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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    Compromise or Catastrophe? SiriusXM Pre-72 Settlement Sells Out Creative Community

    In a compromise, each party usually walks away with something they want and something they value. But when you are hampered by unfavorable Federal regulation, while fighting huge media conglomerates, compromise can lead to catastrophe. And you might not even know it until it’s over.

    Case in point: late last year, a “compromise” settlement between weary recording artist litigants and satellite radio giant SiriusXM (with a market capitalization of more than $24 billion) set the stage for an economic catastrophe, which could impact the streaming income of America’s creators—our featured recording artists and the session musicians and vocalists who back them—for many years to come.

    The backstory: using the “pre-1972” loophole in current copyright law, SiriusXM refused to pay legacy artists for the commercial use of their work. In response, two original members of the ’60s-’70s group The Turtles (known professionally as Flo and Eddie), initiated class action lawsuits in California, Florida, and New York.

    While newer artists receive the benefit of clear protection (and royalties) under federal law, legacy artists are denied this protection for sound recordings made prior to February 15, 1972. Those recordings are protected by state law; so legacy artists must endure the hassle, expense, and uncertainty of state by state litigation to seek compensation for the use of their work. Artists and rights owners bear all of the costs and all of the risks in these lawsuits in countless state courts. And that’s what Flo and Eddie did.

    Eventually, on the eve of the trial, SiriusXM agreed to settle the litigation. This may sound like a win, but it wasn’t. Granted, the legacy artists who were included in the case against SiriusXM will receive some compensation, but the trade-off was to agree to a prospective, going forward rate that radically undercuts the market and threatens the future value of music streaming for all artists, backup musicians, and vocalists.

    In addition to a flat sum settlement for past uses, SiriusXM agreed to pay a pro rata share of 5.5% of its revenue to the artists prospectively. This is half of the 11% of revenue royalty rate that they are currently obligated to pay for federally protected sound recordings. What’s worse is that the 5.5% may drop even further in the wake of a recent decision by the New York Court of Appeals, and the outcome of other pending court proceedings.

    In addition to the half-price royalty rate, SiriusXM was able to capitalize on artists’ lack of federal protection to extract a series of concessions, including an agreement to explicitly characterize the settlement as “market rate” and a clause forcing artists to agree to this “fire sale” royalty structure for 10 years into the future.

    To make matters even worse, the settlement doesn’t do anything to actually solve the underlying problem of our broken copyright regime. It merely papers over the ongoing second-class treatment of legacy recording artists, musicians, and singers. It shortchanges them by paying only half, at most, of what should be required, and it risks the permanent devaluation of all digitally distributed music going forward. The fix is clear. We need to afford pre-1972 recordings the same federal protection that all other recordings enjoy.

    In last year’s Congress, Representatives Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) attempted to fix this inequity. They introduced the Fair Play Fair Pay Act. This bipartisan legislation proposed real copyright reform and went a long way towards addressing these and other injustices in the realm of recorded music. If enacted, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act would have secured performance rights for all recording artists across every platform.

    The efforts of Nadler and Blackburn must be continued. The shabby treatment toward recording artists and musicians must stop. The devaluation of America’s cultural heritage must end. All platforms should play by the same rules. Government subsidies afforded by our copyright policies to satellite and broadcast radio should be eliminated. Artists and musicians of all eras should be treated fairly when their music generates value. It’s time to treat legacy artists like the legends they are. Let’s pay all creators what they deserve—instead of forcing them to sell their futures for 50 cents on the dollar.

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Sam FolioW

Sam Folio – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

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    It’s Spring—Finally!

    While many are welcoming the arrival of spring with cherry blossoms, light green foliage as tree leaves make their annual debut, and erupting flower beds, AFM local officers have been hard at work preparing and uploading their DOL Labor-Management reports and wrapping up their 2016 audits. Indeed, spring is a very busy time of year for AFM Secretary-Treasurers. As we wrap up our paperwork for last year, we are all provided with an opportunity to reflect back on 2016.

