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



jay blumenthal

Jay Blumenthal – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

    Looking Back at Seven Years as AFM Secretary-Treasurer

    For those of you who have not heard, I have made the decision to retire at the end of my term, which will be July 31. Therefore, this will be my penultimate column for the International Musician. This is the 83rd column I have written for the IM and my final column next month (July), will make a total of 84 columns over the seven-year period that I have been your secretary-treasurer.

    Having had the IM “bully pulpit” has truly been a great honor. The honor also came with important responsibilities. The IM, being the official journal of the AFM, required some of my columns be devoted to official business. However, there were many occasions that allowed me the privilege of writing on any topic I desired. When the subject was of my own choosing, I tried not to get too political. Our membership is politically diverse, and I wanted everyone to feel comfortable reading my column. However, from time to time I made an exception, when it was important for the membership to know about specific legislation in Congress that was supportive of labor (and helpful to musicians) and which legislators were sponsoring it.

    My initial IM column appeared seven years ago in the August 2016 issue. It was titled “What You Can Expect.” It outlined in general terms how I intended to operate as your new secretary-treasurer. I’ve always believed the secretary-treasurer’s position to be “hands-on,” requiring close attention to detail. I have always felt the job requires a daily physical presence in the office. I have done this all these years and I hope it has produced some good results that you, as members, deserve.

    There are a lot of moving parts running the day-to-day operations at the Federation that require consistent oversight, not the least of which are the AFM finances. I have been keenly aware that AFM revenue is derived in large part from the work you do as a musician. Having made a living as a professional musician for over 30 years, I experienced the same daily challenges you face. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that every dollar of your dues ultimately goes toward improving the lives and protecting the livelihoods of AFM members. I’ve heard the expression, “It’s the members’ money” indicating that special care should be given to the spending of your dues.

    AFM President Ray Hair and I have always been on the same page when it comes to judicious spending of your money, and we have made every effort to “walk the walk” rather than just “talk the talk.” Having a healthy financial position is important because we need to have the ability to fight necessary battles when recalcitrant employers violate our contracts. Conserving our financial resources is critical so that the funds are available when needed for the unavoidable labor disputes that occur. Litigation can be expensive, but when all else fails, it is an important tool to have in the tool kit. It can send a very powerful message.

    Over the seven years I’ve served as the international secretary-treasurer (from mid-2016 to mid-2023), the Federation’s unrestricted net assets grew over 92% (audited results at end of year 2022) from $9,170,316 to $17,667,102 (an increase of $8,496,786), in spite of three pandemic years which, presented unprecedented financial challenges for you and the AFM. As you can see, we came through it successfully by managing our expenses.

    Other areas requiring oversight and guidance include AFM office operations, computer/IT functions, communicating with and assisting our local affiliates, Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) compliance, negotiating various contracts we have with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), which represents some of our employees and contracts with outside vendors who provide services to the AFM.

    Maintaining the smooth and efficient running of the Federation office allows the international president to focus on representing AFM members on the world stage. The president also negotiates contracts that improve wages, benefits, and working conditions of the bargaining units that work under Federation agreements. He also supports bargaining units during labor disputes and litigates disputes with employers, when necessary, and performs many other critical tasks too numerous to list.

    One goal President Hair and I were unable to achieve was the purchase of property that would allow us to own our AFM office space. We came very close, but in the end, we were unable to close a deal that was beneficial for the AFM. This, however, had a silver lining. Instead of purchasing, we were able to sign a 15-year lease and build out new and (I might add) beautiful office space on the ninth floor of the Paramount Building, centrally located in Times Square. Looking back, it was a blessing in disguise because the large expenditure for the purchase of a property would have left us cash poor and ill equipped to handle the financial challenges of the pandemic, which lay just around the corner.

    Finally, we made it through the pandemic together. There were many nights we lost sleep not knowing what new curveball the pandemic was going to throw at us. When music venues were closed and musicians had little or no work, the AFM continued to function. Among other tasks, during the pandemic we sent out “new use” checks, assisted locals, advocated for supportive arts legislation in Washington, DC, and Ottawa, and fought for much needed expanded unemployment. 

    Managing AFM expenses conservatively was key to our survival. The experience has made us stronger and your union is well prepared to take on whatever challenges tomorrow may bring. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving as your secretary-treasurer all these years.

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    A Visit from the FIM Presidium

    by Jay Blumenthal, AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

    Globalization has created the imperative for the AFM’s continued membership in the International Federation of Musicians or Fédération International des Musiciens (FIM). It has become increasingly important that the AFM has a seat at the table where conversations are taking place between musician unions around the world.

    Conversations include musician rights, the fight for fair compensation, as well as the distribution of revenue to the musicians when their music is played on the radio in countries other than where it was created. Discussion topics cover protests when employers act unjustly or when music is pirated. FIM can be a powerful voice for the global musician community.

    Founded in 1948, FIM is the international organization for musicians’ unions and equivalent representative organizations. It now counts about 70 members in 60 countries throughout the world. The FIM website ( explains that FIM’s main objective is to protect and further the economic, social, and artistic interests of musicians represented by its member unions.

