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

AFMPresidentRayHairW

Ray Hair – AFM International President

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Sam FolioW

Sam Folio – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

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    End of Year Updates

    Voluntary Compliance Program

    Labor law compliance oversight is an important Department of Labor (DOL) responsibility. The magnitude of the task becomes evident if you add up all the locals in all the unions across the US that require oversight. As you can see, the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) has a daunting task of making sure unions are complying with the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). Labor organizations are required to file annual financial Labor-Management (LM) reports within 90 days after the end of their fiscal year. In general, AFM local officers act responsibly, performing this official duty in a timely fashion; however, from time to time some locals are delinquent.

    The AFM participates in a Voluntary Compliance Partnership Program that affords national and/or international unions an opportunity to assist the DOL in obtaining delinquent affiliate reports. Each quarter the AFM receives a list of delinquent locals. We are requested to assist the DOL in getting the report filed or updating local officer contact information so the DOL can contact the officers directly. The AFM and the DOL meet annually to discuss delinquent local reports and share information. Together, over the years we have built a good working relationship.

    LM Reports

    Local officers need to keep in mind that LM reports must now be signed electronically by the local president and local secretary-treasurer. Each report requires two different electronic signatures. Those locals that only have one person serving in both capacities (president and secretary-treasurer) need to have their executive board authorize a second person (usually an executive board member) to also sign the report.

    Remember, you must file your LM report within 90 days after the end of your fiscal year. Filing late is a violation that gets the attention of the DOL and may lead to a DOL audit of your local.

    Bonding

    The AFM purchases an umbrella bonding insurance policy covering AFM locals. Since each local is bonded in differing amounts, please contact Jonathan Ferrone at jferrone@afm.org if you are unsure of the bonding amount the AFM purchased for your local.

    International Musician

    The International Musician survey is now closed. There were 4,254 respondents with many adding additional comments. Thank you to all who took the time to share their thoughts by taking the survey. We are currently analyzing the information we received. In a future issue of the IM, we will share with our readers what we learn from your answers and comments.

    The International Musician Editorial Board (IMEB) meets monthly prior to the publication of each issue in order to determine what content will appear in the magazine. Unsolicited articles that have been submitted to the IMEB editor (cyurco@bentley-hall.com) are considered for publication at IMEB meetings. The IMEB has sole discretion to determine what is published and in which issue an article will appear.

    Additionally, readers of the International Musician have an opportunity to provide feedback about recent articles that have appeared in the publication. When submitting feedback, please adhere to the feedback requirements. All Feedback letters regarding articles printed in the IM must be typed, signed (with name, local, and phone number), and should be no more than 200 words in length. Feedback can be emailed to im@afm.org.

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awillaert

Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

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    Who Says This Stuff?

    There is no doubt that the Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM) has been predominantly concerned of late in seeking new employers to bargain agreements with, and specifically those involved in media. Recording—on camera and off—presents an assortment of revenue streams for members in the areas of capture, reuse, new use, supplemental markets and new media, or streaming. This is important work and extremely valuable to the musicians employed in those areas.

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Other Officer Columns:

Solidarity

It’s Time for Solidarity

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

How the world is changing, and so quickly, too! I’m writing this in December and who knows what January is going to look like. I, for one, am weary of reactionism. 

We know that making music is progressive. Learning the instrument, building muscle memory, and developing our “ears.” And then, using those skills, we create vibrations in the air that evoke emotions, enriching the lives of those who listen. Music flows like a river through the air—moving and changing, not always happy or pretty or predictable, reflecting life.

Taking what we’ve learned, we can choose notes, chords, and rhythms that work together to create melodies and harmonies. We can influence our audience to dance or to cry. It is a learned skill that comes with work, effort, and a plan. We train ourselves to react in some ways, listening to those around us to enhance the sound, and not allowing ourselves to be distracted by outside influences that could interrupt the flow. It takes discipline.

So, now is a time for great discipline. We need to trust what we know and not allow outside influences to distract us. We know that working together we have strength and can build. It’s a time for solidarity. So, let’s lean on our strengths and focus on our plan as defined in our mission statement, which you can find on the AFM website (afm.org) under the “About” section, by clicking on “Mission & Bylaws.” Use your voice meaningfully by being involved in your AFM local. Your knowledge and experience, blended with other member musicians, can help create or maintain a solid foundation for professional standards in your community.

