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Home » Officer Columns » The Value of AFM Membership Is Realized Through Proper Contracts

The Value of AFM Membership Is Realized Through Proper Contracts

  -  AFM Vice President from Canada

Pour la version française cliquez ici.

Meeting with members is always an interesting exercise, and a way to keep in touch with the realities of the music scene, which can be both good and, well, not so much.

One of the most disappointing aspects is conversations with prominent musicians who have been members for a significant number of years, yet are in a personal quandary about whether to continue membership because they haven’t “seen any value.”

To some extent, this is understandable. Busy players have little time to consider the big picture, as they are more concerned about running what is essentially a small business, with all that entails in this ever-evolving industry. There are tunes to write, recordings to make, gigs to book, a website to maintain, social media to keep on top of, and touring details to finalize. And almost all of it is in the hands of the artist in a world where being “independent” is perceived as a badge of honour. Aside from this, there is usually a family to maintain.

Understandably, there is little awareness of the major campaigns the AFM has been involved with in order to better the lives of musicians. When there are victories with copyright reform and status legislation and new agreements negotiated, we are not headline news. Staff and officers go about their work quietly, with little reward or recognition. So it comes as no surprise that, when these topics are referenced, they are received with a blank stare.

The shocking thing for me is discovering that these members are unaware of benefits they should have been receiving for years, such as payments for new use of their recordings, special payments, and pension statements laden with employer contributions. After a considerable number of recordings and a substantial amount of national success, how can this be? In a word: contracts.

It would appear that ensuring that contracts are filed has become a thing of the past and anything but a priority for today’s artists. Granted, there are revenue streams emanating through the Copyright Act for both songwriters and musicians, and perhaps that has been their focus.

The fact remains that artists lose thousands upon thousands of dollars by not looking after this one aspect of business. I have lamented about this before, and once again, I will say that membership in the AFM is the ultimate axiom: for every service or benefit there is a corresponding duty or obligation. Paying dues is not where your job ends. The AFM can’t help or direct payments to you, when there is no record of your activities.

Always check your pension statement. Make sure there are no contributions missing for the recordings you took part in, and look for every date on that last tour. When booking through agents, make sure they are using AFM contracts for your gigs (not a generic report), and properly filing it with the local where the gig is and also with the pension fund, when pension has been negotiated. Be as proactive about contracts as you are about your other extremely important responsibilities.

Don’t be one of those artists who questions the value of the AFM because, after years of both hard work and success, they have nothing to show. Execute and file contracts and report forms, and there will be something to show!

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