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.
January 1, 2024Tino Gagliardi - AFM International President
As I write this column, orchestras and musical ensembles across the country are wrapping up their holiday concerts and preparing to spend some time with friends and loved ones. I begin 2024 with a spirit of renewed focus for an ever-improving workplace for our members, whether that is in a recording studio, on stage, in a theater pit, or for independent musicians. Negotiating fair contracts for working musicians and ensuring employers follow these contracts is a never-ending process at the Federation. Our talented professional musicians who put their hearts and souls into their work, deserve to enjoy a comfortable quality of life.
During January, we’ll continue the intense work of preparing for this year’s negotiations. We recently welcomed Gabe Kristal who will serve as AFM director of organizing. He comes with leadership experience in building contract campaigns and will help the AFM grow union density among musicians.
Preparations for negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for our agreements that cover scoring, musical preparation services, sidelining, and recording for theatrical motion pictures and films made for television and streaming are well underway. We will also continue negotiations for successor Pamphlet B and Short Engagement Touring (SET) theatrical touring agreements with the Broadway League and Disney Theatrical Productions.
While these agreements cover very different types of work for AFM musicians, they do have some commonalities. A key component in both negotiations will be ensuring protections against employment erosion due to musician replacement technologies. Theater musicians have long battled reduced orchestrations because of the use of technology, and now our entire community of musicians face the continued technological advancement of generative artificial intelligence (AI) and AI assisted technologies. This poses an additional threat to our art, the quality of performance, and our ability to get compensated when our material is exploited in electronic media.
The ability of musicians to earn a living wage in the film industry is in jeopardy with the transition to digital consumption. Studios have agreed to pay residuals for actors, writers, directors, and others when films and television shows are made for streaming, but management insists on excluding musicians by denying them standard wage scales for new media projects and refusing to pay them new media residuals. Our purpose in all AFM agreement negotiations is to improve opportunities; provide living wages, safe working conditions, health and pension benefits; as well as protect your work from unauthorized use and ensure you are compensated when it is replayed, re-used, or digitally distributed.
The Pamphlet B and SET agreement negotiations began in November. Negotiations will resume later this month with the valuable assistance of AFM Touring/Theater/Booking Division Director George Fiddler, staff members Michael Epperhart and Laurence Hofmann, as well as representative rank and file members and officers of locals from the major touring markets.
The Pamphlet B agreement establishes wages and conditions of employment for musicians working on the road in touring theatrical musical productions, where the shows are booked for a given number of weeks. The SET contract is structured to cover tours where most engagements run for less than a week. In addition to providing fair wages for all services, benefits, and protections from unauthorized recording, Federation touring agreements ensure a fair per diem and lodging is provided.
Contract negotiations with AMPTP for theatrical and television film work will begin January 22. The Federation’s focus in these media negotiations is improving industry wages, working conditions, residual payments for made-for-streaming content, and AI protections. The negotiations, which were initially expected to begin sooner, were delayed due to AMPTP’s prolonged negotiations with WGA and SAG-AFTRA. As a result, our current contract was extended by six months from its expiration date of November 13, 2023.
We are encouraged by the results of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA contracts with AMPTP, where streaming residuals and protections against AI were key issues. This moment is unique in the entertainment industry and labor history. While musical performances are central to the success of streaming shows, musicians are currently largely excluded from streaming project residuals.
We held a hybrid (in-person and Zoom) Road to Negotiations Meeting at Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), on December 6. It brought together musicians from around the country who work under the AFM’s Basic Theatrical Motion Picture and Basic Television Motion Picture agreements. I thank everyone who came together to discuss our vision and strategize for the upcoming negotiations.
In particular, musicians just entering the industry are struggling to make a living on scoring stages. Musicians working on made-for-streaming projects earn about 75% less than on traditional platforms. Just like singers and actors, these musicians create performances that are captured in real time but are not compensated for the use of their work in streaming media. They deserve a fair share of the profits of companies like Disney, Paramount, Universal, and Warner Bros.
The AFM Fair Share for Musicians campaign was created by the musicians who record for motion pictures and television shows in preparation for negotiations of the AFM Basic Theatrical Motion Picture and Basic Television Motion Picture agreements. We are building strength and leverage to ensure a successful outcome.
I also want to extend to each of you my very best wishes in every way for a happy, healthy, and productive new year!