I would be remiss not to take a moment and comment on the rise of women and women’s issues over the last year—pointed conversations, actions, and publicity unlike anything I can remember. How does all of this relate to musicians and our union? It’s been a work in progress for a long time and there have been successes. The drastic changes in our orchestras due to “blind” audition requirements that were negotiated into collective bargaining agreements are a testament to a thoughtful process. As proof, compare pictures of orchestras in the 1950s and 1960s with those of today.

The freelance world is more complicated. Generally, there is no collective bargaining process to provide influence. “Purchasers” of freelance music are less likely to consider the gender make up of the band they engage. Female band leaders can still run into discrimination. It’s very difficult to prove, much less change whether a band is hired or not. We can be part of the conversations to drive changes that will help erode old prejudices and open the door for more fairness and opportunity in musical work. Participation and developing consensus are keys to meaningful change.

Cultural changes such as what we are experiencing are very exciting. As we celebrate the new enlightenment empowering women, I suggest we also remain thoughtful so that the changes that come are the changes we want.

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nightlight office

Nightlife Office and Advisory Committee

by Tino Gagliardi, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 802 (New York City)

Across this country, musicians are playing in bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels, and other performance spaces in an effort to hone their craft, share their artistry, and make a living. American art, performance, and music have been born, bred, raised, and developed in the nightlife establishments of our cities. These musicians play an outsized role in shaping the cultural heritage of our nation. As a result, the nightlife that drives municipal economies and our nation’s culture, owes a great deal to the musicians and performers of our nightlife industry. Yet, does our society adequately support those individuals who make it vibrant and strong? No.

In New York City we are working on changing that. New York City Council Member Rafael Espinal (Democrat, District 37) recognizes the role that the city’s nightlife industry plays in its economy and began working on legislation that would create an Office of Nightlife and Nightlife Taskforce to address issues frequently faced by nightlife establishments and their communities.

Though this office was originally conceived as a combination industry liaison and issue resolution facilitator between the city, small businesses, and communities, we at Local 802, saw this as an opportunity to provide support for a frequently ignored community of workers that has traditionally been exploited, discriminated against, and undersupported.

With the council member’s support and partnership, we were able to expand the original scope of the office and taskforce, advocating for language in the legislation that would commit the office to addressing workforce issues like wage theft and misclassification, and require them to make policy recommendations that would benefit performers and workers by addressing some of the industry’s unique issues. On August 24, the bill passed. We are closer to the creation of an Office of Nightlife than ever before.

Advocates and performers who live and work in the nightlife scenes of other cities should pay attention—the Office of Nightlife could be worth replicating.

This Office of Nightlife could provide a new type of government partner for performer advocates to work with to address issues that countless musicians face on a nightly basis: exploitation, misclassification, pay-to-play schemes, and more. The challenge is providing the tools with which the office can effectively and efficiently do its job.

There are many agencies and offices that regulate small businesses and mandate specific employment practices and safety requirements. However, the tools available to these agencies often do not apply to the unique nightlife industry or are ineffective in addressing common business practices at bars, restaurants, clubs, and hotels. How do we mandate fair employment at a performance space where it is arguable who the employer legally is? This is just one example of how complicated the nightlife industry is.

If this office is to be impactful, and if other municipalities are to follow New York City’s example, the Nightlife Office must work with locally elected community leaders and administration to develop regulatory mechanisms that empower the director to protect performers who are otherwise unsupported and unprotected. Without impactful regulatory and enforcement frameworks, the city will lack the ability to prevent pay-to-play and unfair employment practices, and will be unable to help us in our work to ensure that all musicians have the opportunity to make a fair living that dignifies the contributions they make to our common cultural heritage.

Luckily, New York City is the perfect test case for such an office. Mayor Bill de Blasio has shown that he understands that the city’s nightlife is an important part of our economy. As a former consumer affairs commissioner, Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin has experience developing both consumer and worker protections. Council member Espinal has shown sensitivity and appreciation of the challenges that workers and performers face.

These leaders must be applauded for their advocacy and vision. We are extremely hopeful that this office will soon play an important role in advocating for musicians. We will work closely with these leaders and this office to support our union’s agenda—raising the wage floor for musicians and ensuring that New York City remains a place where musicians are celebrated and where performers can live, work, and raise a family. This work is important, not just for New Yorkers, but for musicians across the US.

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Music Makes the World Smaller

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

These days, as I talk to young musicians on a regular basis, I see more and more awareness of the need to treat the music business as just that—a business. There’s nothing uncool about getting paid what you and your skills are worth. That’s where the AFM comes in. Otherwise, there would be no standards for wages and working conditions, and it would be an inevitable race to the bottom. Even in these times of technology overload and countless entertainment options, music has long-term, tangible value. Think about it. Imagine movies, TV shows, or even commercials without music—boring! Music brings people together under many different circumstances. It is still the common thread in the complex fabric of life in the 21st century.

