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


Home » Officer Columns » Organizing for a Stronger Future

Organizing for a Stronger Future


Recording musicians are delighted to welcome new Director of Electronic Media Services Division Bill Thomas, and we would like to thank AFM President Ray Hair and the AFM International Executive Board for bringing this fantastic professional and terrific person into our organization. We would also like to thank and honor retired EMSD Director Dick Gabriel, and wish him only the best in the future.

One of the major efforts we have made over the past four years that I have been in my role has been protecting the use of our music. New use, reuse, conversions, clips—when we require companies to pay for the fruits of our labors, we are protecting employment in real time, and down the road.

We can’t allow the producers of a TV show like Dancing with the Stars to replace a great band with records because using records is cheaper. Using records has to be at least as expensive as hiring live musicians. New use payment obligations are about protecting AFM employment. We can’t allow an advertiser to use sound recording, film, or TV music without paying, instead of hiring live musicians to record the music for a jingle, or for any other media.

This issue jumped out at all of us a few weeks ago, as our AFM team gathered in New York to negotiate a successor US Commercial Announcement Agreement, affectionately know as the Jingles Agreement. We had wonderful, open, and productive conversations about this in caucus. We return in early April to continue working on that contract.

We are also in the middle of negotiating our film and TV agreements.  Dates are pending for our next round of talks.

As you know, our AFM film and TV agreements are contracts between our union and our signatory companies. These are the producers who, by signing, promise to employ our members when they produce films and TV shows in North America. The major studios are: Fox, Universal, Disney, etc. We have the same seven producers that were signatory 50 years ago. All of the other entertainment industry unions also have film/TV contracts.  However, there’s a big difference. The Director’s Guild of America contract has 234 signatory companies. SAG-AFTRA, WGA, IATSE, and the Teamsters all have pages of signatories in their contracts as well.

What does this mean? Even as the film industry has moved year by year to production by independent companies, our sister unions have gone out and organized these new companies as they have sprung up—but not us. The major studios—our signatories—are producing half the films they were 10 years ago. Yet, when George Clooney started his Smokehouse Productions it quickly signed agreements with the writers, directors, SAG-AFTRA, and IATSE, but not the AFM.

It’s time to do something about it!

Rank and file musicians are organizing, and we’re building the strength we need to take on the industry and demand more studios become signatories. We are working to capture new employment and to grow the power of our union.

As states, provinces, and countries provide generous film/TV tax credits, too many media companies take our tax dollars, while sending our jobs overseas, along with our health care and pension contributions. They’re undermining our social compact, from Social Security and Medicare, to unemployment and state disability programs.

The key to addressing these problems and shifting the balance of power in our industry is organizing. Musicians are working to aggregate power for all our AFM, not just for those of us who work in film and television. Our goal is to provide a model of organizing that can extend to other areas of music and musicians for the sake of our employment, the success and reach of our pension funds, and the future of our union.

by Marc Sazer, RMA President and Member of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA)

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