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


Vice President from Canada


Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

    Canadian Content Production Rules (CCPR) – Yesterday and Today

    Pour voir cet article en français, cliquez ici.

    will begin with the reason for this particular subject matter. On July 16th,
    negotiations with the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) came to an
    abrupt halt when I stood up and walked out of the room (while uttering
    expletives and colourful metaphors). Before I explain why, you must first
    indulge me in a journey through some Canadian AFM history.

    are two contracts which have for many years been the bible for movies and
    television drama: the Theatrical Motion Picture Agreement and the Television
    Film Agreement. Both are excellent, and have the additional advantage of
    channelling payments into the Film Musicians’ Secondary Market Fund (FMSMF). Through
    the years, in order to monetize changes in distribution, the primary session
    fee of both agreements has been deliberately set on the low side. However, as
    the product moved to supplemental markets (think in-flight movies, pay TV,
    videocassette/DVD rental and sales, free TV, and sales to other countries),
    this would generate mandatory payments into the Fund on behalf of the musicians
    who participated in the score. In the end, those residuals resulted in
    significantly higher payouts than what could be bargained for a session.

    while those agreements were used in Canada, the results were quite different.
    First of all, the US is the big dog when it comes to the production of
    audiovisual content. With our population being one-tenth of the US, Canada’s
    footprint is proportionately smaller—and narrower. While it’s not unusual to
    hear of a US film budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the vast
    majority of Canadian films are well below $5 million. Most are what used to be
    called “movie of the week.” There are also documentaries, some episodic
    television drama and features that are entirely “Canadian Content.” To assist
    Canadian producers in finding capital to produce at all, there are federal and
    provincial tax credits for qualifying content, along with the ability to
    partner with foreign entities and produce “treaty” films. Some of this funding
    comes by way of a certificate issued by the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification
    Office (CAVCO) and is acquired by scoring high enough on a point system to merit

    am oversimplifying for the sake of space, but another factor is the absence of
    “big” Hollywood studios. There are very few based in Canada, with some
    exceptions, meaning they don’t own/distribute the production once it has been
    completed, but rather produce on behalf of another entity—primarily a Canadian
    broadcaster. In order to keep everything straight (for the tax credits and
    other necessary financing), a separate numbered company is opened to produce
    each film, or season of episodic drama. Once production is completed, the
    company is terminated.

    vastly different system (and market) created some problems for AFM members
    working under the MP/TV Film agreements, one being that each individual
    numbered company would have to become signatory to the agreements. Since the
    doors would close at the end of production, there were not many takers. If they
    did sign, once production ended, there was no entity left to pay any residuals
    into the FMSMF. Further, because of the type of productions these were, it was
    unlikely that a Canadian product would go further than television, and
    therefore, little opportunity for supplemental market residuals. Canadian
    session players would be recording for the same session fees as their LA
    counterparts, but would see residuals of $10 as opposed to thousands, or
    nothing at all.

    To remedy the inequity and recognize the vast difference in production, around 1995, Canadian composers—now known as the Screen Composers Guild of Canada (SCGC)—consulted with former vice president from Canada Ray Petch, and shortly thereafter his successor, David Jandrisch, to find a remedy. Hence was born the Canadian Content Production Rules (CCPR). While I am unclear as to just how many folks were involved, I know that David Jandrisch and Local 149 (Toronto, ON) member/composer Glenn Morley played significant roles in the structure and language, as well as former Administrative Assistant Len Lytwyn. I’m sure Glenn or Dave will correct any inaccuracy.

    CCPR was/is a short
    document, and lives as an addendum to the MP/TV Film Agreements for the
    production of CAVCO-certified or Canadian content in Canada. The premise is
    simple: The mandatory payments into the FMSMF are waived in favour of a higher
    session fee. In reality, it’s a pre-payment to the musicians to replace the
    residual. Because of this, the production may be distributed worldwide, to all
    markets in perpetuity. While often mistakenly referred to as a “buy-out,” it’s
    really only a pre-payment on distribution. The fees do not include other uses
    of the music, or repurposing in any way. To be clear, CCPR is not to be used by
    US companies who are currently a signatory to the other agreements. There is an
    application that must be completed, and certain criteria must be met.

    many years, CCPR flourished and producers were happy to sign on. However, in
    the 24 years that have passed, the industry has transformed radically, and that
    includes productions in Canada. Filing of CCPR paperwork (and the accompanying
    B7 report forms) has declined significantly in recent years, and there is more
    than one reason. With the surge of different broadcast models (i.e. streaming
    services), production budgets have dropped, which includes post-production (and
    scoring) budgets. The producers are offering less money to composers to deliver
    a completed product. Sometimes, the composers choose to use musicians in other
    countries (e.g. Prague, Bratislava) to keep costs down. Of course, none of that
    can be filed as AFM. And more often than not, the composer is compelled to hire
    no musicians at all and produce the music “in the box.”

