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 » Recent News » President Biden on the Worker Shortage: Yeah, Pay Them More!

President Biden on the Worker Shortage: Yeah, Pay Them More!

  -  AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC)

While listening to the news on June 24, a sound clip from President Biden’s press briefing that day on economic policy caught my attention. In that clip, he said to the pool of reporters, “You were asking me, ‘Guess what? Employers can’t find workers! I said, ‘Yeah, pay them more!’ This is an employee’s bargaining chip now … [employers] are going to have to compete and start paying hardworking people a decent wage.”

The significance of that message was profound—the president of the United States speaking directly on behalf of the American workforce and calling out employers to do better by them, fully recognizing the opportunity that exists for labor as public demand explodes with the reopening of American businesses.

Live entertainment certainly belongs in this category and I hope that musicians hearing these words will fully appreciate their implications. The demand for live music has never been greater. As a result, musicians have never been better positioned to leverage this demand to bargain better contracts for themselves. At this moment, we are presented with an opportunity to change the paradigm. How we choose to respond may have lasting repercussions on our future as performers.

Recent conversations I’ve had with gigging musicians in Washington, DC, have signaled cause for alarm. Accounts of musicians being asked to play for half of what they were able to earn in the pre-pandemic days are not isolated incidents. It is unconscionable that employers with access to Paycheck Protection Plan loans, Employee Retention Credit tax credits, and Shuttered Venue Operator Grants would ask musicians to shoulder even more of the financial burden that the pandemic has imposed on our industry.

Musicians would be well served to heed the president’s message at a time when we have suffered through so much already. We should be emboldened by his message to effect the changes that are so urgently needed. Our employers have asked us to take too little, for too long, while they profit from our artistry and creativity.

Yes, we are artists, but our product is subject to the same type of exploitation as any laborer. Now is the time to come together in union to ensure our fair treatment. Here in DC, conversations have started discussions among artist stakeholders familiar with our particular music ecology on how to create a better future. I recognize that conversations such as this will vary from city to city and region to region, but what is most important is to begin this dialogue now.

Our president has made a powerful statement in support of the American worker. Throughout his career, he has been a champion of unions. He understands the plight of working people in America.

Labor Loses a Giant

On August 5, 2021, the American labor movement lost a giant. Richard Trumka was one of the most influential union leaders of our time, and we are all still processing the news of his sudden passing. It is a devastating loss that comes at a crucial time for the labor movement. As President Biden remarked that day, “Rich Trumka was always fighting for working people … Unions built the middle class, and Rich Trumka helped those unions all across this country.”

I know that unions will continue their fight for the working people of America, with focus now on passage of the Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and the American Tax Parity Act in Congress. It was the AFM’s partnership with our sister and brother unions at AFL-CIO that made possible the passage of the American Rescue Package and secured pension benefits for millions in this country. Trumka was a driving force behind that legislation.

In the words of Rev. William Barber of the Poor Peoples Campaign, “We have lost a dear friend and brother in the struggle for justice … he never separated the fight for economic and labor rights from the fight for voting rights and civil rights. He knew they were simultaneous fights.”

Rest in peace, Brother Trumka.