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

    Coming Soon: A Blockchain Copyright System

    Three of the world’s most significant collection societies—ASCAP (US), SACEM (France), and PRS for Music (UK)—are working together on a project designed to improve the future of music copyright management. According to an article in Music Business Weekly, they have announced the building of a blockchain system, which could manage the links between music recordings International Standard Recording Codes
    (ISRCs) and music work International Standard Work Codes (ISWCs). Blockchain is a software platform, a protocol for managing digital assets. Their website is

    A recent ASCAP press release stated: “Establishing robust links between these two pieces of data (ISRCs and ISWCs), offers a practical solution with enormous potential for improving the processes of royalty matching, which will in turn speed up licensing, reduce errors, and reduce costs. The goal of the project is to prototype how the music industry could create and adopt a shared, decentralized database of musical work metadata with real-time update and tracking capabilities.”

    Working with IBM, the partnership plans to leverage the open source blockchain technology from the Linux Foundation, Hyperledger Fabric, to match, aggregate, and qualify existing links between ISRCs and ISWCs in order to confirm correct ownership information and conflicts. Blockchain is used in payments systems, noted for its ability to manage records without centralized governance. This valuable characteristic will be utilized to resolve issues between conflicting identifiers for the same work across multiple rights holders.

    Jean-Noël Tronc, SACEM’s chief executive officer, has a vision “to ensure a diverse and sustainable future for music, where creators are rewarded efficiently for their work.” He went on to say, “Through this partnership, we aim to develop new blockchain-based technologies that will tackle a long-standing issue with music industry metadata—a problem that has grown more acute as online music rights distribution has become increasingly decentralized with the rise in digital channels. By developing this blockchain technology in partnership with ASCAP and PRS for Music, we will unlock value to the benefit of music creators worldwide.”

    Elizabeth Matthews, ASCAP’s chief executive officer, noted that the music industry “has been calling for greater transparency and accuracy.” Blockchain has the ability to capture real-time data and transaction updates that can be shared with multiple parties. While the data improves, the costs of administration will diminish, leaving a greater percentage for distribution to the rights holders.

    Robert Ashcroft, PRS for Music’s chief executive, added: “Establishing authoritative copyright data has long been a goal of PRS for Music and is one of the biggest challenges the industry faces.” The digital market requires real-time reporting on behalf of multiple stakeholders across the world, if the goal is to increase accuracy of royalty payments and release value for rightsholders.

    If none of this makes sense to you, try to imagine the number of times a given song may be used somewhere in the world, and for the sake of argument, in a given year. A young person in Australia may synch the song to a homemade video, and post it; a music supervisor in California decides to use the song in a movie or it’s streamed a few million times by that many listeners. In each case, revenue should be generated for the rightsholders. In a paper world, it’s impossible.

    However, the technology exists to accurately monitor and track each use, using algorithms. And now—using blockchain protocols—this data could be centrally stored and linked, and a methodology derived to instantly identify and distribute revenue to the rights holders.

    We have long known that copyright was broken with the advent of the Internet. It appears that at long last, the system will be catching up to address proper monetization of what were before, illegal and unpaid uses. The sad part is, the technology has been there a while, but the will to utilize it was not. We have apparently turned that corner, for the benefit of musicians everywhere.

    Read More

    CFM Focuses on Festival/Award Show Negotiations

    Members were recently advised that the newly-negotiated agreement with the East Coast Music Association was overwhelmingly ratified. This was the first time in many years that the Canadian Office was directly involved with a primary labour dispute. While the necessity of such action is regrettable, status quo was not an option and neither was the absence of a workable agreement for musicians.

    At the last meeting of the Canadian Conference in June 2016, the delegates were presented with some agreement templates suitable for use with festivals and award shows, particularly ones that change venue/city from year-to-year. While there is always room for negotiations, the conference deliberated on format language that could serve as the basis regardless of location. As a result, when the ECMA first indicated they were not interested in renewing the previous agreement, the CFM had no choice but use all means available to reverse that decision.

    With the Juno Awards less than a month away, our office is on the verge of signing a national agreement, which—again according to Conference mandate—would follow Junofest to wherever the event will take place in the next few years. Like the ECMA contract, we are working on pension being applicable to the showcase performances, as well as contracted events and the award show.

    We have also entered into negotiations with the Western Canadian Music Alliance, with a view to establishing an agreement to cover the Break-Out West festival, which takes place in the fall. This year, it travels to Edmonton, Alberta. At the crux of these negotiations is the fact that this festival has evolved into a “networking” opportunity, making this a nonpaid event. Again, status quo is not an option and having no agreement in place to protect the musicians is unacceptable.

    Next up will be the Canadian Country Music Association, with their event taking place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, later on this year. We have just begun to make contact, again with a view to establishing a mobile, national agreement.

    While I am ex officio as a member of the negotiating team, our Standards Committee has come up with a workable format to spread the workload of bargaining. Therefore, International Representative Allistair Elliott will also serve, along with an officer from the host city where the event takes place in the current year, as well as officers from the previous and next host cities.

