nashville’s Local AFM 257 many years ago was for one reason—to help solve a problem involving local live gigs and an overzealous 257 business agent. After years of silent frustration, I finally stood up and said something about it at a membership meeting, and the next thing I knew, I was named head of a committee charged with solving the problem.

We met twice, identified the issue and agreed on the
solution. We wrote a new local bylaw that clarified that when bands are playing
“original music” in a “listening room,” the bandleader can be the employer and
sign the contract. This one-sentence bylaw ended years of unnecessary
confusion, numerous unjust charges against members, and a rigid attitude that
was long overdue for a change. It was a turning point for me, and the start of
a journey that has led me down some very different paths than I expected when I
first moved to Nashville in 1977. I started paying more attention after that,
and made a decision to get more involved in the business of our union.

As I was making the transition from a full-time touring musician to a freelance studio player, producer, and performer, I served on the Local 257 hearing board, and then the executive board. The more I listened and learned, the more I realized that there was much that could be done to improve things at Local 257, and that most problems seemed to stem from a lack of communication and/or a resistance to change.

In 2004, I became president of the Nashville chapter
of the Recording Musicians Association player conference at a time when the AFM
was fighting within itself and not taking care of business with the outside
world. By improving communication between the members of our local and working
with RMA chapters and AFM members elsewhere with similar concerns, we were able
to make significant progress at the 2005 AFM Convention. My experience there
changed my perspective once again, and I began to see the bigger picture. I
could also see that we had a lot of work to do on the national level as well as
within our local.

The next few years of internal union conflicts were frustrating, and it became apparent that something had to give, or the AFM was going to self-destruct. The timing couldn’t have been worse, as all this was happening at a time of great change in the music industry. After a lot of soul searching, in 2008 I ran for, and was elected to, the office of president of Local 257, which began a wave of change that peaked at the AFM Convention in 2010. I was part of the Unity Slate that brought new leadership to the AFM, including Ray Hair as president, and I was elected to the IEB.

It has been my honor to serve in both capacities
since then. I am proud of what we have accomplished as a team to repair the
damage done by AFM infighting over the previous decade and the progress we have
made by working together. I have learned many valuable lessons, none more
important than the understanding that if we are not united, we will not

So, why am I bringing up all this history up in
2019? Because time marches on, and now more than ever it is critically
important for the next generation of AFM leaders to see the value in stepping
up, getting involved, and making a difference. It is in the best interest of
every AFM member for us to do everything we can to keep the lines of
communication open within all segments of our membership. We must be united in
purpose and focused on accomplishing our goals in our dealings with the
worldwide music industry.

Young members are the future of the AFM, and we welcome your
input and involvement. We need your ideas and energy to not only deal with what
lies immediately ahead, but also to be able to anticipate future challenges. By
listening to each other and working together, we all have a chance to pay it
forward and help make a stronger AFM. It’s up to each of us to do our part and
give back to the only organization that looks out for professional musicians.
Here’s to the future!

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I Look Forward to Working on Behalf of All AFM Musicians

by Ed Malaga, AFM International Executive Board member

It is truly an honor to have been elected to the IEB at the 101st AFM Convention, and I wish to offer my sincere gratitude to all of the delegates and to Team Unity for the opportunity to serve the AFM in this capacity. By way of introduction, my instrument is double bass and I have been serving as president of Washington D.C. Local 161-710 since 2011. As an AFM member of 30 years, I would like to share some experiences which have made a lasting impact and helped inform my perspective as an AFM officer.

After graduating from New England Conservatory, I moved to Washington D.C. and joined Local 161-710 in 1989. My union baptism came soon after. I had been hired to play Don Carlo with the Washington Opera in the fall of 1991 when I learned that contract negotiations had stalled and the orchestra had been locked out by management. I joined the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra (KCOHO) musicians on the picket line at the Kennedy Center—my first labor action—and it made a powerful impression. The KCOHO musicians prevailed in that struggle, but would find themselves on another picket line two years later.

It was sometime after
that I began to learn more about the history of the National Symphony Orchestra
(NSO) and their various struggles since their founding in 1931. As a substitute
there, I had made the acquaintance of Bill Foster and Fred Zenone, but I wasn’t
aware of the important roles they had played on behalf of their orchestra—Bill
as Orchestra Committee chair and Fred as chairman of ICSOM. A memorable image
is the photograph of NSO Music Director Mstislav Rostropovich locked arm-in-arm
with Bill and Fred on an NSO picket line from 1978.

Several years later, I
found myself on the committee of the Washington Ballet Orchestra as we worked
to get our first contract with management. A pick-up orchestra for many years,
we were interested in gaining job security and the ability to bargain for
wages. We accomplished this in 1999, negotiating our first agreement with the
company. It was in December 2005, during the annual Nutcracker performances,
when we learned that the ballet dancers were struggling with management on
their own first contract. We met with the dancers to hear their story. Pay was
very low, and the working conditions were not good. We held a meeting and voted
unanimously to support the dancers.

Halfway through that Nutcracker run,
management shut down the production, locking everyone out. We picketed in front
of the Warner Theatre with the dancers and their union, the American Guild of
Musical Artists (AGMA), as well as International Alliance of Theatrical Stage
Employees (IATSE) Local 22 stagehands who provided an inflatable rat. The
lockout would continue for six months, but AGMA eventually secured their very
first contract with The Washington Ballet. The demonstration of support by the
various trade unions throughout this process was inspirational and the
importance of union solidarity was clear.

The musicians of the AFM are no strangers to adversity; in fact, our union was born from it. As I write this, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has now been locked out for two months. At the AFM Convention in June, a powerful message of support for the musicians of the Baltimore Symphony and Local 40-543 was evident. At the AFM Convention in 2013, it had been a lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra which initiated an impromptu donation from the floor, resulting in another overwhelming demonstration of AFM support.

I consider myself
fortunate for the opportunities I’ve had to perform amazing music with amazing
musicians, and when the opportunity arose to work for their best interests as a
local officer, there was no hesitation. I have the greatest respect for all of those
who paved the way for us to be where we are now. Organizing and bargaining are
the lifeblood of our union, but it is our compassion, our empathy, and support
for our colleagues who are treated unfairly by their employers that are the
heart and soul of our union.

We are artist workers.
Every orchestra contract, every theater agreement, every situation under which
AFM musicians are employed has its own unique story to tell, and this history
must be passed on to successive generations.

Together in unity, I know that
we are capable of overcoming any challenge before us. I look forward to working
on behalf of all our AFM musicians.

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The Future is Calling

As unprecedented
change transforms the music industry, greater are the demands on our union to
bargain strategically within myriad sectors. Through an ongoing transformation
in consumption, evolving monetization of content, and ever-expanding
cross-collateralization of media across platforms, we are challenged to conform
our agreements and to respond to new world paradigms.

With the process
of collective bargaining being slow and methodical, only consistently engaged
rank-and-file members and union leadership will be able to move our
organization forward. This calls for inclusivity at every level. From
membership meetings to union caucuses, from player conferences to regional
conferences, we should strive to listen to the opinions of all of our members
while building the necessary consensus to form policy and initiatives. As our
union embarks upon bargaining for the coming year, our commitment to organizing
in the workplace must continue to grow, bringing musicians across our
Federation’s landscape together to build strength and unity.

With a
revitalized focus on organizing, a similar investment of effort and resources
should be concentrated in our administration and enforcement of our agreements
to provide our members with reliable support. With tightening deadlines, global
competition, and the need for quick turnarounds, we should seek to respond to
our members with greater urgency. We should also strive to modernize how we
track, compute, and collect payments. In Los Angeles, we are in the process of
upgrading our computer systems to offer cloud-based services to members 24/7,
with app-based interfaces and instant access via computer, tablet, or
smartphone so that our members may track their benefits, file a contract, or
update their personal information via the web.

The future is
now, and the moment to step up our game is before us; we should strive to
provide our members easy access to all of their information as is expected in
the digital age. As we modernize our infrastructure, we can also tap into a
newly activated interest in labor unions among young professionals. With the
growth of the “gig economy” and lost sense of community, there is also opportunity
to organize non-union musicians into our Federation. At every occasion we
should strive to expand our tent, and with growth we should stand ready to
expand the bargaining table so that all stakeholders have a meaningful voice in
shaping the agreements that they work under.

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