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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    AFM Updates Locals’ and Players’ Conference Delegates

    Following the Second Quarter AFM International Executive Board (IEB) meeting, held June 12-14 at the Motor City Casino in Detroit, Michigan, I have been reflecting on the considerable progress the Federation has made in the last 11 months.

    In April, the Education Committee launched the new AFM Officer Training program at the Western Conference of Locals. Led by Rochelle Skolnick, director of the Symphonic Service Division, and John Painting, director of the Electronic Media Services Division, the training delivers presentations focused on three main areas: 1) “Building Union Power,” covering union and leadership philosophy and problem-solving; 2) “Skill-Building Modules,” addressing on-the-ground topics and issues commonly faced by local officers; and 3) “Nuts-and-Bolts Practices,” focusing on the administration of a local office.

    Delegates at the 102nd AFM Convention clearly expressed their desire to see the AFM expand its involvement in organizing activities. To that end, I am happy to announce that we have hired two field organizers and will soon be hiring a researcher, all of whom will be working under the guidance of Director of Organizing and Assistant to the President Gabe Kristal (refer to the columns from the Organizing Division staff on pages 10-13 for more details).

    I have appointed an IEB committee to spearhead the “Change the Culture” initiative to address workplace safety concerns. This involves implementing a code of conduct and sexual harassment policy, outlining consequences for violations, providing proactive training, and implementing reporting tools to safeguard our members from discrimination, harassment, and sexual assault, with a focus on protecting our most vulnerable members, such as our freelance and gig musicians.

    A recurring topic in workplace discussions, we continuously struggle with the challenge of addressing artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential threat to the careers and livelihoods of musicians, both present and future. The use of this technology could have far-reaching negative implications for society, creators, and cultural diversity. Generative artificial intelligence companies will need to offer protections to musicians providing content, including consent of the musicians for the use of their sound, credit to the musicians, and fair compensation for the musicians whose work and talents form the foundation of the digital replication from existing content or the generation of new content. The current proposed legislation does little to protect nonfeatured session musicians, but rather focuses on our featured artists. This is equally important and integral to the protection of human artistry; however, the emphasis in most bills concentrates on image, likeness, and voice. More needs to be done to protect the instrumental sound of musicians, recognizing that no two performers on a given instrument impute the same style and sound.

    The AFM is increasing its efforts and plans to actively participate in discussions and important legislative initiatives to ensure that AI develops in a way that upholds fundamental principles and serves as a tool to enhance, rather than replace, human creativity. We will need to develop a robust legislative agenda if we are to have our voices heard. That can only happen with the full participation of all musicians. This is an existential crisis for all of us. Without addressing these difficult issues, we will continue to see our work diminish as instrument replacement technology advances and leaves us behind.

    I am pleased to announce that the International Executive Board has agreed to engage a consultant to facilitate our long-term strategic planning process. This decision reflects our dedication to actively shape the Federation’s future and ensure that we continue to be a strong advocate for our members in the constantly changing music industry. I believe that this collaboration will lead to a clear plan for the AFM’s future.

    Following the International Executive Board meeting, IEB members and department directors met with the leaders of the Locals’ Conference Council (LCC) and Players’ Conference Council (PCC). The LCC consists of leadership from all the AFM local conferences and essentially represents the entire AFM membership. The PCC consists of leadership from all the player conferences representing AFM symphonic, recording, and theater and touring musicians. Since the early ’90s, during years without an AFM Convention, conference representatives have met with AFM leadership to discuss issues relevant to their specific members.

    During the LCC report, a variety of questions and concerns were addressed. The goal of the LCC is to gather information and provide suggestions to support local officers in carrying out their responsibilities within the AFM. The main topics of discussion included the formation of a legislative committee to share resources and assist in state legislative efforts, current and potential organizing campaigns, education and training for local officers, updates on Federation staffing, long-term strategic planning, and a discussion about the AFM website and InTune IT. The interactions between LCC delegates and AFM representatives were highly informative and greatly appreciated.

    The PCC reports provided valuable insights into the achievements and challenges faced by their respective groups. They also discussed how to support the organizing and educating of members, and shared experiences in negotiations and other activities over the past year.