    It’s important to understand how these negotiations impact upon you, the members. Without a CFM negotiated agreement in place, there would be no minimum standard fee. Without a CFM agreement, pension could not be paid. And finally, without a media agreement outlining the parameters of what can be recorded, for what purpose, and at what additional fee, there would be no control over ownership, replays, or other new uses of the tracks.

    These events are also popular venues for emerging artists, many of them not yet AFM members. In Canada, we are able to extend our umbrella to protect them by establishing a Temporary Membership Permit (a version of the Rand Formula), which allows nonmembers to work under a union contract, if they pay a fair share of the cost.

    Of particular importance is pension. While the subject matter of a retirement fund is a conversation most young musicians are not willing to have, we must bear in mind that our pension is a reality because of past generations of musicians who contracted for and negotiated pension into their contracts, in order to ensure that future members would have a comfortable retirement. The responsibility lies upon each of us to do the same for ourselves and generations to come. By not contracting for pension, you are letting the employer escape an obligation, and making it difficult for our pension to survive through a poor investment market. Please do your fair share so that we all may benefit for years to come.

    The CFM is committed to establishing agreements with all festivals and award shows that feature live performance of musicians to establish fair wages, pension, and a level playing field for all musicians. It’s the right thing to do.

    Read More

    Bargaining to Begin with ECMA

    Pour la version française cliquez ici

    Since the writing of this column, the parties have successfully negotiated a successor agreement.

    The 2017 edition of the East Coast Music Awards is scheduled for April 26-30, with the host city being Saint John, New Brunswick. During those five days, the city will be immersed in music in every venue, culminating with the gala award event Sunday night. However, in early December, the East Coast Music Association (ECMA) was placed on the AFM’s Unfair List by the Canadian Office.

    The ECMA and the AFM had enjoyed a long, mutually beneficial relationship, with the signing of the first agreement in the mid-1990s. Contracts that included pension were always in place for sponsored showcases, events, and the awards show. The AFM would often sponsor an award, and was omnipresent every year with an informational booth, workshops, and seminars on topics of interest to musicians embarking on careers in music.

    Two years ago, something changed. The ECMA refused to come to the table and renew the agreement. Although the broadcaster of the awards show signed a letter of adherence, the showcases and other events were not under AFM contract.

    Without the renewed agreement and/or a properly executed AFM contract in place, there could be no pension contributions. In addition, recording was rampant and streamed both during the week and well after.

    CFM representatives met with four members of the ECMA board in October. It became clear, after considerable dialogue, that a reasonable fee for the musicians was not the issue. Having the “union” involved was, for all the philosophical reasons.

    In many of our agreements, including this one, a temporary membership permit (TMP) is required to be deducted from the fees of nonmembers. It seems this became a bone of contention. In Canada, this is an application of the RAND formula, under which nonunion employees have a portion of their wages deducted as their share of servicing the CBA under which they are working.

    Using this formula allows a temporary member to be listed on the contract with members, and receive exactly the same services and benefits for the same classification of service, for the duration of the gig. This includes pension and any ensuing residuals, such as New Use. In addition, the TMP fee can be credited toward membership for one calendar year.

    If the musician does not take advantage of the credit, those fees find their way back into the music community, through the host local’s outreach at seminars and informational meetings, as well as the sponsorship of awards.

    There have been some developments in this rather unfortunate situation, as the ECMA board has contacted our office and agreed to sit down to bargain a successor agreement. Negotiations will take place in Halifax January 18 and 19, with January 20 as a backup date.

    It’s our sincere hope that we are successful, the musicians’ performances are protected and properly remunerated, and the CFM and ECMA can once again join forces as partners in the effort to bring East Coast music to the world, and for the world to recognize the musicians that make this truly unique sound.

    Read More

    Canadian Content in a Digital World: 12 Important Points of Our Brief

    Canadian Content in a Digital World is an extremely important consultation process initiated by the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage. As I have reported previously, by opening up many laws and their respective boards, we have an opportunity right now, to equalize what was lost through the evolution of digital distribution. However, this revisit presents imminent danger, as those who utilize digital content and those who profit from it, are also welcome to present their wish list. A detailed presentation by the CFM is imperative, as well as joining other organizations of like minds, in order to counter the demands of a profit-focused industry. The deadline for written submission was November 25, and the following is a short summary of our full brief.

    This consultation should lay the foundation for the regulatory and policy tools and financial support needed to ensure that Canadian professional musicians thrive in the digital environment now and for the years ahead.

    1) Amend the definition of “sound recording.” The current definition of sound recording in the Copyright Act needs to be amended so that performers can collect royalties when their recorded performances of music on the soundtracks of audiovisual works, such as TV programs and movies, are broadcast or streamed on the Internet and when they are presented in movie theatres. Also, we recommend ratification of the Beijing Treaty.

    2) Remove the $1.25 million royalty exemption for commercial broadcasters. Amending the Copyright Act to remove this unnecessary exemption for commercial radio would add millions of dollars’ worth of royalties for recording artists.