    FIM makes it possible for there to be a collaborative process that allows musicians around the world to speak with one voice. On Monday, March 27, 2023, the FIM Presidium, which includes the following seven officers, met as our guests at the AFM New York Office:

    • John Smith, President (United Kingdom)
    • Benoît Machuel, General Secretary (France)
    • Ray Hair, Vice President (United States)
    • Edith Katiji, Vice President (Zimbabwe)
    • Beat Santschi, Vice President (Switzerland)
    • Anders Laursen, Vice President (Denmark)
    • Horace Trubridge, Vice President (United Kingdom)

    The morning after FIM’s meeting, the FIM Presidium met in a special meeting with the AFM International Executive Board (IEB). This was the first time such a meeting has taken place. A lively discussion on various topics ensued. Of particular interest were discussions about the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and continued work towards achieving the goal of “no collection without distribution” from those collectives around the world that do not forward to the AFM the portion of revenue they collect that rightfully belongs to US musicians, when their music is played around the world.

    The joint morning meeting with FIM dovetailed nicely with the AFM IEB’s first quarterly meeting, scheduled to begin that afternoon.

    Submission of the AFM’s LM-2 Report

    The submission of our Labor-Management (LM-2) report to the Department of Labor was completed on time. The complexity of the report has grown over the years. This year it comprises 221 pages. To view the report, log into the website with your AFM ID and password, click on the Document Library tab, and scroll down to the “Financial Documents and Annual Report” folder. Open the folder and scroll down to find “LM-2 Report (2022).”

    The 2022 AFM Annual Report can be found in the same folder. The Annual Report includes our audited financials for 2022.

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    What Is the Employee Retention Credit (ERC)? 

    “The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a refundable tax credit for businesses that continued to pay employees while shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or had significant declines in gross receipts from March 13, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2021. Eligible employers can claim the ERC on an original or adjusted employment tax return for a period within those dates. Only recovery startup businesses are eligible for the ERC in the fourth quarter of 2021.” — IRS website.  

    Recently, the AFM engaged our accountants (BDO) to provide guidance regarding the Federation’s eligibility for the ERC, and if eligible, to guide us through the application process. During the period (described above), the AFM retained most of our employees (staff) who worked remotely. As many of you were affected by the closing of music venues, reducing your income from the making of live music, so too were the Federation’s revenue streams affected negatively.  

    Throughout this time, the Federation continued its operations as incoming and outgoing mail needed to be handled, new use payments needed to be distributed to musicians, and federal legislation supportive of musicians needed to be pursued. We held discussions with some employers over terms that would allow a percentage of salary to continue to flow to symphony musicians, in exchange for use of their recorded product. Necessary guidance and new protocols needed to be developed and provided to affiliate locals. These are but a few of the activities that continued at the AFM during the applicable period.  

    The ERC kickoff meeting with BDO went very smoothly. Our small ERC team includes AFM Comptroller Michelle Ledgister, BDO Audit Director Jessie Mabutas, BDO Managing Director of Business Incentives & Tax Credits Brad Poris, and BDO Tax Credit Expert Ian Brown. Poris and Brown have three years of experience applying for ERCs, so our application preparations and filing (when ready) will be in good hands.  

    As I write this, our priority is the AFM LM-2 report (which has a March 31 DOL submission deadline) and the completion of the AFM’s annual audit. The financials from the audit are needed to complete the AFM Annual Report. Once the annual report is complete, it will be sent to the printer so hard copies can be placed in each AFM Convention delegate’s bag.  

    The filing deadline for the ERC application, covering the 2020 period, is April 2024. I fully expect our application will be filed long before that deadline. 

    Final reminder: For US local officers with locals that have a fiscal year that coincides with the calendar year, your LM-2, LM-3, or LM-4 report covering 2022 was due March 31, 2023. There is no grace period! Please upload your report immediately if you have not already done so.  

    Each year, as part of the Voluntary Compliance Program, the AFM meets with the Department of Labor (DOL). We are presented with a report that lists every US affiliate local and the date their LM report was filed, and if filed late, how many days late it was filed. The report includes the same information for the prior year. If the DOL observes a pattern of late filing, that local is much more likely to be chosen as the subject for a DOL audit. Trust me, being the subject of a DOL audit is not a pleasant experience. Do yourself a favor and get your LM report filed if it was due March 31. 

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    Updates from the Secretary-Treasurer’s Office

    The first quarterly AFM International Executive Board (IEB) meeting will take place the week of March 27. Since the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) will be meeting at our New York Office, the IEB will have an opportunity to meet with FIM in the morning on Tuesday, March 28. Over the years, the AFM has had an excellent working relationship with FIM. In fact, AFM President Ray Hair serves on the FIM Presidium.

    This meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss global issues concerning musicians, such as the latest information on traveling with musical instruments. At the November 2022 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) CoP19 Conference, it was decided to keep Pernambuco—the wood of choice for bow making—on the less restrictive Appendix B, rather than moving it to the more restrictive Appendix A. This topic and others will be discussed at the FIM meeting.