    The LCC-PCC meeting is an invaluable resource that bridges the gap between international conventions and provides attending delegates with updated information they can share with their locals and constituent groups. It is yet another example of the democratic structure of our union and the opportunities that we will continue to offer regarding member participation and involvement.

    July marks the end of my first year in office, and I am proud of the work this administration has accomplished and grateful for the gifted staff that works tirelessly for the benefit of our members. I am building an administration that will provide tangible resources to strengthen member empowerment through organizing and education. We need to grow and strengthen our union, and when we stand together, great things happen.

    Locals’ Conference Representatives (L-R): Professional Musicians of California President Kale Cumings, Professional Musicians of Texas Secretary Aaron Pino, Eastern Conference of Musicians President Anthony Scally, Western Conference Secretary Tammy Noreyko, New England Conference Secretary Candace Lammers, AFM President Tino Gagliardi, Mid-States Conference of Musicians President Dan Cerveny, Southern Conference President Aaron Lack, Illinois State Conference Vice President BJ Levy, and Mid-America Conference President Leonard DiCosimo. (Not pictured: Mid-America Conference Secretary Martin Borton.)

    Players’ Conference Representatives (L-R): ROPA President Steve Wade, ICSOM Chair Keith Carrick, AFM President Tino Gagliardi, TMA At-Large Delegate Nancy Chaklos, OCSM President Robert Fraser, and RMA President Marc Sazer.

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Jay Blumenthal – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

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    Secretary-Treasurer’s Message

    The article on page 6 of the July IM issue describes the many executive actions taken by US President Biden that have leveled the playing field between working people and their employers and that will operate to bring new good jobs as a reinvestment in the economy. These are actions that any US president may take without legislative permission from the federal legislature. In the US, with a Congress apparently unable or unwilling to pass any legislation useful to the country, executive action becomes the only avenue through which any change at the federal level, good or bad, can be initiated.

    The paragraph concluding at the top of the center column on page 6, however, briefly reports on House Republican efforts to block an increase to the federal minimum wage and to introduce legislation to reverse Biden’s executive order to further protect prevailing wage for federal construction projects under the Davis-Bacon Act.

    Page 8 of this issue also reports on Biden’s veto of a Congressional Review Act that would overturn a Labor Board rule prohibiting an employer corporation from hiding behind a subcontractor in order to evade the duty to bargain with its employees’ union.

    The point of this little discussion is not about President Biden’s value to working Americans. It is, rather, about just how ephemeral are the rights we believe we enjoy. Whatever blessings or benefits that we as citizens receive from friendly Prime Ministers, Presidents, Parliaments or Congresses, someone will rise up to try to snatch them away at the first opportunity.

    The question that surfaces is, “Shall we allow that to happen?”

    The quadrennially-produced year-long media circus of US Presidential elections is under way, which will determine not only whether American musicians have a friend or felon in the White House, but also whether Congress will be controlled by Democrats or held hostage by the crazies, which will affect federal funding for the arts.

    Similarly, Canadian musicians will be deciding in the next several months which political party will control Parliament and who they will accordingly inherit as Prime Minister. Word on the street is that the average voter has tired of Justin Trudeau, which bodes ill for the Liberal Party and raises the specter of the Conservative Party back in power. A Conservative Party triumph portends budget cutbacks to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which many musicians across Canada rely upon for a portion of their earnings.

    The emerging gloom around an event that hasn’t even happened yet is palpable.

    Knowing that mainstream Canadians and Americans are generally OK with funding a federal government that will advance laws and programs designed to enhance the economic security of the citizenry, it’s a fascination of mine that this same citizenry will consider buying into the politics of personality and elect governments that absolutely will not have their best interests at heart.

    An informed citizenry will not vote against their best interests, but a citizenry held in thrall by social media tripe, piped through their smartphones on a 24/7 basis, certainly can do so, and indeed has done so. But it need not be that way this time.

    My challenge to each one of us in our upcoming elections is to seriously investigate and affirmatively and objectively determine which candidates or parties will best serve our economic interests. Seriously investigating means reading actual news written by actual reporters, not social media feeds driven by AI algorithms, seeing memes as fun not fact; listening to candidates with a critical, not romantic, ear; reading the manifestos of the political parties (not the manifestos crafted for ordinary folks, but the ones crafted for the captains of industry); and depositing your votes in favor of those to whom our wallets say, “Yes!”

