American Federation of Musicians

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American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada
American Federation of Musicians (emblem).png
Full nameAmerican Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada
FoundedOctober 19, 1896; 124 years ago (1896-10-19)
Members73,071 (2019)[1]
AffiliationAFL–CIO, CLC
Key peopleRaymond M. Hair Jr., President
Office locationNew York City, United States
CountryUnited States, Canada

The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM/AFofM) is a 501(c)(5)[2] labor union representing professional instrumental musicians in the United States and Canada. The AFM, which has its headquarters in New York City, is led by president Raymond M. Hair, Jr. Founded in Cincinnati in 1896 as the successor to the "National League of Musicians," the AFM is the largest organization in the world to represent professional musicians. They negotiate fair agreements, protect ownership of recorded music, secure benefits such as health care and pension, and lobby legislators. In the US, it is the American Federation of Musicians (AFM)—and in Canada, the Canadian Federation of Musicians/Fédération canadienne des musiciens (CFM/FCM).[3] The AFM is affiliated with AFL–CIO, the largest federation of Unions in the United States; and the Canadian Labour Congress, the federation of unions in Canada.[4][5]

Among the best known AFM actions was the 1942–44 musicians' strike, to pressure record companies to agree to a better arrangement for paying royalties.


The American Federation of Labor recognized the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) in 1896. In 1900, the American Federation of Musicians modified its name to "American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada". In the early 1900s, record companies produced recordings and musicians profited.

The 1900s[edit]

During the World War I era, general unemployment affected musicians. Silent films displaced some traditional entertainments along with the declining economy and other factors, caused many musicians to be laid off.

Wherever there was music, there were musicians organizing in the early 20th century—in theaters, restaurants, night clubs, hotel ballrooms, amusement parks, carnivals, symphonies, operas, ballets and increasingly at theaters as accompaniment for silent films.

By the end of the 1920s, many factors had reduced the number of recording companies. As the nation recovered from World War I, technology advanced and there was diversity in recording and producing music. This encouraged the American Federation of Musicians. AFM was motivated to bring music awareness to the public. In 1927, the first "talkie" motion picture was released and within two years, 20,000 musicians lost their jobs performing in theater pits for silent films. This was not the first—or the last time—that technological advances would transform musicians’ work. Yet musicians remained strong and established minimum wage scales for vitaphone, movietone and phonograph recording work. In 1938, film companies signed their first contract with AFM. Musicians continued organizing in orchestras, radio and in the making of film scores. But musicians were losing income as phonorecords replaced radio orchestras and jukeboxes competed with live music in nightclubs.

Among the most significant AFM actions was the 1942–44 musicians' strike, to pressure record companies to agree to a royalty system more beneficial to the musicians.[6] This was sometimes called the "Petrillo ban", because James Petrillo was the newly elected head of the union.[7] Petrillo organized a second recording ban in 1948 (from January 1 to December 14), in response to the Taft–Hartley Act.

Musicians went on strike in 1942 shutting down the U.S. recording market for two years until they won. By standing together, they forced the recording industry to establish a royalty on recording sales to employ musicians at live performances. This resulted in the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF) was established and it continues to sponsor free live performances throughout the United States and Canada.

Numerous labor actions in the following decades improved industry standards and working conditions for musicians. New agreements covered TV programs, cable TV, independent films and video games. Pension funds were established. Musicians also secured groundbreaking contracts providing royalties for digital transmissions and from recordings of live performances.

“The only object of AFM is to bring order out of chaos and to harmonize and bring together all the professional musicians of the country into one progressive body,” said AFM’s first President Owen Miller in 1896.

Union Local 274, American Federation of Musicians Historical Marker, Philadelphia PA

21st century, New millennium[edit]

At the AFM convention in Las Vegas on June 23, 2010, the AFM elected Ray Hair for a three-year term as president.[8] Hair was re-elected for an additional three years in July 2013, in June 2016, and again in June 2019.[9] [10]

The AFM is active in trying to prevent plagiarism and illegal downloading. The sheer volume of recording industry output contributes to the possibility that songs might overlap in sound, melody, or other details of composition. Also, as the Internet and technology advances and becomes easily accessible, it is easier for people to share the music online.

120 years later, AFM musicians continue standing together to have power. The AFM is 80,000 musicians strong playing in orchestras, backup bands, festivals, clubs and theaters (both on Broadway and on tour), and also making music for film, TV, commercials and sound recordings.


There are several AFM departments:

  • Freelance
  • Recording
  • Symphonic
  • Theatre
  • Travel, Touring & Immigration
  • Legislative
  • Organizing
  • Administrative (Finance/Legal/Pension)


The American Federation of Musicians, headquartered in New York City, has Federation offices in Los Angeles, Toronto, and Washington, DC, as well as hundreds of contributing member locals across the United States and Canada.


Total membership (US records)[11]

Finances (US records; ×$1000)[11]
     Assets      Liabilities      Receipts      Disbursements

According to the AFM's Department of Labor records since 2006, when membership classification was first reported, around 81%, or three quarters, of the union's membership are "regular" members, who are eligible to vote for the union. In addition to the other voting eligible "life" and "youth" classifications, the "inactive life" members have the rights of active union members except that "they shall not be allowed to vote or hold office" according to the bylaws in exchange for the rate less than "life" members.[11] As of 2019, this accounted for 60,345 "regular members" (83% of total), 11,297 "life" members (15%), 549 "inactive life" members (1%) and 880 "youth" members (1%).[1]


As of 2019, the Delegates to the 101st American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) Convention in Las Vegas, NV, re-elected Ray Hair as International President. International Vice President Bruce Fife; Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert; Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal; and Executive Officers:  John Acosta (Local 47, Los Angeles); Ed Malaga (Local 161-710, Washington, DC); Tina Morrison (Local 105, Spokane, WA); Terryl Jares (Local 10-208, Chicago, IL); and Dave Pomeroy (Local 257, Nashville, TN).[12]



  1. ^ a b US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 000-207. Report submitted March 29, 2020.
  2. ^ "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada. Guidestar. December 31, 2015.
  3. ^ "About AFM". American Federation of Musicians. Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  4. ^ "Unions of the AFL-CIO". AFL-CIO. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  5. ^ "Canadian Labour Congress Affiliated Unions". Congress of Union Retirees in Canada. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  6. ^ Palmer, Robert. Deep Blues. Penguin Books. pp. 146–7. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
  7. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 13. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  8. ^ "Ray Hair Elected President of AFM at Vegas Convention". Film Music Magazine. June 23, 2010. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  9. ^ Handel, Jonathan (July 26, 2013). "American Federation of Musicians' President Ray Hair Re-Elected". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  10. ^ "Ray Hair Re-Elected International President at AFM's 100th Convention" (Press release). American Federation of Musicians. June 24, 2016. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 000-207. (Search)
  12. ^ "Our Leaders". American Federation of Musicians. Retrieved February 9, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Michael James Roberts, Tell Tchaikovsky the News: Rock 'n' Roll, the Labor Question, and the Musicians' Union, 1942–1968. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014, ISBN 978-0-8223-5463-5 .

External links[edit]