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American Federation of Musicians

Charcloth 15 Aug 00 - 08:24 AM
Jim Krause 15 Aug 00 - 02:05 PM
Jim Krause 15 Aug 00 - 02:07 PM
Alice 15 Aug 00 - 02:14 PM
GUEST 15 Aug 00 - 02:17 PM
Jacob B 15 Aug 00 - 02:20 PM
Alice 15 Aug 00 - 02:26 PM
Jim Krause 15 Aug 00 - 02:39 PM
DougR 15 Aug 00 - 04:03 PM
Jacob B 15 Aug 00 - 06:30 PM
Little Hawk 15 Aug 00 - 06:48 PM
Jim the Bart 15 Aug 00 - 06:48 PM
Alice 15 Aug 00 - 07:07 PM
Dee45 15 Aug 00 - 07:10 PM
Alice 15 Aug 00 - 07:15 PM
Dee45 15 Aug 00 - 07:24 PM
DougR 15 Aug 00 - 07:28 PM
Big Mick 15 Aug 00 - 08:35 PM
GUEST, Banjo Johnny 16 Aug 00 - 12:01 AM
Charcloth 16 Aug 00 - 01:01 AM
GUEST,Barry Finn 16 Aug 00 - 01:09 AM
Jimmy C 16 Aug 00 - 07:49 PM
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Subject: American Federation of Musicians
From: Charcloth
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 08:24 AM

I have been considering joining the Musicians union, Does anyone have any pros or cons for advice on the idea


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Jim Krause
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 02:05 PM

I was a member for awhile back in the '80s. Didn't do me a damn bit of good. I wondered why untill I got a roster of members, and found out they were mostly from the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra, with a few token jazz guys thrown in for window dressing. No country musicians, and certainly no folk musicians either. I'm Union all the way, but when the union does the working man no good, well something's gotta go. And that something was me.


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Jim Krause
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 02:07 PM

I was a member for awhile back in the '80s. Didn't do me a damn bit of good. I wondered why untill I got a roster of members, and found out they were mostly from the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra, with a few token jazz guys thrown in for window dressing. No country musicians, and certainly no folk musicians either. I'm Union all the way, but when the union does the working man no good, well something's gotta go. And that something was me. So I'd check out your local AF of M pretty closely and see who's in it, what type of musician does your local represent, then make your decision. Soddy


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Alice
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 02:14 PM

I know classical musicians who are members, but I don't know if it would be of benefit to folk musicians. Maybe our resident all around Union expert Big Mick could shed some light on this subject.


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 02:17 PM

Isn't there a "Local 1000" designed for folk musicians ?


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Jacob B
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 02:20 PM

Local 1000 AFM


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Alice
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 02:26 PM

aha! Thank you, Jacob B. Always great to learn something new from the Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Jim Krause
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 02:39 PM

Yes, Thanks Jacob B. Now if I could only afford the dues.


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: DougR
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 04:03 PM

Play enough Music Performance Trust Fund gigs, and it will pay your dues, Soddy!

DougR


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Jacob B
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 06:30 PM

I recall John McCutcheon having an article in Sing Out several months ago. He's strongly in favor of joining Local 1000. The letter column of Sing Out was full of responses to the article for the next couple of issues. Some of the letters were from people who agreed with John McCutcheon, and some were from people with strong reasons for not joining. It may be worth your while to dig up those issues, and see if your situation more closely resembles that of the people who found union membership very useful, or that of the people who found it irrelevant.

Jacob


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Little Hawk
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 06:48 PM

My impression is that the AF of M exists mostly to feather its own nest. I was a member in the 70's and 80's and it never benefited me in any way, but of course obliged me to pay my yearly dues. I eventually resigned. I think the union can be useful when you're obtaining work visas to perform abroad, and there are also various venues where you can't play unless you are a union member. I would appreciate some input from more experienced folkies who've been on tour a lot lately. What say?


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Jim the Bart
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 06:48 PM

I was a member back in the 70's & 80's. They never got me any work. They did stop me from playing a benefit on a pre-cable, non-network TV station because there was no performance fee. When we got screwed out of a week of work by a Florida club owner, they couldn't do anything. Yes, we had a contract, but Florida is a "right-to-work" state and the club never missed a night and we never saw a dollar.

Joining the union in Chicago was quite a trip; we just had to pass the audition. I was playing in a folk trio (me on guitar/vocals, my partner on guitar/banjo/vocals, and a friend on electric bass)and we all went down to audition at the same time. That was when I found out that you can't enter the musician's union as a vocalist - vocalists are not musicians. Instead, we auditioned as a group, playing "Foggy Mountain Breakdown". We got judged as acceptable and those judges must really be good, because our bassist never plugged in and was still seen to be good enough from all the way across the room - after, of course, ponying up the $150 membership fee. Quite a sum in 1973.

My advice is don't bother to join until you have a guaranteed gig that requires membership and will pay the entrance fee. Then never mentioned you're in the union again - until the next union gig. . .


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Alice
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 07:07 PM

hmmm... can't enter as a vocalist? Opera singers are union members. My friend Suzanne is a member of American Guild of Musical Artists, New York, and American Federation of Musicians - Local 709, among other memberships.


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Dee45
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 07:10 PM

I agree with most of the sentiments expressed here against joing the "union" (which it is not.) A real union has clout and effective bargaining power, and are respected (if not feared) by organizations, associations and companies whose workforce are unionized, which is why it has the clout and bargaining power to begin with, and, its members are united and back the union.
(Try getting a quorum [let alone several 100 or 1000] musicians to agree on anything!)
On the other hand the AF of M and their locals, are basically a cash grab, and are virtually useless, if your goal is to play clubs, and try and eke out a living as a professional musician. In the old days when hotels had steady engagements (4-6 consecutive nights of work) it was generally required to be "union" or both the musicians and hotels would be "blacklisted". The black list consisted of union reps telling the hotels that unless they hired union musicians, they wouldn't be able to get good live entertainment. They also published the names of the blacklisted / unfair establishments in their semi-quartely magazines, and in their newspaper called Internation Musician"...and suspended and fined their own members who violated the blacklist. They have always been notorious at policing the conduct of their own membership much more so than any questionable establishments hiring live music.

As a result of blacklisting, the clubs and hotels thumbed their noses at the union, and instead hired non union performers who were happy to have an opportunity to perform regardless of the fee. This undermined the efforts of the union and the union musicians. But to each his own.

The best thing is to do a bit of research and decide upon and target the type of venues you want to perform in, and in doing so, determine these venues policies. If most of them are union, join the union. If most of them aren't, save your money.

You only need to be union if you are requiring help in securing performance visas outside of your country, or if you are going to be doing commercial recordings (ie: jingles for radio and television, sound track work) and /or performing on television and/or concert venues.

You should also have some sort of talent or skill that is so highly specialized that no one else can do what you do, if you want to have any clout in the bargaining process. Otherwise as far as clubs, etc. are concerned there will be another "cable-car" along in five minutes.

The union and AF of M is a toothless lion, and serves only it's trustees, stewards, secretary treasurers and other executive board members.


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Alice
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 07:15 PM

Interesting background, thank you for providing it, Dee45.


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Dee45
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 07:24 PM

You're quite welcome Alice.

Another reality check for the un-initiated just occurred to me - that being what constitutes a good band or good act, in a club owners' mind.

And that is the band's/performer's ability to draw a crowd and.............SELL BOOZE. Period.

Club owners don't give a rat's ass how good or how talented the act or performer is. If the act generates lots of revenue for the club from liquor sales, then it is a GREAT ACT! If it doesn't, it's shit.

Ask any dues-paying musician if I'm wrong about this.


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: DougR
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 07:28 PM

Dee45: I have no doubt that what you say is true about most club owners.

DougR


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Big Mick
Date: 15 Aug 00 - 08:35 PM

