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


Home » Officer Columns » The Positive Power of Music is Real

The Positive Power of Music is Real

  -  International Vice President and President of Local 257 (Nashville, TN)

The year 2020 has been one we will never forget. A seemingly non-stop wave of unexpected events has challenged us in ways we could never have imagined not long ago. The global pandemic has turned almost everything upside down, and musicians are among those who have been hit the hardest. We can’t predict what the future holds, but we owe it to each other, and the world, to do all we can to think and act in harmony rather than succumb to the rhetoric and division that so easily divides us. The coming months will be critical to our mission of fair representation of musicians.

Live music has always been an immediate and immersive musical experience, both for performers and audiences alike, but the new safety logistics are very problematic. Here in Nashville, the billion-dollar tourist industry that fueled our city’s growth over the past decade has ground to a halt. The Nashville Symphony has been furloughed for more than a year, and we are trying to negotiate a way forward for these multiple Grammy Award-winning musicians. The live venue re-opening process has been problematic so far, and has had several setbacks, much of it due to irresponsible behavior by club owners and/or customers who appear to have no conscience or awareness of the consequences of their behavior.

When the pandemic hit in March, just a week after a major tornado wreaked havoc on a wide area of Middle Tennessee, we closed our office to the public, and have been working behind closed doors ever since. Despite these setbacks, we didn’t sit around and wait. Instead, we took on a number of new roles. After our governor publicly stated he was “not sure” that Tennessee would agree to comply with the federal unemployment guidelines for freelance workers and independent contractors, we immediately launched a massive social media and email campaign to convince him to do the right thing. The next day, he announced that Tennessee would, in fact, agree to follow the guidelines.

Next, we began helping musicians navigate the Tennessee Unemployment Insurance system, which had never allowed for independent contractors or freelancers. The system crashed several times as the state tried to update it, and thousands of musicians were left in the lurch, with little or no feedback on their application status. We used our Tennessee State Legislature contacts to get many members help with unemployment issues from their state representatives. Together with other labor unions, we submitted a long list of questions and problems to the Tennessee Department of Labor, and finally got them to address most of them in a Zoom session. We posted these answers and other information about unemployment and financial assistance on our website, with a link to our 501(c)3 charitable fund, originally the Nashville Musicians Association Flood Relief Fund. We created this fund after the Nashville flood in 2010, and raised and distributed more than $130,000 to musicians. We have renamed and re-purposed the 501(c)(3) as the NMA Crisis Assistance Fund, and started fundraising efforts. All funds donated will be distributed equitably among those who apply, including AFM members and non-members, which allows all donations to be tax-deductible.

Thankfully, technology has allowed recording to continue in various ways. We developed and distributed safety guidelines for Nashville studios and smaller venues, and contributed to the AFM’s version as well. The vast majority of Nashville studios and musicians are taking the necessary steps to ensure safety for all concerned. The need for musicians to be able to work in home recording studios has never been more important to our ability to make a living. In the midst of all this other activity, after nearly a decade of trying to get Nashville’s Metro Council to pass legislation to allow musicians to legally work in their homes with collaborators onsite, we finally succeeded, much to the relief of thousands of home studio owners in Nashville. To top it off, we revamped the AFM Single Song Overdub Scale, adding a video component. It can be used by independent artists and musicians all over the US and Canada. There is a new instructional video for this scale on

No one knows what the future holds, but the positive power of music is real. And now, when so many seek to divide us, we need it more than ever. Musicians must think outside the box and find creative solutions to the new challenges that face us. Music can change the world once again, but only when we work together in harmony and solidarity for the greater good of everyone.

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