One way that I describe this phenomenon is to say that music makes the world smaller. This became apparent to me in 1980, when I began working with Don Williams. I worked for Don on and off for 34 years. Don, who just passed away in September, was a Texas born and raised folk singer turned country artist with little or nothing in common with his huge following in the United Kingdom. Those fans hung on his every word as if he was the local priest giving out the secrets of getting to heaven. We played to big crowds overseas. Most of those folks had never been to America, yet they had a strong connection to the everyday truths contained in Don’s music. As they say, it all begins with a song, and Don instinctively understood what his audience wanted to hear. Talking to fans after a show, we soon discovered that they knew more about the minute details of our music and who made it, than we did!

I learned many things from Don Williams about music and life in our time together. I learned how to make records by watching Don and his co-producer Garth Fundis work their magic in the studio. I tried my best to be a fly on the wall and just observe their process. It was a great education. When I finally got my chance to work with Don in the studio, I was ready. I learned how to play fewer notes and make them mean more and to listen closely to the lyrics and complement, rather than compete with, their message. The old cliché, “it’s not what you play, it’s what you don’t play” is not only true, it applies to the whole record and not just the playing. Leaving space in an arrangement or final mix can enhance the power and message of a song. Just because you can fill every space with something, doesn’t mean you should.

Of all the lessons I learned from Don, the most important was respect. He always treated us as equals, and not just his backing band. When we would do TV shows, and the producers would want to push us to the background and put Don way out front, he would simply shake his head and say, “We’re a band. I’m just the singer. I need my guys.” It took me time to realize that not all my friends who worked the road were treated by their bosses as well as we were. As I transitioned into studio work and got off the road, those same lessons I learned from Don applied, no matter what kind of music I was playing.

Passing on the type of respect for musicians I received from Don was a driving force in my increased involvement in AFM Local 257, culminating in my election as 257 President in 2008 and to the AFM IEB in 2010. I am grateful to be able to pay it forward by helping younger musicians figure out this increasingly complex business and making sure that our older members’ work is protected in every way possible. That’s what the AFM does, and we are here to help you in every way possible.

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building a strong union

Building a Strong Union

by John Acosta, AFM International Executive Board Member and Vice President of Local 47(Los Angeles, CA)

Recently in Los Angeles, the California State Labor Federation, along with state labor federations from Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, held a conference to address what is deemed to be the inevitable implementation of national “right to work” legislation by the current US Congress. Several hundred union leaders gathered to discuss best practices for unions already facing right to work. Invaluable information was distributed to those in attendance.

While many locals in the Federation have already been faced with the challenges of right to work, we who are in states that are currently not right to work may be joining this not-so-prestigious club. Some of you reading this article might consider me to be an alarmist, and I hope to be wrong, but the labor movement in California is taking the approach of, not if, but when right to work becomes the law of the land.

Our one choice should be to organize. We as a movement cannot remain stagnant or paralyzed, and we must rethink how we can organize internally to strengthen our ranks; not only resisting the challenges of right to work, but positioning ourselves to fight back. In the current climate, unions cannot be defensive. We must take the offense in our thinking and approach. Some of the recommendations that have come out of the right to work labor conference emphasize member engagement, strengthening workplace structures, and engaging new members.

When a musician joins the union, their first interaction should be a positive one. Too many times musicians learn about our union because they are required to join under our agreements. If we can get out in front of this by creating and maintaining an outreach program in music schools, we may be able to make the first interaction a positive one.

Local unions should look at broadening outreach into the community, building alliances, and finding common ground with our community in areas of shared interest.

Our message is critical. We must remind our colleagues that our union is working people standing together; that real people, not just “union officials,” comprise our union. We need to do better in ensuring that the face of our members is the face of our union. In addition, we need to tell real stories. Let’s dig deep in the well of our experiences to demonstrate how our union has helped our members in tough times, and how, without our union, there would be no safety net for working musicians.

Unfortunately, all of our locals are too overburdened and under-resourced to be effective in all the ways I suggest. Our challenge is to find the means to accomplish our mission, despite this lack of resources. That’s why I believe the key is to get membership to take the lead in these critical internal and external efforts. Without direct member involvement, these goals are unreachable.

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Official Journal of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada