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 » Executive Board Members » This Spring, Focus on Improving Work for Musicians

This Spring, Focus on Improving Work for Musicians


by Tina Morrison, AFM International Executive Board Member and Local 105 (Spokane, WA) Executive Board

Spring is here and for many it feels like a time of renewal. Those of us who live in the northern regions venture cautiously outside, looking for signs of budding leaves, listening to birds’ spring songs, and noticing how the sun feels on our faces. The magic of spring demonstrates itself as landscapes are transformed by fresh greenery after months of winter gray.

In the spirit of spring, let’s do an exercise in magical thinking. Let everything we’ve been told about the music business drain away. Replace it with ideas of how you think it should be. Separate what we’ve been told from what we inherently know: music is necessary and has value. When music is made well it is transformative, magical.

Music cannot be separated from those who make it. The product is crafted, manufactured by workers. And what have we been hearing so much over these past couple of years? All work has value. Why have we been hearing these types of messages? Because working people have figured out the reason they haven’t been valued properly is because of made up messaging: work described as “stepping stones,” “unskilled,” or “meant as a first job to learn soft skills before moving on to a real job.”

Think about the reality of time and training it takes to learn the craft, and then having work hours that generally don’t fit with other types of jobs, which makes issues like child care and public transportation more challenging. I keep thinking about the struggles we had getting unemployment for musicians during the pandemic. Separate that from how often musicians are told we are lucky to be compensated at all considering many musicians are willing to perform just for the joy of it.

Is it fun? Sometimes. Do we love our work? Most of the time. But the same could be said for many other types of work that are well paid. Musicians shouldn’t be penalized for loving what we do. We need to recognize there are words and phrases generated primarily to undermine our value and leave us open to exploitation.

We can change the narrative and improve the lives of musicians. The highest hurdle is carving out time. As musicians, we should be coming together at local union meetings and talking about our realities. Start with what can be managed internally: Are local scales appropriate for the types of work available in your area? Do you know which contracts are available for different types of work?

Next come the discussions about what else is needed to improve our lives. What issues can be identified that would improve the collective wellbeing of musicians in your area? Who is willing to chair a committee to work on child care issues or a committee to examine venues? Who can be a bridge to the rest of the labor community to raise awareness of musician issues and find assistance in the search for solutions? We are not alone. People outside of the music community are willing to help us, we just have to clearly communicate what we need.

All around us workers are organizing—banding together to make meaningful changes to improve their lives. We’re in a time of transformation and renewal for workers. We can take control of the narrative around music making. It starts with a question: What do we want to do together?

Thank you for your work!