Glad to oblige, Alice. I am a member of AFM Local 56. We have symphony orchestra, as well as club gig members. It costs me nothing to be a member. Let me explain. My dues are $105.00 per year. The International has a Performing Arts Trust. This is a trust that is funded by the Industry. It is used to bridge the philosophical problems involved in performing in venues that are for the public at large, for which no entry fee is charged. The problem that arises is that Musicians Union members are philosophically opposed to giving away the fruits of their labor. To bring this back around to where it started, when I perform at these venues, the Trust pays me scale which about equals my yearly dues on just one gig. I get several of these a year. In addition to this, we are a hiring hall. So whenever someone comes to town and needs a specific type of act, they are given the names of the members who perform these types of gigs. This usually accounts for another half dozen gigs a year. I file my contracts for these gigs with the Local and if the contractor tries to stiff me, the Local Union uses its Attorney to collect. One of these a year and I am far ahead. And as any performing artist knows, this is not unusual. And I can negotiate whatever rate I want, and they will collect it for me. I also file my club/pub/bar contracts. They collect on these as well. In fact, this is where the Union is used more often. Once in a while a club owner doesn't want to sign the Union contract. I won't perform if this is the case. It is a pretty good indicator to me that it is an unreliable owner. I have never been blacklisted, and get more offers than I agree to do. That old bullshit about being blacklisted is not true in the least for me. In addition to these advantages, there is a set of benefits that would be worth the cost of joining if none of the foregoing were in the mix. The Union has a pension plan that is returning 2 and 1/2 to 1 for any contributions I make from my gigs. Additionally, there is a group all risk insurance policy that has wonderful rates. It covers any piece of my equipment that I choose to cover right down to scores and picks. As long as I have detailed it on the policy it is covered. $10,000 worth of coverage costs me a little over a $100.00 a year. This is what convinced my other band members to join. Recently we were ripped off for our mainspeakers, a bass amp and assorted gear. Had we had the insurance for about a $100 we could have saved ourselves about $3,000. This coverage will cover anything from bad weather to theft to flood to dropping your equipment just plain forgetting your equipment outside. It covers instruments, scores, associated gear, cables, ......everything. It is a bargain in terms of cost as well. I checked out getting this type of coverage on my own and the cost was astronomical. And full of exceptions. As long as you comply with their rules, and it is not difficult, you will have no problems. I know of a number of musicians who have collected. Just imagine one of your instruments getting broken or stolen and you get the picture. I have not even begun to talk about other benefits such as seminars. I attended one recently at no cost that dealt with recording methods and then marketing methods for your CD's that was invaluable. It was free to members and there was a charge for non-members.

Local 1000 is a local that was created to deal with the special needs of travelling musicians. I am considering switching to it.

So there is a slightly different take on the AFM for you. I hope it helps you in your decision.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: GUEST, Banjo Johnny
Date: 16 Aug 00 - 12:01 AM

Forget the pension fund. I know a Local 47 member who worked hotels for 30 years. He figures he "contributed" (forked over) more than $25,000 to the pension fund during his career. Upon retirement, he was granted a generous $64 per month pension. He could have done a lot better buying mutual funds. == Johnny in OKC


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Charcloth
Date: 16 Aug 00 - 01:01 AM

Hummmm!This warrents more consideration. What about their booking agency? Is it worth while? I had heard their insurance was worth while. I didn't know about the siminars though. Anyone else?


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: GUEST,Barry Finn
Date: 16 Aug 00 - 01:09 AM

`Hi Mick, I've gotta say that musicians, yes, including unoin musicians & their musical officers are a far better breed of people than their contstuction counterparts are. I can truthfully say that I've never had a musician try to take my life with a woodwind, brass, string or skinned instrument.
Reminds me of a song somewhat similar to something Woody wrote.

"Yes, it's through this world I've rambled
And I've sung with many men
Some would rob you of your pick some would take the song you've penned

Yes, & it's through this I've rambled
And it's through this world I've sung
I've never had a singer try to rob me with a gun".


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Subject: RE: American Federation of Musicians
From: Jimmy C
Date: 16 Aug 00 - 07:49 PM

I was a union member back in the 70's and 80's. Didn't do me much good, The one time I had to deal with them, (outside of paying dues), was when I let a musician go because he showed up roaring drunk three nights in a row. I mean so drunk that he fell of the stage. He had been partially drunk every night for the first week and a half of the gig. Anyway when the union heard about it we all had a sit-down. Because he was on the contract for 4 weeks work I had to pay him a full 2 weeks salary out of my own pocket. They were in no way sympathetic to me in the least. That was when I decided to take union jobs when available and also take non-unin jobs also. I have never missed them since my membership expired. I do however feel unions are necessary, especially for the classical musicians and for the big Vegas style gigs. If you are playing in a pub atmosphere (like I did) then they are not that important.


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