    This year’s annual AFM audit will confirm the Federation had a surplus in 2016; however, the surplus was smaller than those reported in recent years. The primary reason for this can be attributed to higher legal costs. Negotiating successor agreements, and holding employers accountable, has been a hallmark of this administration. In the recording industry, some film companies and record labels have not been meeting their contractual obligations in full. This has resulted in litigation initiated by the AFM. In several instances, rather than going through protracted and expensive litigation, settlements have been reached putting payments into the pockets of musicians now rather than rolling the dice for a potential win (or loss) years down the road. Unfortunately, in a few cases, settlements could not be reached so some litigation continues. 

    Litigation can be very expensive, so our legal bills for 2016 shot up dramatically. Realizing large legal bills are not financially sustainable, AFM President Ray Hair and I discussed how we might better contain legal costs without sacrificing our responsibility to maintain and enforce our national contracts. Consequently, we made two new hires to serve as attorneys, joining our In-House Legal Counsel Jennifer Garner. These new attorneys are embedded in various AFM departments. In-House Counsel for the AFM West Coast Office Russell Naymark and Special Counsel and SSD Director Rochelle Skolnick will help litigate cases thereby reducing our dependence on outside counsel. While there will be times when we need outside expertise, the hope is that these additions to our staff will aid in bringing down our legal costs.

    Labor-Management Report

    The AFM’s 2016 Labor Management report (LM-2) was uploaded successfully and timely to the Department of Labor (DOL) site. AFM locals and conferences with a January to December fiscal year should have completed and submitted their 2016 LM report to the DOL as the deadline was March 31. There is no grace period! Beginning with the January 2017 fiscal year, all LM reports must be signed and filed electronically. (See my September 2016 International Musician Secretary-Treasurer column, page 4.)

    AFM Annual Report

    The AFM 2016 Annual Report is currently being prepared. It is comprehensive and contains reports from the AFM president, general counsel, vice president from Canada, secretary-treasurer, auditor (BDO) with financial statements, Federation division directors, the editor of the International Musician, and the AFM International Executive Board minutes. When ready, electronic copies of the annual report will be e-mailed to all AFM locals and will be available on the member’s side of the AFM.org website. Printed copies will be made available to locals upon request.

    List of Locals

    The 2017 List of Locals booklet has been printed and mailed to each local. If your local has not received your copies, please let Assistant Secretary Jon Ferrone jferrone@afm.org know so we can follow up. The 2017 List of Locals is also available electronically on the Member’s section of the AFM.org website. After logging in, go to Document Library / Miscellaneous Folder / 2017 List of Locals.

    Now go enjoy springtime!

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awillaert

Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

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    Coming Soon: A Blockchain Copyright System

    Three of the world’s most significant collection societies—ASCAP (US), SACEM (France), and PRS for Music (UK)—are working together on a project designed to improve the future of music copyright management. According to an article in Music Business Weekly, they have announced the building of a blockchain system, which could manage the links between music recordings International Standard Recording Codes
    (ISRCs) and music work International Standard Work Codes (ISWCs). Blockchain is a software platform, a protocol for managing digital assets. Their website is www.blockchain.com.

    A recent ASCAP press release stated: “Establishing robust links between these two pieces of data (ISRCs and ISWCs), offers a practical solution with enormous potential for improving the processes of royalty matching, which will in turn speed up licensing, reduce errors, and reduce costs. The goal of the project is to prototype how the music industry could create and adopt a shared, decentralized database of musical work metadata with real-time update and tracking capabilities.”

    Working with IBM, the partnership plans to leverage the open source blockchain technology from the Linux Foundation, Hyperledger Fabric, to match, aggregate, and qualify existing links between ISRCs and ISWCs in order to confirm correct ownership information and conflicts. Blockchain is used in payments systems, noted for its ability to manage records without centralized governance. This valuable characteristic will be utilized to resolve issues between conflicting identifiers for the same work across multiple rights holders.

    Jean-Noël Tronc, SACEM’s chief executive officer, has a vision “to ensure a diverse and sustainable future for music, where creators are rewarded efficiently for their work.” He went on to say, “Through this partnership, we aim to develop new blockchain-based technologies that will tackle a long-standing issue with music industry metadata—a problem that has grown more acute as online music rights distribution has become increasingly decentralized with the rise in digital channels. By developing this blockchain technology in partnership with ASCAP and PRS for Music, we will unlock value to the benefit of music creators worldwide.”

