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Wage Charts: A New Tool to Look into the Symphonic World

by Laurence Hofmann, AFM Symphonic Services Division Contract Administrator/Communications & Data Coordinator

Laurence-HofmannIn my first article for the IM last year, I wrote about “Solidarity and Arts.” I thought that these two words would define the various aspects of an AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) contract administrator, data and communications coordinator. It has certainly proven to be the case.

To be an artist, especially a performing musician, requires unity. It can be a challenge for symphonic musicians within the orchestra itself. My role has been shaped by this premise. This is the reason I applied so much effort in developing forms and tools to support musicians, local officers, and the Symphonic Players’ Conferences.

One endeavor involved the creation of a tool that would help us better understand the symphonic world by analyzing and identifying specificities in our many orchestras in the US and Canada. With the support of the Symphonic Players’ Conferences we created a new website (Wagechart.afm.org) dedicated to wage charts from both a historical and comparative standpoint. Data from the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) has been collected in wage charts for many years. Now it is part of a database that not only can be updated anytime, but can also function dynamically to create new reports on specific aspects of orchestras within one season, or of one orchestra during the past several seasons. These new sets of data are helpful to better understand the symphonic world and to support arguments in favor of improving wages and working conditions. The “Comparative Analysis” section of the website is precisely the tool that will enable musicians to more efficiently fine-tune their arguments during contract negotiations.

This is how it works. (It is only the beginning as we continue to build the site.)

Search: Once you are logged into the website, click “Comparative Analysis” in the menu bar (on the left of the welcome page). In the “Comparative Analysis” section you can compare orchestras within a season (“Filter by Criteria”) or you can observe the growth of your orchestra through the seasons (“Historical Review”).

Compare Now: If you opt to compare orchestras within a season (“Filter by Criteria”), you’ll be asked to choose the Players’ Conference and the season. There is current data available for the last seven  seasons (back to 2009-2010). When you hit the “Compare Now” button, all the orchestras that exist for that Players’ Conference and season will be alphabetically listed.

Criteria: You are offered the opportunity to narrow your search by selecting one, several, or all of the criteria currently available, choosing a “low” and a “high” range for the values of interest.

Layout of the Search: The list of the orchestras pertinent to your search is alphabetically organized in columns that can be moved (or hidden) for a more practical look at the results. To facilitate the visualization of the data for the orchestras you are interested in, the “View PDF” feature will present the data resulting from “comparing now” in a table as well as in a graph. The “View Financial Charts” is an alternative (enlarged) display of the graph resulting from the search. The graphs offer an at-a-glance evaluation of where an orchestra stands amongst its peers.

Keep a Copy of the Report: The report created by your search can be downloaded or printed at any time.

A search in the wage charts with the help of the “Comparative Analysis” can give interesting results. Yet, like every event in life, interpretation is required. When you observe all orchestras at once, note there are relevant differences in budget and musicians’ income. Restricting the search by adding orchestra size and/or season length values will give a more precise perspective. The budget of the orchestra is not an absolute value, but it is relative to the makeup of the orchestra. A big budget might be needed for a longer season and/or a larger orchestra, while reasons for a lower budget might include a bad economy, reflecting less funding (government, state, regional, and city funds). The amount of benefits granted, such as an employer’s contribution to health insurance, pension, and family leave, contribute to the appeal of an orchestra. As we can observe, all criteria are intertwined and are needed to get the full picture.

I will conclude by saying that a subtle but important value of an orchestra is its impact on the community. Symphonic musicians do majestic work in performing and educating their audiences. This observation, unfortunately, cannot be translated into a chart.

The invaluable service of culture to society is the reason why we should stand boundless in solidarity with our fellow artists. 