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Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

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    First 30 Days—Keeping the Negotiating Train Rolling

    Typically, when a new administration begins, there is a target to achieve some positive momentum within the first 100 days. I want to take some time to share my first 30 days in office. Firstly, I have spent some individual time with all staff in the office. We have a small, but dedicated, group and I’m assessing needs and where we might add to our team, as well as implementing some specific training.

    We currently have two ongoing negotiations. We hope to finalize our first agreement with Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) this week. Joining me at the table are Local 149 (Toronto, ON) Executive Director and AFM IEB Member Dusty Kelly, CFM Executive Director Liana White, Doug Kuss of Local 547 (Calgary, AB), and AFM Electronic Media Services Division Director John Painting.

    As we focus on the future, the phrase you are going to hear often is generative artificial intelligence (GAI). We must protect our members who create music from being put out of work by ever expanding AI. You have already seen the initial exposure of AI writing lyrics and creating recordings using voices without permission. This is only the tip of the iceberg, and we will be addressing GAI in all agreements going forward. So, the significance of the recent successful AMPTP negotiations, which included protection against musicians being replaced by AI, is a good model for language to be included in our Canadian agreements.

    Ontario Educational Communications Authority (TVO) negotiations are also back on the schedule after an almost two-year hiatus. The matter was in mediation at the Canadian Industrial Relations Board, which forced the parties back to the bargaining table. We have further meetings scheduled later in July.

    BreakOut West is on the horizon and is still on the International Unfair List because they have refused to enter good faith bargaining with us for several years now. I recently reached out to the chair of the BreakOut West Board and the executive director with an invitation to have an open discussion of how we might resolve our differences moving forward. I will report further on this as things progress and perhaps have a verbal update to the officers and delegates at the upcoming Canadian Conference. Conferences like BreakOut West are an important part of the landscape and together we should prioritize educating emerging artists on how to protect their rights and future revenue streams with Federation contracts. We have much to contribute and are prepared to invest time and energy into education when music industry associations are willing to work with us.

    The Canadian Radio-Television Communications Authority (CRTC) recently released a decision obligating streaming services to contribute 5% of revenues over $25 million generated in Canada back into the broadcasting system. The Online Streaming Act compels streaming services to contribute to the broadcasting system in Canada. We view this as a good first step.

    Bilan des 30 premiers jours – Poursuivre l’élan des négociations

    par Allistair Elliott, vice-président de l’AFM pour le Canada

    En règle générale, une nouvelle administration se fixe comme objectif de réaliser certains gains au cours des 100 premiers jours de son mandat. Le texte qui suit fait le bilan de mes 30 premiers jours au poste de vice-président. Mon premier geste a été de m’asseoir avec chacun des membres du personnel. Notre équipe est petite mais déterminée, et je travaille présentement à évaluer les besoins et les possibilités d’embauche ainsi qu’à instaurer des formations ciblées.

    Nous menons de front deux négociations. Nous espérons apporter la touche finale cette semaine à la première entente avec l’Association canadienne des producteurs médiatiques. Je suis à la table des négociations en compagnie de Dusty Kelly, directrice générale de la section locale 149 (Toronto, Ontario) et membre du conseil international de direction de l’AFM, de Liana White, directrice générale de la FCM, de Doug Kuss, de la section locale 547 (Calgary, Alberta), et de John Painting, directeur de la Division des médias électroniques de l’AFM.

    Au cours des prochaines années, vous entendrez beaucoup parler d’intelligence artificielle (IA) générative. Nous devons protéger les créateurs d’œuvres musicales de l’avancée constante de l’IA générative pour éviter qu’ils se retrouvent sans emploi. Vous savez tous déjà que certains ont recours à l’IA pour composer des paroles et réaliser des enregistrements en utilisant des voix sans autorisation. Il ne s’agit que de la pointe de l’iceberg, et toutes les ententes que nous négocierons dorénavant prévoiront des dispositions relatives à l’IA générative. C’est pourquoi les gains réalisés lors des négociations menées récemment par l’AMPTP, comme les mesures de protection visant à empêcher le remplacement des musiciens par l’IA, sont importants, et ces textes pourront servir de modèles aux ententes négociées au Canada.