    producers and distributors are still making profit as there is more content
    being produced than ever before, but it doesn’t seem to be available for music.
    So where is the money now? In a word—streaming.

    those of us in the Canadian Office, it became obvious that CCPR, in its present
    form, had outlived its usefulness. If producers were not offering a sufficient
    music budget, then musicians must be resourceful and find other means to
    maintain their scoring business. The agreement must be rewritten to allow for
    revenue to be extracted from what is now at least a $40 billion market
    worldwide—online streaming services. This is also the reason we entered into
    negotiations with the CMPA, to establish a new, forward-thinking agreement that
    recognized where the money is, and give musicians a fair share.

    In our first meeting
    with CMPA, we tabled a reworked version of the General Production Agreement, as
    used with broadcasters such as the CBC. After one pass back from them, it
    became clear that broadcasters and producers (when they are not the same
    entity), are different animals. The next four rounds of negotiations were
    extremely busy, as the AFM team worked toward a complete rewrite of an
    independent production agreement for use in Canada. In March of this year, we
    sent a complete pass to the CMPA, and while it no longer looked anything like
    our first proposals, the team was confident that we had constructed a fair and
    comprehensive agreement which both recognized the quirky differences of
    Canadian production and presented multiple alternatives for the fair
    compensation of AFM musicians.

    now come to July 16. CMPA had prepared a response to every article of our
    proposal. As they read through them, my heart fell. None of the major points
    were accepted; in fact, what they came back with was worse than the original

    the subject of streaming residuals—knowing most of their member producers would
    have difficulty in making payments once production was complete—we offered two
    alternatives. One was the standard percentage of distributor’s gross—the
    musicians make money if the producer makes money. The other was a term buy—a
    pre-payment for the number of years required, which could be made at any time.
    This would allow the producer to easily budget in advance, based on their
    licensing deal. CMPA deleted both proposals, unwilling to share any of the
    streaming revenues, despite the fact that other unions already have it.

    there were many additional aspects which clearly demonstrated that CMPA had no
    respect for musicians, they also eliminated composers from the agreement.
    Notwithstanding that we had presented a letter from the SCGC requesting their
    inclusion, CMPA took the position they didn’t belong in an agreement specific
    to scoring music (yes, you read that correctly). Further, they insisted upon
    eliminating provisions for musicians who are captured on camera (“sidelining”).
    All of these existed in the CCPR language. At that moment on July 16, the
    overwhelming feeling was that we were facing a team of greedy, anti-musician
    union-busters, giving rise to my angry reaction to walk away.

    Will we
    get back to the bargaining table? While I hope so, as it would be in the best
    interests of all concerned, there will have to be a different attitude
    emanating from the CMPA side of the table. What about CCPR? We have given
    notice to CMPA that CCPR terminates on December 31. It will be replaced by a
    document which recognizes the current realities in television and film production;
    a document which provides musicians with pension contributions, fair wages, and
    a doorway into the billions being made from streaming that is currently being
    horded by the large corporations and digital companies. Producers wishing to
    utilize AFM musicians may do so by utilizing this new agreement; or, they can
    use one of the other AFM agreements already negotiated and ratified—such the
    MP/TV Film, or the General Production Agreement (CBC). Whichever way it goes,
    we are further ahead than agreeing to the table scraps that were being offered
    by CMPA. Obviously, this story has more chapters to be written.

    Read More

    How Does a Union Successfully Engage with Freelancers?


    First of all, I am pleased to report that the renewal agreement negotiated by the Canadian Office of the American Federation of Musicians (CFM) with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has been ratified by the members who worked under the previous agreement over the last three years. This General Production Agreement represents a new benchmark in broadcast contracts for Canada and will be in place for the next four years. The language contains a clause requiring regular “joint committee” meetings between the CFM and CBC, which represents an opportunity to address issues not contemplated during negotiations, or aspects of the agreement which, for whatever reason, do not function as anticipated.


    Vice President Bruce Fife and I fulfilled the AFM obligation to attend the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) conference on freelance musicians. The event took place in Denmark, just prior to the AFM’s 101st Convention. We were participants on two of the eight panels, which were augmented by various supplementary presentations.

    The subject matter was extremely important—how does
    a union successfully engage that segment of musicians who do not work under
    collective agreements and are part of the so-called “gig economy”? It turns out
    that while there are many similarities experienced by FIM member unions around
    the world, there are some distinct—and disturbing—differences. Freelance, or
    gigging, musicians are rather unique as they historically do not engage their
    union but are prone to operate independently. In simpler terms, they do their
    own thing. Unfortunately for them, as well as for their union, this is most
    definitely not in their best interests.