    In the afternoon on March 28, the IEB will review resolutions submitted for consideration at the 102nd AFM Convention. The IEB will also discuss and formulate recommendations to be submitted for consideration by the convention delegates. All this is in addition to the normal IEB business, including any case(s) that are ready for review by the IEB.

    LM Reports

    Again this year, I would like to remind US officers of AFM locals having a fiscal year that coincides with the calendar year, that LM-2, LM-3, or LM-4 reports covering 2022 are due no later than March 31. There is no grace period! Please upload your report on time. Each year you must get a new PIN from the Department of Labor. You will need this PIN (which is unique to your local), along with your ID and password to upload your report.

    You will also need to indicate the amount for which your local is bonded. If you are unsure of the bonding amount the AFM has for your local, contact AFM Assistant Secretary Jonathan Ferrone at Also, please properly indicate on your LM report whether or not your constitution and bylaws have been updated since your last LM report. If they have been updated, you will need to attach the updated document(s) when filing your LM report. If you have any questions, please contact your AFM international representative.

    102nd AFM Convention

    The 102nd AFM Convention will be held June 26–29 at the Westgate Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Convention registration will be held Sunday, June 25, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (PDT), and Monday, June 26, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. (PDT).

    This year’s Convention Gala will be held the evening of Sunday, June 25, and will include the awarding of the National Music Council’s American Eagle Awards to two deserving recipients. If you are coming to the AFM Convention, you won’t want to miss the gala!

    The latest convention and delegate information can be found on the AFM website at If you have questions or need additional information, send an email to

    ILCA Awards

    The AFM’s International Musician magazine won six 2022 International Labor Communications Association (ILCA) awards for content. Month after month, the International Musician highlights the diversity and work of our members. We are pleased that ILCA has recognized the work of the writers and editors who endeavor to keep union musicians at the front and center of the labor community. See the award list on page 3 of this issue.

    AFM Annual Audit

    The AFM audit is currently underway. Upon completion, the Annual Report (which includes the AFM’s financials) will be made available on the AFM website in the Document Library.

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    Congratulations to the Music Performance Trust Fund

    For the past 75 years, the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF) has had the primary mission of supporting live music. This noble goal has been realized year after year. To receive MPTF funding for an engagement, the event must be live and admission-free. Free MPTF concerts have brought the joy of live music to those with the desire to experience all the special rewards live music brings to the human experience.

    I’d like to share my early MPTF experience with fellow musicians, particularly those of you who are just starting out in the business. Back in the 1970s, MPTF was my lifesaver. I arrived in New York City with a strong desire to fulfill my dream of becoming a full-time, professional musician. My problem was that I was unknown in NYC, and you needed to know people to break in as a freelance musician.

    During those early days, I was able to find a telephone number for Arthur Fiedler who was the Boston Pops conductor. Thinking he might have some advice for me, I called the number. To my surprise, Fiedler answered the phone. I explained that I was a young musician just beginning my career. Fiedler was gracious and gentle with me but said he did not have any work for me. However, one piece of advice that he shared has remained with me throughout my career. That advice was, “You have to make your own opportunities!” I was initially disappointed that the call did not lead to something more substantial, but his advice served me well over the years.

    Shortly after arriving in NYC, I had joined Local 802. I soon became aware of the Music Performance Trust Fund. At the time, Local 802 employed an MPTF liaison named Olga James (some of you may remember her). Her job was to assist with the disbursement of the local’s MPTF allocation. So, I made an appointment to meet with James and she educated me about how MPTF could assist. She told me that if I could come up with a sponsor who would pay 50% of the costs needed for a concert, MPTF would come up with the rest of the funds.

    To my mind, this presented an excellent opportunity. If I could find a sponsor, I could begin to get to know the community of musicians by hiring them for work, rather than asking them for a gig. All I needed was a sponsor.

    I began thinking about public spaces that might have some funds available to put toward an MPTF concert. I put together a budget for 15 musicians using the Local 802 MPTF scales. Though an unlikely venue, I decided to try speaking with someone at the NYC Port Authority Bus Terminal.
    I got an appointment with a mid-level Port Authority executive. I began my pitch by suggesting we could lift up the image of the bus station by putting on a series of chamber orchestra concerts, if the Port Authority would only come up with half the funding! He loved the idea and took it to the PA decision makers. Within a few days we were given a green light.

    We performed on a level area that was about 15 x 15 feet, about halfway up, between the up and down escalators. The audience could hear us on both the main level and the second floor. After the public got over the initial shock of hearing a live chamber orchestra in the middle of the bus terminal, they began to actually interrupt their commute to listen for as long as they could before catching their bus to New Jersey or other destinations. The public loved listening to us and we loved playing for them.

    I tell this story because I remain eternally grateful to the MPTF for making my start as a professional musician possible. I want all those starting out in this business to know that the MPTF can do the same for you. Just remember what Arthur Fiedler said, “You have to make your own opportunities.” MPTF is here to support all genres of music and to help make your dreams come true.

    Thank you and happy 75th anniversary MPTF!

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