    Les négociations avec l’Office de la télécommunication éducative de l’Ontario (TVO) ont également repris après une pause de près de deux ans, alors que la décision rendue en médiation par le Conseil canadien des relations industrielles a forcé TVO à revenir à la table des négociations. D’autres rencontres sont prévues en juillet.

    L’événement BreakOut West, qui aura lieu dans quelques mois, figure actuellement sur la liste noire internationale, puisque ses organisateurs refusent de négocier de bonne foi avec nous depuis plusieurs années. J’ai récemment invité le président du conseil d’administration et le directeur général de BreakOut West à discuter ouvertement de solutions aux différends qui nous opposent. Je vous tiendrai au courant des développements et pourrai faire un compte rendu verbal aux représentants et aux délégués qui participeront à la Conférence canadienne. Les conférences comme BreakOut West sont un élément important du paysage et elles devraient avoir comme priorité d’informer les artistes émergents sur les façons de protéger leurs droits et leurs sources de revenus à l’aide de contrats de la Fédération. Nous avons beaucoup à offrir et sommes prêts à investir du temps et de l’énergie dans la sensibilisation lorsque les associations de l’industrie musicale acceptent de coopérer.

    Le Conseil de la radiodiffusion et des télécommunications canadiennes a rendu récemment une décision qui oblige les services de diffusion en continu à injecter 5 % des revenus qu’ils génèrent au Canada, au-delà de la première tranche de 25 millions de dollars, dans le système de radiodiffusion canadien. La Loi sur la diffusion continue en ligne oblige les services de diffusion en continu à réinvestir dans le système de radiodiffusion au Canada, ce qui constitue un premier pas dans la bonne direction.

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This Spring, Focus on Improving Work for Musicians

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

Spring is here and for many it feels like a time of renewal. Those of us who live in the northern regions venture cautiously outside, looking for signs of budding leaves, listening to birds’ spring songs, and noticing how the sun feels on our faces. The magic of spring demonstrates itself as landscapes are transformed by fresh greenery after months of winter gray.

In the spirit of spring, let’s do an exercise in magical thinking. Let everything we’ve been told about the music business drain away. Replace it with ideas of how you think it should be. Separate what we’ve been told from what we inherently know: music is necessary and has value. When music is made well it is transformative, magical.

Music cannot be separated from those who make it. The product is crafted, manufactured by workers. And what have we been hearing so much over these past couple of years? All work has value. Why have we been hearing these types of messages? Because working people have figured out the reason they haven’t been valued properly is because of made up messaging: work described as “stepping stones,” “unskilled,” or “meant as a first job to learn soft skills before moving on to a real job.”

Think about the reality of time and training it takes to learn the craft, and then having work hours that generally don’t fit with other types of jobs, which makes issues like child care and public transportation more challenging. I keep thinking about the struggles we had getting unemployment for musicians during the pandemic. Separate that from how often musicians are told we are lucky to be compensated at all considering many musicians are willing to perform just for the joy of it.

Is it fun? Sometimes. Do we love our work? Most of the time. But the same could be said for many other types of work that are well paid. Musicians shouldn’t be penalized for loving what we do. We need to recognize there are words and phrases generated primarily to undermine our value and leave us open to exploitation.

We can change the narrative and improve the lives of musicians. The highest hurdle is carving out time. As musicians, we should be coming together at local union meetings and talking about our realities. Start with what can be managed internally: Are local scales appropriate for the types of work available in your area? Do you know which contracts are available for different types of work?

Next come the discussions about what else is needed to improve our lives. What issues can be identified that would improve the collective wellbeing of musicians in your area? Who is willing to chair a committee to work on child care issues or a committee to examine venues? Who can be a bridge to the rest of the labor community to raise awareness of musician issues and find assistance in the search for solutions? We are not alone. People outside of the music community are willing to help us, we just have to clearly communicate what we need.

All around us workers are organizing—banding together to make meaningful changes to improve their lives. We’re in a time of transformation and renewal for workers. We can take control of the narrative around music making. It starts with a question: What do we want to do together?

Thank you for your work!

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

en francais : Pas de culture sans artistes et pas de musique sans musiciens

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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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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