    Freelancers have always represented a large part of
    our membership yet are the least likely to utilize any of the services and
    benefits available. Understandably, there are two consistent services that
    attract them: instrument and liability insurance, and immigration assistance.
    Inexplicably, they completely ignore the more than 40 other benefits. The most
    important are, of course, using contracts to cover their live engagements as
    well as taking advantage of agreements for their recordings. Both of these
    contain elements which musicians should consider indispensable in their
    careers: pension contributions and contract default assistance (claims).
    Further, AFM paper covering recordings results in proper scale wages, special
    payments, and New Use payments. Those important revenue streams can make a huge
    difference, especially in the quality of life after the music stops.

    How to reach out
    to those players and convince them to work more closely with their union is, of
    course, the conundrum, and the question which hung heavy over the FIM
    conference. The British Musicians’ Union (MU) has implemented one method. They
    have published a very polished members’ handbook that contains information
    about everything a musician is likely to encounter during their career. There
    are sections on agents, contracts, insurance, sync rights, placement of music
    in audiovisual mediums, recording, and travelling to other countries, to only
    scratch the surface. No stone is left unturned in this tremendously helpful
    book. And yet—the MU officers were also present at the conference, looking for
    answers to better engage freelance musicians.

    So, what is it going to take for that segment of the
    membership to acknowledge and take advantage of what they are entitled to? One
    of the answers may be intensive internal organizing. That would entail the
    engagement and training of our members until they are aware of and conversant
    with those services and benefits which directly affect them.

    Another element of the conference was the tragedy of
    what it means to be a craft unionist on other continents. For instance, the
    delegates from certain African countries are often absent from FIM events, as
    they are repeatedly arrested and jailed for their organizing efforts. Despite
    this abhorrent treatment, they remain undaunted. In addition, the delegate from
    Argentina delivered a heartbreaking report of a band who were unfortunate
    enough to be on stage when a fire broke out in the club (no, they didn’t have
    pyrotechnics). There were many injuries and deaths because of the panic and
    confusion. The band members were arrested and charged, apparently because they
    were considered “management.” Since they had access to microphones, the courts
    ruled they should have been directing traffic and issuing evacuation
    instructions, despite also being in peril. Failure to do so resulted in
    six-year prison terms, and the union in that country was powerless to mitigate
    the outcome. Suffice to say, these international events certainly impart a
    different perspective of how good/bad life is in Canada.

    Now, what can you do, as a member, to assist with the
    engagement of freelance musicians? First of all, talk to your local. Find out
    from them what is available and how to access. Make yourself knowledgeable and
    conversant with all things the union does. Second, talk about it with your
    fellow musicians. Make sure they are aware, and together make plans to take
    advantage of those services. And third, speak to musicians who are not yet
    members. The more musicians that join the AFM, the easier and more
    cost-effective it becomes to deliver the services. Moreover, the strength and
    effectiveness of the AFM increase exponentially, which in turn benefits you.
    After all, YOU ARE THE AFM.

    Read More

    Labour Gears Up for War

    Pour voir cet article en français, cliquez ici.

    When the gavel
    dropped to open the May 14 meeting of the Canada Council of the Canadian Labour
    Congress (CLC), the tone was a mix of elation and trepidation. On the one hand,
    celebration had begun for the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike,
    an event in history which forever changed the landscape for labour laws across
    the country. But the elation soon diminished, as provincial reports of
    Conservative electoral victories—and the bellwether that lies therein—sets the
    stage for what may become the greatest struggle the labour movement has yet
    seen in this country.

    Read More

    The EU Directive on Copyright

    Pour voir cet article en français, cliquez ici.

    I recently attended a briefing sponsored by the
    Canadian Music Publishers Association at the law offices of Cassels Brock. The
    keynote speakers were Erich Carey, vice president and senior counsel at the
    National Music Publishers Association, and John Phelan, director general of the
    International Confederation of Music Publishers.

    Read More

    Canadian Office Prepares for Busy Season

    Pour voir cet article en français, cliquez ici.

    we enter the spring and summer seasons, the Canadian Office will be embroiled
    in a plethora of negotiations, both for successor and new agreements. Added to
    that is a very busy conference and convention schedule, beginning with the
    Canadian Labour Conference’s celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the
    Winnipeg General Strike in mid-May. A significant event in Canadian history,
    the six-week action resulted in many labour reforms followed by a golden age of
    prosperity for the labour movement.

    Read More