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.
September 10, 2018Alan Willaert - AFM Vice President from Canada
A recent online Rolling Stone article (“Musicians Get Only 12% of the Money the Music Industry Makes,” by Amy X. Wang) suggests that total music spending in the US is at an all-time high, an estimated $43 billion annually. Of that, Wang claims, musicians receive approximately 12%—which is apparently up from 7% in 2000. This huge disparity is blamed on “value leakage,” or more specifically, money siphoned off by various entities who are involved between the recording process and the delivery of content to listeners.
Further interpretation offered by Citigroup analyst Jason Bazinet, suggests that Wall Street is eyeing the music industry carefully, given the recent initial public offerings by Spotify and smart speaker manufacturer Sonos. The interest lies in the speculation that revenue will potentially skyrocket, as the delivery process is streamlined by merging record labels, streaming services, satellite radio, and others. It’s inevitable, of course, that big business follows the money. This is why digital giants such as Amazon, Google, and Apple have geared up to produce their own content as home audiences continue to “cut the cord” and flock toward online viewing.
While not stating so specifically, Wang suggests that all this vertical integration will be a positive thing. Perhaps for Wall Street, but I personally don’t see these huge companies suddenly developing a conscience about the welfare of musicians. If history has taught us anything, it is that we will have to continue to fight for every dollar as insatiable corporate greed accelerates and multiplies.
As these multinationals become all things to all people (controlling composition, recording, synchronization, distribution, and licensing), musicians are in danger of becoming an ever smaller cog in the machinery. Judging from the complete irreverence shown to musicians by network television and movie producers, things can only get more difficult in terms of negotiating fair compensation for the initial recording, reuse, and extensive licensing of musical content.
While there is little that individuals can do to control this global reincarnation of the industry, it becomes more important than ever to muster whatever strength we can through numbers. Working off-contract creates the kind of divisiveness employers look for to unravel union strength. Only by insisting that everything you do is on an AFM contract, can we hope to prevent further erosion.
Equally important is what happens after the work is rendered. As the Googles of the world plot to own and control all content, new use provisions in AFM media contracts can help musicians maintain a revenue stream long after the music stops.
Only a few years ago, the big computer companies with fledgling streaming services like YouTube, were looking for copyright protection from Warner, Sony, and Universal. Now those same labels are in danger of merger or acquisition by the now enormous digital monsters that needed shielding.
In a perfect world, musicians could create their music and deliver it directly to their fan base, thereby bypassing the middlemen and reaping most, if not all, the profit. That scenario is not in the cards, as we try to anticipate who is left to ultimately control streaming and other yet unknown forms of distribution.
While we wait and see how all this eventually settles, there is one constant precaution to take. Make sure everything you record is on AFM paper, so that we may keep our union strong enough to face the digital giants of the future.