    3) Expand private copying to include new copying technology. In the course of this consultation, the government should undertake to prepare the necessary legislative changes needed to update the private-copying regime to reflect advances in digital copying technology.

    4) Reform the Copyright Board. Improvements to the operations and practices of the Copyright Board, which are procedural and regulatory in nature, need to be addressed and implemented as soon as possible.

    5) Reduce piracy in the digital world. Our cultural policies and laws must offer a practical response to piracy that better aligns with how Canadians consume content, and that helps Canadian professional musicians and other content creators succeed in a digital, global market.

    6) Value Canadian content. Valuing culture through up-to-date legislation, funding innovation and creativity, and education is “key to having a strong society, a vibrant democracy, and to promoting Canadian cultural content to the world.”

    7) End runaway post-production. We urge the Minister of Canadian Heritage to make changes to the CAVCO qualifications in order to disincentive domestic media producers from using offshore musicians to record scores for Canadian movies and television programs created by Canadian musicians in Canada.

    8) Continue funding for musicians. We encourage the federal government to continue to support the Canadian music industry through a series of direct and indirect measures.

    9) Update Canadian content regulations. We urge the government to work with the music community to transition content quotas and the MAPL designation from an analog to a digital world.

    10) Support venues for live performance. The federal government needs to work with provincial and local governments to ensure that there is adequate funding to support venues where recording artists can perform live.

    11) Improve music education. We recommend that governments at all levels work together to improve music learning in our public schools.

    12) Support export of Canadian musicians. We ask that the government follow through with its commitment, made in the Music Industry Review, to improve funding and support for Canadian musicians touring domestically and internationally.

    While a thoughtful and comprehensive submission is essential, we continue to lobby Ottawa, attend Department of Heritage seminars/panels, and push hard to ensure the government recognizes that the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada is the only voice they should consider when inviting input from musicians in the artists/creators sector of this country.

    Read More

    Recommendations for Amendments to Canada’s Copyright Board

    Pour la version française cliquez ici.

    Last month, I spoke of our renewed efforts to bring Status of the Artist legislation to Ontario. This month, it’s the CFM submission to the Committee of Banking, Trade and Commerce, part of the Senate of Canada, on the operation and practices of the Copyright Board of Canada. With Heritage opening the door to examine and revise so many aspects of the laws that affect culture—and musicians—we felt that it was best to separate our recommendations for the Copyright Board (which are procedural and regulatory in nature), and treat the 2017 s.92 Copyright review as a separate issue.

    One of the major issues is the backlog of decisions, which can sometimes take years, as well as sometimes erratic rulings when setting new tariffs. I will skip many of the details of our submission, and focus on the four major recommendations.

    Voluntary Agreements

    One approach to relieve the board of the backlog of tariff certifications is to consider voluntary licensing, a regime used in countries such as Finland, France, Greece, Israel, and Mexico, which have no rate-setting procedures. In the UK, collective licensing for remuneration is voluntarily agreed upon by contract between the parties. When consensus cannot be reached, a tribunal is utilized to play a part in the process. In Holland, the tariff for performers’ rights are made by agreement with the users, and distributed to phonogram producers and performers on a 50-50 basis. Upon disagreement of share, the High Court in The Hague has exclusive jurisdiction.

    Mandatory Mediation

    We recommend that all tariff matters before the Copyright Board be subject to a prehearing mediation process, using the mediation programme and case management under the Ontario rules of Civil Procedure as a model.

    Expedited Process

    An expedited process can be found in the Australian copyright law, which requires that “… proceedings shall be conducted with as little formality, and with as much expedition, as the requirements of this Act and a proper consideration of the matters before the Tribunal permit.” The UK and the US copyright tribunals provide for similar expedition in the case of simple matters.

    Another avenue would be to set out specified timelines in the regulations for any matter before the board.

    Criteria for Rate-Setting

    The CFM was among 70 music organizations that publicly opposed the Tariff 8 decision, which set royalty rates for noninteractive webcasting services in Canada. The decision also brought into focus the need for rate-setting criteria that includes consideration of existing marketplace agreements. The rate, in fact, ignored international standards that support the growth and development of the industry in world markets.

    A report written by Marcel Boyer, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Montreal, for the C.D. Howe Institute entitled: “The Value of Copyrights in Recorded Music: Terrestrial Radio and Beyond,” concluded that the value of recorded music is approximately 2.5 times greater than the level of royalties certified by the Copyright Board. Boyer continued that the approach used by the board consistently undervalued copyrights in the context of the commercial terrestrial radio industry, and that this flawed approach has been carried over into the determinations for noninteractive webcasting tariffs.

    The CFM recommends that specific criteria be used for rate setting, including recourse to comparative market value analysis under s.66.91 of the Copyright Act.

    I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all members to embrace the spirit of love, compassion, and giving that is prevalent at this time of year. We sometimes take for granted how fortunate we all are, to have health, family, and relative peace in our time. I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas, and the best to you and yours for a wonderful and prosperous new year.

    Read More


Official Journal of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada