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help us, help you

Help Us, Help You

by Dave Pomeroy, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 257 (Nashville, TN)

help us, help youMost musicians don’t fit the stereotypes that some people like to place on us. We are hard-working, productive members of society who provide a soundtrack to the lives of those who may not know what it means to be creative or to try to and make a living in the arts. Many of us are involved in our community as teachers, volunteers, and mentors to the musicians of the future. Musicians often have more obstacles to overcome than the average worker could imagine—yet, somehow we persevere.

The fact that we love to play should never be an obstacle to taking care of business. The major reason why the AFM exists is to help you navigate through the challenges of a constantly changing music industry.

I come from a family of nonmusicians, but I fell in love with the bass at age 10. My love for playing and determination to succeed have helped make many of my childhood dreams come true and I am very grateful for that. I only knew one person in Nashville when I moved there at age 21. I joined AFM Local 257, which helped me connect the dots and have a successful career. My first gigs were as a touring musician. Then I made a gradual transition into studio work, as well as writing, producing, and releasing my own musical projects. For years, my dad would ask, “Are they paying you, son?” And the main reason I could say to him, “Yes, they are,” was because of the AFM.

As I got more involved in my local, I began to see the administrative side of the equation, and recognized the importance of getting employers to sign AFM Agreements in advance of a session or engagement. Nothing is more effective than a bandleader, session leader, or sideman asking that all-important question, “Is this a union session?” and helping to get a signatory agreement in place before the gig happens. Once the gig is over, it is much more difficult to get people to take responsibility for doing things the right way.

Our job is to arm players with the right information, and to help explain to employers that an AFM contract protects everyone involved. For example, when a record is used in a TV show, film, or commercial, the new use payment comes from the third party that is using the recording, and not the original employer. Otherwise, it becomes a game of cat and mouse—the employer hopes the musicians don’t find out about the new use, and the musicians can do little but complain and try to get a piece of the license fee. Without an AFM contract, the chances of that happening are almost nil.

Unfortunately, at almost every turn, there are unscrupulous employers who will try to take advantage of musicians who take them at their word. When these people sign an AFM agreement—whether or not they ever intended to follow through—we have the leverage to make it right. I recently concluded a 4 1/2-year quest to get musicians paid for reruns of TV shows done under an AFM Agreement more than 20 years ago. I have been chasing another deadbeat musician/producer for nearly 10 years, and have recovered more than 25% of what is due, with more coming.

This is all because of the legal protections our contracts give musicians who do AFM work. If these projects had not been done under AFM agreements, I would not have been able to get the musicians involved paid for their work. This has not been easy, but it is important to stand up for treating musicians with respect.

Here’s the bottom line: for 120 years the AFM has been looking out for musicians. Help us, help you, and let’s work together to make things right. If we don’t have your back, who does?

International Musician

International Musician Seeks Advice and Consent

The International Musician (IM) falls under the purview of the Secretary-Treasurer’s office, however, in February 2017 we formed an International Musician Editorial Board (IMEB). Our board consists of 14 members, including several AFM International Executive Board (IEB) members, the directors of many AFM divisions, the AFM Assistant Secretary, and the IM managing editor. The first meeting included discussions about our goals, target audience, how the IM’s content can best support the AFM mission, member input, and topics for our next issue.

As you know, the IM is the official journal of the AFM, but in fact, it really is much more. Beyond providing official notices, the cover stories highlight musicians who have gained recognition in our field, achieved significant milestones in their careers, or have made meaningful contributions to labor. Feature stories and member profiles introduce the readership to what our members are doing and special events. News articles inform the membership about what is happening in the field and also broader labor issues. Audition ads announce openings around the world in orchestras and ensembles.

One of the goals of the IMEB is to closely tie our content with the goals and mission of our union and the broader labor movement. That’s where you come in. Members often think of the union as a third party—“What can the union do for me?” We would like to change that perception. The strength of our union comes from the members themselves. Member participation, solidarity, and support for one another are the foundation of a strong union.

International MusicianThe expression, “You are the union!” is exactly what members need to understand and internalize. Nothing is more important than a well-informed membership that participates regularly in union affairs. With this in mind, we welcome the submission of appropriate content that’s well written and is of broad interest to the membership. If you wish to write an article, contact the IM editor, Cherie Yurco at cyurco@afm.org, letting her know of your desire. She will bring your suggestion to the IMEB for a discussion about possible inclusion in a future issue of the IM.

