Tag Archives: jay blumenthal

Update on Coronavirus Response, Reports, Conferences, the 2019 Audit

Without question, the COVID-19 crisis has created the most serious challenge to AFM members in our 124-year history. Essentially, live music has temporarily ceased due to social distancing and shelter-in-place rules. As a union, we have been working tirelessly to help mitigate the myriad of challenges we face today. We have had success in Washington, DC making sure our advocacy for musicians produces real results. The coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency provisions expand unemployment insurance to include “gig workers” and freelance musicians in addition to W-2 and 1099 employment. There are supplemental payouts up to $600 in addition to the state benefit. Also, there is extended benefit coverage up to an additional 13 weeks and a waiver of the one-week waiting period before collecting your benefit.

As you know by now, all AFM offices are temporarily closed due to governmental directives and our desire to protect the health and safety of AFM members and staff. Most AFM staffers are working remotely and are able to respond to questions by email. An email address list of AFM staff can be found by way of a link on the AFM.org website homepage.

Annual Report

The AFM 2019 Annual Report will soon be available on the AFM.org website for review and download. I will have an email blast sent to members as soon as it is ready to view. After it is posted, go to the Document Library/Financial Documents and Annual Report folder and look for the 2019 Annual Report. In the past, the AFM annual report has been printed, however, the delegates to the 2019 AFM Convention voted to print the annual report only in convention years. This represents a savings of the cost for printing, shipping, and mailing in two of the three years between conventions.

The 2019 Annual Report includes the international president, vice president from Canada, and secretary-treasurer’s officer reports, as well as reports from several AFM staff members. It also contains the recently audited 2019 financial statements and the International Executive Board 2019 meeting minutes. If you have any questions, please feel free to give me a call.

AFM Conference CHANGES!

As of this writing, there have been some changes to the AFM regional conference schedule. The Eastern Conference has been rescheduled to take place April 17 through 18, 2021 in King of Prussia, PA. The Locals’ Conferences Council/Player Conferences Council (LCC/PCC) meeting has been rescheduled to take place October 17 through 18, 2020 in Las Vegas, NV (Westgate Hotel). The Canadian Conference has been postponed, with new dates to be announced. Future date changes will be posted on
AFM.org. Click on the Document Library tab and then the Conferences folder.

AFM Bylaws books and List of Locals booklets

The AFM bylaws books and List of Locals booklets were mailed to all local affiliates. The French language AFM bylaws were mailed to the appropriate Canadian locals. If your local has not received your copies, please let us know by emailing a message to the AFM Secretary-Treasurer’s Office.

LM Reports

For those locals that have a calendar fiscal year (January 1 through December 31), your LM report should have been uploaded to the Department of Labor site. The deadline was 90 days from the close of your fiscal year (This year March 30 was the due date—2020 being a leap year). Your latest local constitution and bylaws should have been uploaded as well.

AFM Audit

The annual AFM audit is well underway. While it appears we will have a surplus for 2019, there are many unknowns for 2020. The coronavirus (COVID-19) governmental directives are having a severe economic impact on musicians, locals, and the Federation. In anticipation of the economic fallout, we are monitoring our affected revenue streams and doing our best to manage expenses. We will remain vigilant during these challenging times.

We wish continued good health for all AFM members. Be smart—stay safe, wash hands frequently, practice social distancing, and use good sense if you must leave your home.

emergency relief legislation

We are Working to Pass Emergency Relief Legislation for Creative Professionals

We have been working closely with the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees Arts, Entertainment and Media Industry unions to advocate for musicians and other creative professionals urging Congress to pass emergency relief legislation. Please see the March 20 press release below:

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AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund

The following AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund article appeared in the November issue of Music Connection magazine as a “Close Up” column by Jonathan Widran. After reading the article, I thought it would be informative for AFM members to read and better understand what the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund does. I want to thank Music Connection magazine for their permission to reprint this article.

The Purpose of The Fund: The AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund is a non-profit organization that collects and distributes royalties for non-featured artists (background singers and session musicians) for their performances on songs played on satellite radio, webcasting, non-interactive streaming services, and other digital formats. The Fund was established with the passage of two important copyright laws. The Digital Performance Royalty Act of 1995 grants owners of copyrights in sound recordings an exclusive right “to perform the copyrighted work by means of digital audio transmission.” The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a 1998 United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Now with the passage of the Music Modernization Act, pre-1972 songs will be included, which means many more artists are now receiving royalties for their musical performances.

The Breakdown: Distributing royalties on thousands of titles a year, the Fund, having grown significantly since distributing $13 million in 2014, distributed more than $60 million in royalties in 2019—and over $300 million to date. For every dollar Sound Exchange receives from performances, they pay 50 cents to the rights holders, 45 cents to featured artists, and the remaining 5 cents to the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund to split between background singers and musicians. While the Fund does its best to contact every person entitled to these royalties, Colin Gilbert, associate director, PROF/Participant Services, urges background musicians and singers to sign onto the website and see if their names are on a list of unclaimed royalties. Artists can look up a song by artist or song title. They can also contact the Participant Services Department if they feel that they have not been credited on a song they have performed on. There are three types of distributions: Sound Recording (non-featured session musicians and background vocalists), Audiovisual (musicians and vocalists on motion picture and TV programs exhibited in specific foreign markets) and Symphonic (featured symphony, opera, and ballet musicians).

A Quote from Colin Gilbert: “There are many misconceptions about who we are and what we do. First off, despite our name, we pay all non­featured performers, both union and non-union. The burden of research falls entirely on our Fund for each title, so we are reliant on clear meta­data, including liner notes, contracts, and other documentation, so it’s very important for the performer to make sure that if they performed on the recording, they are listed on the credits. Although our primary mission is paying non-featured performers, many high-profile artists are considered non-featured when they perform background work on other artist’s tracks, so they get paid as well. We give out some large checks, but often it’s the folks who get the $50 and $100 checks that are impacted the most by what we do. Older and retired musicians and singers who dedicated their life to their craft but don’t have a 401k or retirement fund are especially grateful for what we do. For people like that, a $1,000 check can be life-changing.”

Visit www.afmsagaftrafund.org for more information.


AFM Budgeting Process Begins for 2020

As 2019 draws to a close, the International Executive Board (IEB) will soon be holding its December meeting. As in the past, we use the current year’s financial numbers to date (actuals) to estimate the budget for the upcoming year (2020). We go through the budget lines to determine what we anticipate will be monies coming in (income) and monies going out (expenses). Budgeting is not an exact science, but rather a best guess estimate based on past actuals and the expectations for the upcoming year. Income is never guaranteed, and unforeseen expenses often arise affecting the way the financial numbers turn out at year’s end.

The AFM budget process begins with a preliminary budget meeting that includes BDO Director Bob Hamilton, BDO Audit Manager and CPA Jessie Mabutas, AFM President Ray Hair, AFM Comptroller Michelle Ledgister, and myself. Once we all concur on the preliminary budget, the budget is brought to the AFM Finance Committee (currently Alan Willaert, John Acosta, Dave Pomeroy, and Ed Malaga) for review, discussion, and adjustment if necessary. The final step in the budgeting process is a day at the IEB meeting reserved for discussion, answering questions, and a vote on the final budget by the full IEB. The AFM bylaw Article 3, Sec. 9(u) states in part, “the projected operational expenses shall not exceed the projected annual income for that year.” Therefore, this bylaw requires that we have a balanced budget.

Our main budgeting objective is to create a healthy financial position for the upcoming year so that AFM programs and initiatives can be implemented or continued that improve the lives of AFM members.

2019 AFM Convention Official Proceedings

The 2019 AFM Convention Official Proceedings is now available on the AFM website in the Document Library – AFM International Conventions folder. Hard copies of the booklet were recently mailed to each 2019 AFM Convention Delegate.

AFM Bylaws (revised 9-15-19)

The AFM bylaws (rev 9-15-19) in English are currently available online at AFM.org. Log in with your AFM ID and password. Go to the Document Library and open the Bylaws folder. Click on AFM Bylaws (rev 9-15-19).

The printed bylaws booklet (English version) will be mailed to locals shortly. We are in the process of translating and printing the bylaws (French version). We will post the bylaws (French version) as soon as we receive the translated file. The bylaw booklets in French will be mailed to the appropriate Canadian locals as soon as we receive them.

2020 US Federal Election

Recently, we entered the US federal election campaign cycle. Regardless of any party affiliation you may or may not have, it is critical that you vote in the general election next November. If you think your vote will not make a difference or feel going to vote is a waste of time, I urge you in the strongest terms to reconsider. Democracy depends on everyone’s participation. Please take the time to educate yourself on the issues and exercise your right to vote.

We are less than a year away, so the election will soon be upon us. Make your voice heard.

emergency relief fund

Hurricane Season Is Upon Us

Now that we are well into hurricane season, I wanted to inform the membership about AFM Recommendation No. 2 that was adopted at the recent AFM Convention. I bring your attention to the italicized portion below, which is the new language that amends Article 5, Section 47(a) of the AFM bylaws:

“SECTION 47(a). Each Local shall pay to the AFM Per Capita Dues at the rate of $66 per annum for each Regular, Student and Youth member and $50 per annum for each Life member in good standing with the Local. Federation Per Capita Dues shall include the subscription fee of $2 for the Official Journal, a contribution of 10 cents to the Lester Petrillo Memorial Fund as required to maintain the Fund at a balance of no less than $500,000, and a contribution of 10 cents to the AFM Emergency Relief Fund as required to maintain the Fund at a balance of $100,000.”

This additional language will help fund the AFM Emergency Relief Fund, allowing the AFM to provide assistance not only for hurricanes, but for earthquakes, tornadoes, and wildfires as well. There are criteria that must be met in order to be considered for financial assistance:

  • You must currently be a member in good standing of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada as well as a member in good standing at the time of the loss;
  • You must have resided in, or been employed as a professional musician in, a county affected by an emergency or major disaster proclamation (examples: wildfire, tornado), by a governor or the president (in the case of Canada, a provincial state of emergency declaration) prior to and during the occurrence of the circumstances giving rise to such proclamation;
  • You must have suffered one of the hardships (described in the application) as a result of the disaster that is not reimbursable by insurance.

As we begin to experience the very real effects of climate change, we are seeing very large and severe storms on a regular basis that were once referred to as “once in a lifetime” or “storm of the century” events. The recent Category 5 hurricane Dorian tore its way through the Bahamas leaving a devastating path of destruction and then made its way up the eastern seaboard. The destruction was sobering to say the least. I urge our members to heed the warnings to evacuate if you ever find yourself in the path of one of these monsters. Nothing is worth saving more than your life and the lives of your loved ones, so please stay out of harm’s way.

If you experience an uninsured catastrophic loss due to one of these natural disasters and meet the criteria on the application to be considered for AFM assistance, please visit the homepage of the AFM website and scroll down to Emergency Assistance.

afm headquarters

Take a Look at Our New AFM Headquarters

This issue of International Musician features some photos recently taken at the AFM office in New York which moved into new office space on the ninth floor at 1501 Broadway on April 1, 2019. The office consists of 18,332 rentable square feet (RSF). RSF is a term of art in that it includes square footage that cannot actually be utilized, such as a percentage of the common areas of the building (e.g. hallways, lobbies, and common restrooms). The ninth floor at 1501 had to be completely remodeled and the architectural firm of Loffredo Brooks was engaged to design our new space.

The old lease for the sixth-floor office expired requiring a move-out date no later than March 31, 2019. Any holdover meant we would incur a financial penalty. Even though the new space was not completely finished, we moved in during the last weekend in March. Our new lease is for 15 years and 10 months. We pay half rent for the first 10 months as part of the deal. After 10 years, the AFM has the option to leave if the real estate market presents a great purchase opportunity. While we would incur some costs if we leave at the 10-year mark (for the unamortized cost of construction that was paid by the landlord), we wanted to preserve the possibility.

The move went smoothly but we did experience one major hiccup. The telephone line from the basement of the building to the ninth floor had mysteriously been cut which resulted in a nearly two week delay before we had full telephone service. With this one exception, the move went well.

afm headquarters
Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal in his new office.

The new glass entry doors proudly display the AFM seal and lead to the reception desk and a waiting area. The office is bright and cheery with windows along the perimeter (Broadway, West 43rd St. and West 44th St.) overlooking Times Square—the crossroads of the world. The new office features a slightly larger boardroom to hold collective bargaining negotiations. It has banquette seating along one of the walls which can now accommodate attendance by musician negotiating committees. We also have two conference rooms; one conference room can accommodate six people and the other eight people. These rooms will be used for caucuses during negotiations and meetings at other times. The boardroom and both conference rooms are equipped with the latest technology to support video conferencing. Virtual meetings, when appropriate, help the AFM save on traveling expenses.

For years, our dedicated staff endured a very cramped kitchen/lunchroom area. The new kitchen/lunchroom has five tables with chairs. Two small alcoves contain banquette seating with tables for more private conversations. The one microwave oven which overheated regularly in the old space has been replaced with two new higher-powered microwaves. A new refrigerator, dishwasher, small ice maker, and water cooler complete the space.

A small wellness room with a reclining chair is intended to provide a place for a short, private respite for someone who is not feeling well.

Our sole tenant, the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF), occupies their own space within our office. It contains three private offices and a common area with a work station.

So if you are in New York City, please stop by to see your new home. I think you will like what you see.

jay blumenthal

Division in a Union Is Like Kryptonite

It’s a challenge writing this month’s column since it is being written before the AFM Convention and published after the convention. Having attended many AFM conventions, I’ve learned that much can happen. There are often several unanticipated twists, turns, and unexpected issues that come before the delegates. This is all part of the democratic process. At times it can get quite messy, but ultimately it’s a very healthy process for our union.

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2019 AFM 101st Convention Coming Soon!

The 2019 AFM 101st Convention will be held at the Westgate Casino and Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. Registration will begin Sunday, June 16, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and continue on Monday, June 17, from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. preceding the opening of the convention. Once registered, AFM delegates will receive a convention bag with a printed copy of the 2018 AFM Annual Report (which includes the audited financials), the printed AFM 101st Convention Recommendations and Resolutions book, a printed AFM 101st Convention Book and a list of names and addresses of establishments in Las Vegas using live union music (provided by Local 369). In addition, the bag will include a thumb drive containing electronic copies of the 2018 Annual Report, 101st Convention Recommendations and Resolutions book, 2019 List of Locals, 2019 Local Officer Resource Guide, 2016 AFM Bylaws, and the previous Official Proceedings. The bag will also contain various convention souvenirs.

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jay blumenthal

We’re In!

The long-awaited move to our new office space happened April 1. The construction timeline to build out the new space was very tight, so things went right down to the wire, which created plenty of angst and nail biting. The AFM International Executive Board (IEB) meeting scheduled for April 2 was the first official meeting in the new space. While the vast majority of the construction work was completed, some work continued into the next month. The “punch list” (things needing further attention to make sure everything is working properly) will be addressed during April/May.

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jay blumenthal

New Directive from USCIS

The AFM (along with other unions) plays an important role in the nonimmigrant visa application process for foreign artists desiring to enter the US temporarily to perform and tour. Each application for an O or P visa must include a consultation letter generally provided by a labor union. There are times a union may find the applicant does not meet the criteria necessary to provide a favorable consultation letter. Cases of fraudulent use of these letters have occurred where the union’s letterhead is copied, dates are changed, and even signatures are forged to acquire the needed visas.

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