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.
January 9, 2014Alan Willaert - AFM Vice President from Canada
As was discussed in a recent article by Liana White, the Canadian Government recently took a step forward, in my opinion, by transferring the Labour Market Opinion fees from the taxpayer to the user—meaning the club owner and/or promoter. While increasing the cost of hiring musicians from abroad, AFM members are exempt from this fee. This Cultural Exchange of musicians coming from the US is handled through the Canadian Office. That gives us an opportunity to ensure that prevailing scales are honoured and that contracts/itineraries are properly filed.
But there are complications brewing, and it has to do with the content of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Signed in 1994 by President George Bush, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and President Carlos Salinas, NAFTA has generated economic growth and raised standards of living for the people of all three member countries. The agreement also contains specific language governing labour, designed to:
create an expanded and secure market for the goods and services produced in their territories;
enhance the competitiveness of their firms in global markets;
create new employment opportunities and improve working conditions and living standards in their respective territories; and
protect, enhance and enforce basic workersuo rights.
So what’s the concern? Recently our AFM Legislative-Political Director Alfonso Pollard, was contacted by the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. They are looking at an initiative to make it easier for cultural workers—i.e., artists and musicians—to cross the borders more freely and be exempt from the Labour Market Opinion. Pollard was kind enough to get in touch with our office, and we had a conference call with the representative at the embassy. I attempted to make it as clear as possible that such a move would all but destroy the music industry in Canada. An influx of nonmember musicians, unregulated and not bound by prevailing local tariffs, would result in a further race to the bottom in terms of fees. In addition, the displacement of Canadian musicians from live and recording engagements would have lasting negative effects. It would be the same in the US.
My position was that we already have a system in place, whereby Canadian and US AFM members can accept work across the border. I was emphatic that the system works, and any initiative under NAFTA to increase the number of artists/musicians crossing, should and must be processed through the AFM New York and Toronto offices. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this in the near future.
On other news, we recently had a meeting with Hub International, the broker who administers instrument and liability insurance for Canadian members. A competitor had been advertising significantly lower premiums, and we felt we should compare the policies to ensure that our members were still getting the best possible coverage at a sustainable price. While we are still tweaking the details, the cost per hundred for instrument insurance will drop from $2.75 to $2.00, with an increase in the deductible from $50 to $100. There is also limited coverage on merchandise (CDs, T-shirts, etc.) at no cost. One year of liability insurance will now cost $50 for $1 million, and $100 for $2 million; however, the coverage has increased to cover many other types of loss. It should be noted that in terms of an insurance product, the CFM plan through Hub has been by far the best plan available. Whenever our members have had a loss, their claim has been handled quickly and efficiently. More information will become available as we finalize the details.