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 that represents professional musicians in the United States and Canada. The AFM is headquartered in New York City. Its president is 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).[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 and was disbanded in 1921.[2]

Among the most famous AFM actions was a ban on all commercial recording by members in 1942–44, to pressure record companies to agree to a better arrangement for paying royalties. This was sometimes called the "Petrillo ban", because James Petrillo was the newly elected head of the union.[6] Petrillo 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 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". The AFM is now one of the most recognized labor unions in America and Canada.

The downfall of the 1900s[edit]

In the early 1900s, record companies produced recordings and musicians profited. However, around World War I, general unemployment also affected musicians. Movies displaced some traditional entertainments, and were silent films. Because of that, the declining economy, and other factors, many musicians were laid off.

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 of music to the public. In 1938, the American Federation of Musicians established signed an agreement with motion pictures companies.

Birth to a new generation, 1960s[edit]

The early 1960s marked a new beginning to the music industry. Rock and roll became mainstream in the 1960s. After the second World War, American culture entered the baby boom era. Rock and roll brought an explosion to the music industry market. It became "mainstream" music, proving its popularity through record sales.

By 1970s, North American music had divided in into more genres than ever before. As more genres were entered the market, record sales accelerated as well. Earlier genres such as classical, jazz, and rhythm and blues contributed to new sounds such as gospel, rap, and hip hop.

20th century, New millennium[edit]

A hundred years after its founding, the American Federation of Musicians continues to grow. It has nearly 20,000 members in each region.

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 Internet and technology advances and becomes easily accessible, it is easier for people to share the music online. Illegal downloading is a serious matter, yet hard to regulate.


There are several AFM departments:

  • Administration offices (Presidents, Secretary)
  • Education
  • Symphonic
  • Legislative
  • International
  • Immigration

Each department strives to assist and develop strategies that help members and the public.


The main American Federation of Musicians headquarters is in New York City. AFM has branches in Los Angeles, Hawaii, Washington, Toronto, and hundreds of small branches in smaller cities throughout the United States and Canada.



  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. 
  6. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 13. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 

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]