Why join the American Federation of Musicians?

by SaskMusic

July 31, 2009 in Doing Business

Every year the notice goes out as the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) seeks to recruit new members. Then, the artist must ask him/herself, 'What's in it for me?'
According to Brian Dojack, the secretary/treasurer of local 446 of the AFM - the Regina Musicians Association - the benefits of being a member are endless. In fact, Brian believes so strongly in the AFM that he's been on the board for 22 of the 37 years that he's been a member of the union.

"I'm a retired saxophone player," said Brian. "I've been there, done that and had it happen to me. I want to help out the young musicians and let them learn from my mistakes."
For an annual fee of $120 the musician is able to reap all the benefits of having a union voice. "You become part of an organization that is working hard to make sure musicians are being treated fairly and paid properly," Brian states.

Anyone who is a member in good standing is entitled to all the services the AFM provides, which are as follows:
  • Each office posts industry audition ads to the members in its entity. This means the AFM provides job opportunities to its members.
  • A free AFM contract is made with each musician upon renewal of his or her membership every year. This entitles him or her to unlimited union benefits and services.
  • As a member, the musician gains access to a coalition of 30 affiliate member offices in Canada as well as large organization of American offices. Thus, the networking capabilities for artists are countless.
  • Members are enrolled in the best pension plan in North America. Everything the musician puts into the plan over 25 years is dispersed in the first year of payment. From there, payments continue to be generous.
  • Discounts at music stores are available across North America.
  • The most comprehensive and inexpensive liability and musical instrument and gear insurance plans are offered to musicians through United Group Insurance, based out of Windsor, ON.
  • "No hassle" recording revenue collections means that artists and bands are paid for all uses and re-uses of their songs whether it be for live use, soundtracks, radio, television or movies.
  • Job protection is ensued for all members to ensure their contracts are honoured by employers, and that they are paid according to federal compensation standards.
  • Gigs through Music Performance Trust funds are available. If people come to the association looking for musicians, the association recommends its members. This means more work is available for members.
  • The Fund for Disabled Musicians provides employment insurance to musicians who are temporarily or permanently disabled while on the job.
  • The association provides legal services to its members at no charge. The association negotiates contracts for its musicians and provides a lawyer for the musician's representation in both small claims court and the Court of Queen's Bench.
  • Special Payment Funds are provided to musicians for each recording they make, no matter how much money they make on it. For each pension payment they make on a recording, they are paid out extra fund disbursements at the time their pension plan is paid out.
  • Demo/master recording protection is given to all tracked music so that royalties are dispersed to musicians every time their song is used or played.
  • The association works in tandem with National Citizenship Immigration Services to get member musicians across the border cheaper, quicker and with fewer complications so that musicians may build their careers in the U.S.
According to Brian, for the amount of benefits available, a membership with the AFM is definitely worth it for every artist, whether they are established or not.

"Musicians don't get nearly the respect they deserve because people don't realize how costly it is to be a musician," Brian explained. "It's an investment in time, effort and money for the cost of gear. We're all about helping musicians and getting them the recognition they deserve."

For more information please contact the AFM local nearest you: Local 446 Regina, 306-352-1337 or Local 553 Saskatoon, 306-477-2506; online at www.afm.org.

By Alyssa Ingold for SaskMusic. Originally published November 2003.

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