A while back I had an opportunity to speak to students at the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam, about the business of music. It was an interesting experience. The questions were fast and furious. The energy and enthusiasm were contagious. Many of the students weren’t aware of the American Federation of Musicians and the benefits of being a member of the AFM going forward into a career in music.
The Crane Library not only features issues of the International Musician, but has many books about the AFM as well, and extensive reading material on careers in music. However, a lot of today’s college students don’t know the AFM exists. Being a member is an opportunity to be a part of something big. It’s an opportunity for networking, career advancement, pension, and a decent wage. College students who are going out into the world of music want to make a good living. They need guidance and support. Many aren’t aware of the benefits of a union contract. It can mean getting paid and paid fairly. It means not playing for free, for low pay, or for anything but a fair wage. For professional musicians, playing music is a living, not a hobby.
In AFM Organizing & Education Division Director Michael Manley’s IM article last month, he said “no one is impressed by underpaid work.” No one is impressed when you work for substandard wages, and working for “pay to play” or “exposure” does not lead to working with the influential first-call musicians, agents, promoters, and people with whom you hope to share the stage as your career develops.
You must know your worth, whether it is Broadway, symphonic, freelancing, recording, clubs, or onstage. Sometimes musicians need to know when to say “no.” AFM members are professionals. Playing music is how they make their living. Getting a living wage is paramount when you are a member of the AFM.
The International Musician will be at this year’s NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. Music retailers, manufacturers, industry veterans, and music legends will be there, as well as some AFM officers. Music colleges from all over the country will be sending some of their students. Many of the educational sessions will talk about the benefits of the AFM. There is a wide range of opportunities in today’s music industry for music school graduates. The future of the AFM is with the young musicians of today. We have to look ahead.
If you’re a college student picking up this publication in your college library, it might be time to look into joining the AFM (if you’re not already a member.) Many of the locals offer a student membership. This is a great time to be a member!