The two meetings we have had since the formation of the IMEB have been invaluable. Board members bring their knowledge about what’s happening currently in the field and their views on labor. It is our intention to cover many genres so the IM will have a broad appeal to the membership. To the extent possible, AFM Communication Director Rose Ryan, will continue to pick up some of the IM content to use on our AFM Facebook page.

We will be working on an electronic membership survey which, when completed, will help us understand how we can adjust the IM content to better meet your needs. When the survey is ready, we will make an announcement in the IM and provide a link to the survey.

This issue of the IM will be available at the fourth International Orchestra Conference (IOC) of the Fédération Internationale des Musiciens/International Federation of Musicians (FIM). The IOC takes place once every three years. This year it will be in Montreal, Canada, sponsored by the Guilde des Musiciens et Musiciennes du Quebec, Local 406 (Montreal, PQ) AFM. We took this opportunity to feature an Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) musician for this month’s cover story.

The IM Editorial Board meets monthly. Board members outside of New York City join the meeting via Internet video conference.

10-Plus Years of Improvements

BonesIn 2005, when I was elected Secretary-Treasurer, my goal included streamlining the operations of the office, consolidation of the computer systems, and creating a process for better management of working capital. Ten years later, I am happy to report that at the close of business 2015, income over expenses was more than $1.3 million—the fourth year that has had a net income of a million dollars.

Just a year into my tenure, my staff was able to cut $500,000 in expenses and decrease auditing fees. We also launched a payroll service, which made billing more seamless, while providing funds to our members in a more timely fashion.

In 2015, we saw visa opinion letters grow to an all-time high of $1.6 million, and new use payments continue to increase. For instance, the SAG-AFTRA Fund is expected to grow to $1 million in 2016 alone. The IT department has revamped the computer systems to meet the growing demand of membership and program development. It’s facilitated more efficiency in membership management and greatly enhanced our online presence. I am happy to say we have been able to upgrade, sustain, and exceed the goals and expectations we set out to achieve.

The International Musician (IM) has been a special project for me. I take pride in working on this award-winning journal, which has been the “face of the AFM” for almost 120 years. As I have traveled around the country as the magazine’s publisher I get feedback from member readers on what the publication means to them.

It is a vital resource for the union’s working musicians, representing a diverse and eclectic membership. From AFM profiles and industry news to labor rights campaigns, collective bargaining updates, and legislative news, each month members can look forward to a magazine that engages and informs. In line with an all-important goal, the magazine was recast to illustrate the AFM’s growth and far-reaching influence. Each year we have consistently won awards and recognition from the International Labor Communications Association (ILCA).

A New Look, a New Read

To create a more competitive image in the music magazine market, we gave the journal a fresh format in 2005. A glossy cover was added to IM that almost immediately increased visibility. The layout was redesigned for ease of use and readability. In addition, new sections added ballast, making IM a more effective tool for recruitment. The “Working Musician” section provides marketing, business, financial information, and highlights membership benefits. Our “Upbeat” profiles showcase the careers of a variety of AFM members, covering a range of music: jazz and blues, classical, country, funk, rock, fusion, mariachi, and Canadian baroque, to name a few. And for all music junkies, the “Cool Tools” new product announcements section was an instant success.

The revamped IM has resulted in an increase, in particular, in subscriptions by libraries and music schools. Through marketing initiatives and creative advertising we have made inroads into hitherto unexplored venues. In 2016, member appeal continues to expand, especially through the redesigned and enhanced website,

I can honestly say this position has given me more satisfaction than I ever imagined anything could, besides making music. To the membership and especially my staff, thank you. You have my utmost respect and gratitude.

International Musician Print Edition Is Valued

International Musician Print Edition Is Valued

One of the first things I did in 2005, as the incoming AFM Secretary-Treasurer was to take inventory of the responsibilities of the position. I did this, of course, by reading the AFM Bylaws. The Secretary-Treasurer is also the publisher of the International Musician (IM). The IM is the official means of communication between the Federation and its members. All official business is put forth in this publication.

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