    Elizabeth Matthews, ASCAP’s chief executive officer, noted that the music industry “has been calling for greater transparency and accuracy.” Blockchain has the ability to capture real-time data and transaction updates that can be shared with multiple parties. While the data improves, the costs of administration will diminish, leaving a greater percentage for distribution to the rights holders.

    Robert Ashcroft, PRS for Music’s chief executive, added: “Establishing authoritative copyright data has long been a goal of PRS for Music and is one of the biggest challenges the industry faces.” The digital market requires real-time reporting on behalf of multiple stakeholders across the world, if the goal is to increase accuracy of royalty payments and release value for rightsholders.

    If none of this makes sense to you, try to imagine the number of times a given song may be used somewhere in the world, and for the sake of argument, in a given year. A young person in Australia may synch the song to a homemade video, and post it; a music supervisor in California decides to use the song in a movie or it’s streamed a few million times by that many listeners. In each case, revenue should be generated for the rightsholders. In a paper world, it’s impossible.

    However, the technology exists to accurately monitor and track each use, using algorithms. And now—using blockchain protocols—this data could be centrally stored and linked, and a methodology derived to instantly identify and distribute revenue to the rights holders.

    We have long known that copyright was broken with the advent of the Internet. It appears that at long last, the system will be catching up to address proper monetization of what were before, illegal and unpaid uses. The sad part is, the technology has been there a while, but the will to utilize it was not. We have apparently turned that corner, for the benefit of musicians everywhere.

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help us, help you

Help Us, Help You

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

help us, help youMost musicians don’t fit the stereotypes that some people like to place on us. We are hard-working, productive members of society who provide a soundtrack to the lives of those who may not know what it means to be creative or to try to and make a living in the arts. Many of us are involved in our community as teachers, volunteers, and mentors to the musicians of the future. Musicians often have more obstacles to overcome than the average worker could imagine—yet, somehow we persevere.

The fact that we love to play should never be an obstacle to taking care of business. The major reason why the AFM exists is to help you navigate through the challenges of a constantly changing music industry.

I come from a family of nonmusicians, but I fell in love with the bass at age 10. My love for playing and determination to succeed have helped make many of my childhood dreams come true and I am very grateful for that. I only knew one person in Nashville when I moved there at age 21. I joined AFM Local 257, which helped me connect the dots and have a successful career. My first gigs were as a touring musician. Then I made a gradual transition into studio work, as well as writing, producing, and releasing my own musical projects. For years, my dad would ask, “Are they paying you, son?” And the main reason I could say to him, “Yes, they are,” was because of the AFM.

As I got more involved in my local, I began to see the administrative side of the equation, and recognized the importance of getting employers to sign AFM Agreements in advance of a session or engagement. Nothing is more effective than a bandleader, session leader, or sideman asking that all-important question, “Is this a union session?” and helping to get a signatory agreement in place before the gig happens. Once the gig is over, it is much more difficult to get people to take responsibility for doing things the right way.

Our job is to arm players with the right information, and to help explain to employers that an AFM contract protects everyone involved. For example, when a record is used in a TV show, film, or commercial, the new use payment comes from the third party that is using the recording, and not the original employer. Otherwise, it becomes a game of cat and mouse—the employer hopes the musicians don’t find out about the new use, and the musicians can do little but complain and try to get a piece of the license fee. Without an AFM contract, the chances of that happening are almost nil.

Unfortunately, at almost every turn, there are unscrupulous employers who will try to take advantage of musicians who take them at their word. When these people sign an AFM agreement—whether or not they ever intended to follow through—we have the leverage to make it right. I recently concluded a 4 1/2-year quest to get musicians paid for reruns of TV shows done under an AFM Agreement more than 20 years ago. I have been chasing another deadbeat musician/producer for nearly 10 years, and have recovered more than 25% of what is due, with more coming.

This is all because of the legal protections our contracts give musicians who do AFM work. If these projects had not been done under AFM agreements, I would not have been able to get the musicians involved paid for their work. This has not been easy, but it is important to stand up for treating musicians with respect.

