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 www.afm.org/join.
December 1, 2023Ken Shirk - AFM International Secretary-Treasurer
The Mayan calendar was said to “end” on December 21, 2012, and with it would come the end of the world. Or so said the Western societal New Age Q-Anon-ish popular belief.
As that supposed doomsday drew nearer, I happened to be keeping company from time to time with a First Nations elder in Southern California. He possessed some spiritual knowledge of the universe and shared with me his understanding of that approaching event: The Mayan calendar (actually, three intersecting calendars) is circular in concept, because the Mayans viewed time as circular, not linear. Therefore, life on Earth unfolded and progressed in cycles. December 21, 2012, was the end of one such cycle (it was a very, very long cycle), and with it there would be a transformation (as he put it) from the era of “No Time” to the era of “Time.” Far from being the end of the world, it was to be a good thing.
As he explained it, the soon-to-end era of No Time—which began more than 3,000 years before the common era (BCE), and ending in 2012 (that’s 5,000 years)—was an era understood to be driven by a dark energy and marked by violence, greed, corruption, extraction, warring, and selfishness. The approaching new era of Time, on the other hand, would be influenced by a bright and light energy that would bring enlightenment and harmony to human existence. Indeed, indigenous traditional spiritual leaders around the world looked upon the approaching “end of the Mayan calendar” with positive anticipation.
But make no mistake, my friend cautioned, that dark energy of the ending era of No Time would not go away willingly. In fact, he predicted that life immediately following 2012 would become more difficult and more horrifying as that dark force struggled to maintain primacy in the face of its imminent demise.
Whether or not one accepts the validity of prophecies, it must be admitted that dark forces have been in full flower in recent history. War, societal strife, criminal amassing of capital, plundering other nations’ resources, pollution, subjugation, and dishonesty have all concentrated alarmingly in the past 75 years.
Dark energy is how nine legal scholars can conclude that a business entity is entitled to human rights, how right-to-lifers can embrace the death penalty, how billionaires can be seen as civilization’s salvation, how fundamental evangelists can see that dumpster fire of a 45th US president as the embodiment of Christian principles, how environmentalists can be prosecuted as terrorists, how sacred lands can be given over to exploitation and extraction, how skin color can be used to evaluate one’s worth, or how the complete annihilation of one society by another is seen as the only way to a rewarding life.
Viewing life through that kind of a lens can be discouraging. But we all have choices. Do we want to merely survive or build something much better? Do we want to merely sustain ourselves or create something brilliant? The forces that encircle our profession and therefore our lives are no match for our brains, hearts, and spirits if we choose to combine them all together to a good purpose.
Dark versus light. If you must take something from me to survive, or if I must prevent you from obtaining something so that I can survive, then the dark wins. But we already know how to chase away the dark because we work with light. We do it all the time with our music—through collaboration, through improvisation, through listening, both with our ears and our hearts.
Music is our collective life. Who’s to say we can’t make everyone’s life their collective music? Whether light or dark prevails is simply a matter of deciding which energy we feed.