Federal Arts Connection

Federal Arts Connection: June 2016

This month’s Federal Arts Connection focuses on agency websites with leads for employment opportunities in the federal government. Jobs USA is the federal government’s primary employment announcement site and hosts civilian opportunities in the Department of Defense, Department of the Army, Department of the Navy, the Endowments, the Veterans Administration, as well as federal performance facilities funded and managed by the US Department of the Interior. Agencies across the country are looking for music teachers and arts counselors for military base community family recreational programs and music therapists, to name just a few opportunities. Other jobs requiring a specialty in music also exist. Find out how to book yourself or your ensemble In the National Parks, for example. Military music programs not only need instrumentalists, vocalists, conductors, composers, and arrangers from every genre of music, but these units also have positions for audio-recording technicians and other workers whose skills are specific to keeping professional music units operational. All military band jobs require military enlistment and military service. More federal programs will be featured in the July International Musician. If you know of other performance or job opportunities through in federal facilities, drop me a line and we will feature it in this column. If you have photos of you or your ensemble performing at any of these federal facilities, send them to apollard@afm.org. We’ll get them posted.


Jobs USA
(Search music in US Location)

US Department of the Interior
(Search music. There are many of performance opportunities at venues in national parks.)

Carter Barron Amphitheater—Washington, DC

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

(Administrative employment 0pportunities)

Wolf Trap Foundation/Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
Administrative employment opportunities.)

National Endowment for the Arts
(Administrative employment opportunities.)


United States Army Bands

West Point Academy Band

United States Navy Bands

United States Naval Academy Band

United States Air Force Bands

United States Air Force Academy Band

United States Marine Band

United States Coast Guard Bands

United States Coast Guard Academy Band

MILITARY TALENT SHOWS (For enlisted personnel only)

US Army “Soldier Show”

US Air Force “Tops in Blue”

US Marines “Marines Got Talent” 29 Palms

AFM Updates “ Road Gig ” Assistance Policy

When musicians travel to perform they face a host of challenges—from transporting and setting up gear in a new space, to finding a great late-night eating spot, to getting their instruments across a border or in the cabin of an airplane. The last thing any traveling group wants to worry about is getting “stiffed” on a gig.

If that ever does happen, though, the AFM offers help through “Road Gig,” an AFM policy to assist traveling musicians in the event of contract defaults. But what exactly is Road Gig?

First, let’s talk about what it isn’t. Road Gig isn’t roadside assistance, help at the border with a missing visa or passport, nor help in the event of stolen instruments or equipment (instrument insurance is offered through Mercer in the US and HUB/Intact in Canada). It is assistance with contract enforcement, in cases where a venue or purchaser defaults on payment.


The AFM will assist with collecting on defaulted contracts, when the following criteria are in place:

  • The claim is for a traveling engagement.
  • The engagement is covered by a written AFM contract (for US engagements only, other written contracts may also be accepted).
  • The contract must have been filed with the appropriate union local, and must meet minimum scale.
  • Each instrumentalist and member vocalist who performed/would have performed, must be a member in good standing at the time the engagement was scheduled/performed.

The policy does not apply in cases where the venue/establishment is covered by an existing AFM Collective Bargaining Agreement, or in cases where musicians are acting as a backup unit for a traveling “name” artist/act.

Making a Claim

Claims can be made by calling 1-800-ROADGIG in the US, or 1-800-INFOFED in Canada. Claims can also be made via e-mail, to roadgig@afm.org. Any calls or e-mails received after normal business hours will be responded to on the next business day. Claimants should include a copy of the defaulted engagement contract, and all other pertinent information, such as venue and purchaser details, in their claims. Upon reviewing all this, the AFM will determine the appropriate course of action, and do everything it can to effect an equitable resolution to the claim.

Enforcement and Collections

When claims are made, the AFM’s Touring, Theatre, Booking and Immigration Division will determine how best to pursue the claim. This usually begins with an official letter to the purchaser/venue to demand payment. If there is no immediate resolution, the AFM will seek authorization from claimants to pursue a legal collection process. At a minimum, the AFM may elect to pay musicians the Traveling Scale, at $150 for leader and $100 for side musician, for the defaulted gig.

When it comes to road gigs, the AFM isn’t going to rush in and change a flat tire or keep a restaurant open past midnight. But we can help our AFM traveling members from being left out in the cold, when it comes to their gig contracts