Here’s the bottom line: for 120 years the AFM has been looking out for musicians. Help us, help you, and let’s work together to make things right. If we don’t have your back, who does?

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The Truth About Right to Work (For Less)

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

When the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the legislation that protects the rights of employees and employers and prevents employment practices that are harmful to workers as well as to businesses and the overall economy, was enacted in 1935, a wide swath of the country immediately and bitterly opposed it. Republican leadership and the business community criticized the definition of “employee,” the act’s encouragement of collective bargaining, and the preservation of employee rights and protections at the expense of employer rights.

This debate, commonly referred to as “right to work,” still rages to this day. However, today’s political climate and the gains the right to work movement has made over the last two decades are making it more potent and dangerous for the labor movement than ever before.

On February 1, Congressman Steven King (R-IA) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) introduced the National Right to Work Act in Washington, DC. Similar legislation has been proposed and defeated in the past, but the Trump Administration, coupled with Republican control of both houses of Congress, could mean that right to work advocates have the political and legislative strength to win a victory at the national level.

Though Congressmen King and Wilson claim that they are fighting for the rights of workers by “erasing the forced-dues clauses” and unburdening Americans from the yoke of organized labor, don’t be fooled. This type of legislation, already passed in 27 states, has nothing to do with worker rights and everything to do with undercutting a worker’s strongest tool and ally—labor unions.

NLRA and Right to Work

Labor unions are vital to the health and vibrancy of a strong, safe, fairly-treated workforce, as well as an efficient economy. After the Taft-Hartley Act banned “closed shop” practices in the United States, unions found themselves advocating for fair pay and treatment of all workers, even those who were not union members. This was not only reasonable, it was a great thing for our communities, our families, and the vibrancy of our country.

This advocacy in “union shop” businesses has resulted in enormous gains for workers, including higher wages, safety laws, weekends, health and pensions, and scheduling practice standards (among others) that are now an assumed part of our daily lives. These protections help us ensure that hard working Americans can secure a decent living for themselves and their families.

Under the guise of benefiting workers, right to work legislation does the opposite. By incentivizing workers to benefit from union advocacy without paying dues, they are encouraging a “tragedy of the commons,” or “freeloader” mindset that ultimately undercuts the financial viability of union work and undermines the power of collective action.

Right to work advocates claim that this type of legislation creates jobs and allows for free-market economic growth. But nationally, wages in right to work states are 12.1% lower ($6,109/year) than in “union shop” states, and employees are less likely to receive health insurance or pensions from employers. Why? Because workers don’t have the strength or protection of collective action and representation that is vitally important.

The Right to Work … for Less

Who actually gains from right to work? The employers. Right to work legislation games the system, working around the NLRA to avoid employment requirements and ultimately takes worker rights from employees.

What workers and musicians across this country must realize is that right to work legislation is an insidious effort by employers to wrestle away the rights of employees. Nothing these politicians and right to work advocates publicly claim to desire is needed. The NLRA already allows for non-union workers to work in union shops, with the only expectation being that they help pay for the benefits they receive from working that healthy and protected environment. So why is it necessary? Ask the employers, large corporations, and political stakeholders that benefit from a weak workforce and the destruction of labor union values. Just follow the money that isn’t making its way into your pocket.

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unionism

“… Indivisible …”

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

My dear brothers and sisters to the North, please be patient, I’ve got a few things to talk about that are primarily a reaction to concerns very much on my mind since the US presidential election.

This article will be turned in first thing Monday, December 19, which also happens to be the day the electoral college will meet and finalize the outcome of this tumultuous US presidential election cycle. Even if there is some kind of unprecedented surprise, it won’t change what we’ve collectively experienced. We are entering a new year with additional new challenges.

As musicians, we don’t always like each other, but when we make music together, we have to listen to each other and blend our respective voices. Everyone loves good harmony; and although there’s real beauty in dissonance, there’s also a sense of relief when it finally resolves. Sometimes it takes a while.

