By Paul E. Almeida, President, DPE
In conjunction with AFM’s recent convention in Las Vegas, a Career Conference was held. I was fortunate to see first hand how AFM reached out to aspiring musicians to help them better understand how the music industry works. The conference successfully brought these musicians together with professional musicians to learn more about the music business. AFM is to be commended for initiating this program to share with others the knowledge they have about the complexity of the music industry.
Such programs are vital because while young musicians may be taught to play, they often are not taught how to make a living from their music. Students need to know that AFM protects the rights of musicians. They need to know that without the scale for musician pay established by AFM, their pay would be much less.
Today, performing artists face working conditions characterized by no security, sporadic employment, multiple employers, low income, intense competition and frequent rejection — as well as excitement and glamour and, occasionally, fame and rich rewards. DPE research has shown that musicians experience widely divergent earnings, with symphony orchestras paying between $22,000 and $100,000 in the 1999-2000 season. By 2008, employment projections for musicians will reach 314,000, up from 273,000 in 1998.
AFM pioneered efforts to secure for musicians a share in the increased revenue created by new technology that exploits their work. In the 1940s, AFM negotiated with the recording industries to provide a Music Performance Trust Fund that uses employer contributions to underwrite free musical events across the country, thus promoting the employment of musicians and use of live music. In addition, it negotiated the AFM Theatrical and Television, Motion Picture Special Payments Fund and the Phonograph Record Manufacturers Special Payments Fund, which provide payments to musicians from the sale of their recorded work. In the last decade, AFM lobbied for changes in U.S. Copyright law so that musicians could receive royalties from the use made of their works that are digitally recorded.
These accomplishments required constant lobbying to reform outdated copyright laws, as technological changes make it easier and cheaper to pirate, counterfeit or bootleg performers’ work. Through unions, musicians are devising creative ways to adapt to these technologies while protecting their professions and themselves.
As people adapt to the concept that an idea can be owned, copyright policies need to reflect that. As technology provides yet another way to share music, so must we provide a way to compensate the creator. DPE believes that creators should be properly rewarded, honored, and respected for what they contribute. If they’re not, eventually all of society suffers.
Belonging to AFM is important for professional musicians, because it allows them the opportunity to work together and cooperate with their colleagues. Being involved with DPE helps AFM find empathetic allies, not only with other entertainment unions but also with all unions representing professional workers. Through DPE, AFM has a platform to address issues critical to its members and a vehicle to convey those concerns through the AFL-CIO to the labor community at large.
As technology changes at an alarming rate, as free marketeers continually change the marketplace, as intellectual property and creative rights are attacked, and as business pressures from right-sizing to down-sizing place constraints on workers, now more than ever professionals need to come together to protect their professions and their professional dignity. DPE works with its 23 affiliated national and international unions representing more than 4 million professionals to do just that.