Believe it or not, there actually is something called the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), under the aegis of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). The union has forged many collective bargaining agreements that benefited musicians, but it seems there was always an uneasy relationship between union leadership and rank and file. In jazz especially, racial problems were ongoing, with union chapters in every American city segregated through most of the 20th century (The desegregation of Boston's unions only happened in 1970). I understand the AFM using its website to try and put a positive spin on the union's history, but racially, it's a complete whitewash and at this point, it seems depleted as a cultural force.
But you know, we musicians have been all too ready to cut each others throats and not to act collectively.
Of course, this makes us no different from any other group of people who must divide up a pie that's increasingly too small-noblesse oblige only comes with a surplus of money. But this attitude has made the vast majority of musician's lives way too wracked with dues-paying.
You Know Who
Well, damn. Who doesn't want someone else to look out for their own personal interests-Get me on a label that can plug my efforts. Get me an agent who gets me the good gigs. Get me a manager who looks out for my interests.
You Know Who
Musicians have been opting for what is essentially an elitist approach to the business of music, buying into The Fame Myth and aggravating the economic disparity between those few who have Made It and the much larger group which is serious about the music, but must constantly scuffle.
The internet has opened up entrepreneurial possibilities for many musicians-largely for the younger, tech-savvy ones. But what we really need is an attitude adjustment. Or, when it comes to getting our collective due, maybe we simply need more attitude.
Many of us aren't cut out for a lot of confrontation, but if we stand together, a representative of our union, guild, association, or collective could bring the bargaining skills we need.
The Fame Myth is a shaky foundation to base your life and art on, so, just let it go... My 12-part cassette series will help. Available now for 4 easy payments of just $19.99.