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 name American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada
Founded 1896
Members 90,000
Affiliation AFL-CIO, CLC
Key people Raymond M. Hair Jr., president
Office location New York City
Country United States, Canada

The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM/AFofM) is a labor union representing professional 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 representing the interests of professional musicians. They accomplish this by negotiating fair agreements, protecting ownership of recorded music, securing benefits such as health care and pension, and lobbying legislators. In deference to the differing laws and cultural attributes of each country, in the US it is referred to as the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and in Canada as the Canadian Federation of Musicians/Fédération canadienne des musiciens (CFM/FCM).[1]

The Musical Mutual Protective Union of New York became Local 301 of the American Federation of Musicians in 1902.[2] In 1904, the local had 5,000 members, who were almost entirely German.[3][4] In 1910, approximately 300 black musicians were members in the roughly 8,000-member local.[5] The local lost its charter in 1921 in a disagreement with the parent union.[2]

Among the most famous actions by the AFM was a ban on all commercial recording by members in 1942–44, in order to pressure record companies to make a better arrangement for paying royalties to recording artists. This was sometimes called the Petrillo Ban, because James Petrillo was the newly–elected head of the union. Petrillo also organized a second recording ban in 1948 (from January 1 to December 14), in response to the Taft–Hartley Act.

Early history[edit]

The American Federation of Labor recognized American Federation of Musicians (AFM) in 1896. This was the beginning of their journey, which allowed them to flourish with their ideas and build a sense of community. In 1900, American Federation of Musicians modified its name to American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada. This was done in light of reaching musicians beyond America. After the modification, American Federation of Musicians began to grow at a fast pace. From Thousands of people signed up and became official members and that led to American Federation of Musicians gaining fame in no time. Even to this day, the AFM is one of the most recognized labor unions in America and Canada.

The downfall of the 1900s[edit]

Early 1900s was a time when recordings were produced and musicians made profits off of it. However, around the time when World War I hit, the unemployment made a huge impact on musicians' lives as well. Majority of movies released around the time were silent films, resulting musicians to be jobless. Also, since the overall economy declining, many musicians were laid off and the music that was once popular was no longer needed in public broadcasting networks. This brought a great sorrow among the musicians.

By the end of 1920s, due to many factors, not a lot of recording companies survived. As the nation was still recovering from World War I, the technology was advancing and there was diversity in recording and producing music. This gave hope and resulted American Federation of Musicians a new vision. AFM was motivated to bring awareness of music to the public. After couple decades, in 1938, the American Federation of Musicians established partnership with motion pictures agreement. New opportunities and jobs were opening up for musicians as well as people in film industry.

Birth to a new generation, 1960s[edit]

Early 1960s marked a new beginning to the music industry. If the music in early 1900s consisted of jazz and rhythm and blues, rock and roll became mainstream in the 1960s. After the second World War, a new culture entered the United States called the Baby boom era. Rock and roll entered the culture and it brought a huge explosion to the music industry market. Rock n roll became the "mainstream" music, which proved its popularity through record sales. Public began to recognize and appreciate the creativity in music. Slowly but surely, music became source that brought unity and peace to people.

By 1970s, there were multiple genres to music. Unlike the previous decades, there was diversity to musical genres such as disco and rock. As more and more genres were entering the market, the record sales accelerated as well. The earlier genres such as classical, jazz and rhythm and blues gave birth to new sounds such as gospel, rap, and hip hop. During this period of time, new artists were being founded and that caused more people to follow music. Record companies began to flourish again and by the late 1970s, music was presented to the public in diverse ways.

20th century, New millennium[edit]

Over the history, the American Federation of Musicians modified and created new sounds and systems that respected the musicians and music. Hundred years later, American Federation of Musicians is still growing in numbers. There are nearly 20,000 members in each region and to this day, it supports the old and young musicians with same respect and values. Just as there are pros, there are also cons to the success that happened over time. One of the main issues that the American Federation of Musicians is trying to regulate is a problem with plagiarizing and illegal downloading. Since there were countless amount of sounds, beats, rhythms created over the years, it reached to a point where many songs overlap. Also, as Internet and technology continues to advance and becomes easily accessible, it makes it easier for people to share the music online. Illegal downloading is a serious matter yet hard to regulate since it is impossible to track down every individual.

Mission Statement[edit]

The American Federation of Musician's mission statement is to create a community for the musicians and support them morally, economically and politically.

Moral Aspect: American Federation of Musicians welcomes people of ever race, gender, marital status, economic status, age, and sex to be a part of their public union. The majority of their members consist of musicians in professionals work fields. This means that not all the members are full-time musicians. American Federation of Musicians encourages and expects its members to live in dignity and integrity.

Economic Aspect: The American Federation of Musicians uses the collective aspect to increase the economic aspect in all the members. In earlier years while musicians were struggling due to different circumstances, American Federation of Musicians compensated for its members to receive a minimum wage. Also, the American Federation of Musicians made sure that the musicians were able protected and taken care by the government during the times of great depression. American Federation of Musicians strives to offer best deals and also secure a stable economic status to its musicians.

Political Aspect: The American Federation of Musicians values and invests in opportunities to gain political power. One of their visions is to voice for the voiceless (expressing to stop child labor in 1922) and also to gain respect from the government. The American Federation of Musicians is a strong advocate to fight for justice and peace. They hope to help shape the patterns of society by bringing order and harmony through music.

Membership Benefits[edit]

There are many benefits for becoming a member of American Federation of Musicians. According to American Federation of Musicians’ official website, it provides the following: “ contracts/collective bargaining, pension and health, insurance programs, referral programs, as well as subscriptions to International Musicians.” The members can get access to minor things such as sheet music, general news and information in the music industry to health insurance. American Federation of Musicians creates atmospheres for musicians to establish and build connections that will help them to prosper in different ways. There are guidelines and curriculums that help one to make wise choices when it comes to signing contracts with other people or companies. Also, it promotes the musician’s music as well as protects it from illegal downloading and stealing ideas. American Federation of Musicians also offers scholarships to young musicians and connects them to get started with their musical career.


There are several departments in American Federation of Musicians. Besides the administration offices (Presidents, Secretary), there are also Education, Symphonic, Legislative, International office, and Immigration office. Each department focuses to assist and develop strategies to help the members as well as the public.


The main headquarter of American Federation of Musicians is located in New York City. Over the span of hundred years, American Federation of Musicians branched out to popular cities such as Los Angeles, Hawaii, Washington, and Toronto as well as smaller cities all throughout the United States and Canada. There are over hundreds of small branches and other methods to get connected.



  1. ^ "About AFM". American Federation of Musicians. Retrieved November 11, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Christopher Gray (June 6, 1999). "Streetscapes /Readers' Questions; Echoes of a Union Hall; Artificial Sunlight". New York City: New York Times. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  3. ^ John Koegel (2009). Music in German Immigrant Theater: New York City, 1840–1940. University Rochester Press. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  4. ^ Nancy Toff (2005). Monarch of the Flute: The Life of Georges Barrere. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  5. ^ Goldberg, Jacob (February 11, 2013). "Breaking the color line | Associated Musicians of Greater New York". Retrieved June 10, 2014. 

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.

External links[edit]