Historically, the AFM was the place to be to get anything done with music performance; or so that's what I heard growing up. But I don't hear much about it now. This was even the case while I was working on my undergraduate degree in music performance surrounded by professional performers.

I understand it provided some benefits, and protection like all unions, but in this privatized day and age, is it still worthwhile to have an affiliation with a musician's union? Do they offer benefits you simply can not receive without affiliation?

Are people being refused service because of being in one? Not being in one?

I purely want to see what benefits (or lack thereof) they offer to performing musicians.

  • How can this be opinion based when I've only stated I'm looking at facts and literal benefits of being/not being in the union? As a union, their white sheets are quite evident and plenty of perks can be addressed in certain. – user6164 Jan 21 '16 at 15:21
  • Real-world cases with real musicians can assert these perks or refute them without opinion. – user6164 Jan 21 '16 at 15:27
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    This is an interesting question, but it seems really broad to me. Should a rock band guitarist join a union? A famous soloist? A back-row violinist? The benefits to one will be worthless to another. – Josiah Jan 21 '16 at 16:39
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    I would guess any benefits would simply be member benefits they offer. I know that many clubs and bars don't want to hire musicians that are members of PRO's because they don't want to pay the PRO's. So in some cases being a member of certain organizations who purport to protect your rights (so they can make a profit) may actually close doors for you as a performing musician. Join the union and get the t-shirt - but don't tell anyone you are a member. That's just my opinion. – Rockin Cowboy Jan 21 '16 at 21:09
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    What do you mean by “this privatized age?” If that has a meaning, please explain it with examples. If it is meaningless, please edit it out. “The modern day” is also essentially meaningless without explanation and examples. – Simon White Jan 27 '16 at 23:27

My essential list of organisations to belong to as a musician in the UK includes the PRS and PPL in order to be paid royalties (like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC in the US) and the Musician's Union for the following:

  • Instrument insurance as Tim mentioned
  • £1million public liability insurance (quite important to a band with pyro...)
  • legal and contract advice
  • free hearing tests
  • free music industry seminars
  • free general guidance

And various other benefits including networking opportunities. I would assume the equivalent unions in other countries would offer similar.

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Don't know about other countries, but in U.K. there's the Musicians' Union. As a member, I was entitled to £2,000 of instrument insurance, topped up if necessary, which was a nice thing to have. The M.U. habitually chased up promoters who still owed money for performances, and warned against bad promoters. On occasions, I could get a pro-forma for contracts for gigs. Some gigs needed all band players to be members, work for t.v., etc. A minimum fee was stipulated - but for 'ordinary' gigs, often undercut. Membership was free for those in full time education. An amount, £1000 I think, was available towards funeral costs for paid up members. Something to die for!

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In the USA, orchestra musicians belong to the American Federation of Musicians as a matter of course. The AFM is location-based and oriented towards professionals such as studio, show and classical musicians. Other musicians can join AFM Local 1000. Check out the website for the benefits.

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