With all of the “isms” that have been thrown around over these past months, I wear my unionism proudly because it takes all of our diversity and builds consensus to come to resolution. We develop consensus for our workplace negotiations, for decisions at our locals, and our Federation. It takes a lot of work, but it’s a great system for giving us a meaningful voice in decisions that affect us. By working together we have helped to create levels of fairness and safety in the workplace. Unionism lives and breathes because we are the union. “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Unionism gives us a path on which we can find our way through interesting times. We have processes that enable us to work through tough issues and find solutions most of us can live with, most of the time. Unions are necessary to give working people a voice. Recent examples are the strikes in Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth, and Philadelphia.

Employers belong to groups and associations because they realize the value of networking and joining forces around issues and interests, the costs of which are usually covered by the business. We will need to actively oppose anti-union legislation at every level with a special eye on “right to work” (for less) legislation, which undermines our ability to push back.

Music blends many different cultures with themes and variations developed over the lifetime of humanity, but all of it has common threads of tones and rhythms. We care about our family and friends and want them to be safe, happy, and healthy; we want fair treatment and appropriate compensation for our work; we care about our communities; and we want future generations to have opportunities to thrive and live up to their full potential.

The “Ghost Ship” fire on December 2 in Oakland, California, is a wake-up call that there is work to be done regarding safe performance environments, which also support and encourage emerging musicians. “Mourn the dead and fight for the living.”

In this New Year, let’s resolve to listen to each other and blend our voices, embrace our diversity, and stand together against adversity.

... with liberty and justice for all ...

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Creating Visibility Within the Labor Community

joe-parenteby Joe Parente, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 77 (Philadelphia, PA)

Several years ago I wrote an article about the importance of our connection and involvement with other labor organizations in our communities. I feel it bears repeating.

Normally, when we think about the union, we think of our locals and the Federation. That’s where we look first to get work. But there are hundreds of unions out there apart from the musicians union—American unions covering the building trades (electricians, carpenters, roofers, etc.), the American Federation of Teachers, the Teamsters Union, unions of nurses, city workers, hotel workers, sheet metal workers, stagehands, and so on. These organizations represent thousands of union workers and are a valuable resource of potential employment for musicians.

I have (and you may have as well) attended various events held by other unions. On occasion, I have discovered that, these same unions that preach union solidarity and the use of union labor, hire nonunion musicians to provide entertainment for their functions. That is unacceptable. The concept of union solidarity must extend to and include musicians, especially on the local level, where the work is available. It’s up to us to remind them.

To take advantage of these employment opportunities within the labor community, musicians have to be visible to other unions. Not all unions belong to the AFL-CIO, but most do, so I’ll lump everyone under that umbrella. AFM locals should be in touch with their area AFL-CIO to let other unions know that union musicians are available to them.

Get a mailing list with all the contact information for each union and send them information about your local and its members; send them referral lists and CDs of bands in the local. Ask for a calendar of annual events. All unions have some sort of function during the year—banquets, holiday parties, conferences, even conventions. For years, my local has provided a band representing Local 77 (Philadelphia, PA) in the annual Labor Day Parade. Many unions have their own catering hall. They wouldn’t think of having an affair without union bartenders or waiters. Why shouldn’t they feel the same about using union musicians?

However, it’s not only the local’s responsibility to go after work for its members. No one is going to knock on your door and ask if you want to work. Anyone who is working with any type of group—rock band, top 40s band, big band, trio, string quartet, or whatever—has a vested interest in promoting his/her own product. Everyone has a spouse or family member, friend, or neighbor who belongs to some union, somewhere. Talk to them; find out about their union and who the contact person is. Send out your promo packages. Call the union directly to let them know that you’re out there and available to meet their needs.

Nothing brings attention to the American Federation of Musicians more than supporting our brother and sister unions when they are involved in a labor dispute with an employer. Volunteering to play on a picket line or at a rally yields publicity within the labor community that goes much further than you might think toward instilling the idea of using live music. Building coalitions and partnerships within the labor community is how we stay visible and viable.

When you contact other unions, let them know that you use their members when you need work done. If you’re not using union labor, you should be. After all, how can we expect them to use our members, if we don’t use theirs? We can’t allow other members of the labor movement to ignore our union.

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NEWS





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