So my private teacher told me when I was in HS that it's up to your situation whether to join or not (he was a lifetime member, playing & conducting in the NYC area). So I joined in 1973 age 19. Over the years I even bought the $5 union pin and wore it proudly. Around 1999 or so the summer series concerts I always played started to be covered more by cheques than by union MPTF. We all know that the MPFT suffered greatly when people started downloading music (legally & illegally) and stopped buying discs. By 2003-4 there were almost no MPTF concerts, and several bands I played in petered out. In 2008 I wrote the then President of A.F. of M., asking him why I should continue paying my $180 US yearly dues, as it now almost equaled two of the 7 concerts' pay that I was now doing (used to be 15+ concerts...). He wrote back (don't THINK it was a form letter). Said 2 reasons--One was that the A.F. of M. didn't exist only for people like me who do MPTF concerts--he went on to list other fuctions of the union (like I didn't know that). Second reason was that I should continue to be a member to support my fellow musicians who were members. Yes--that is a really good reason.... Our Secretary said back in '08 that I could re-join any time I wanted. Hasn't happened. In one of the last issues I got of the International Musician mag. there was an article about the union signing a deal (finally?) with the recording industry (I guess) that a % of downloaded music purchases would go into the MPTF. We haven't seen any of the money here yet. If you google MPTF you'll find they talk about it like it was in the "old days". "2000 concerts for the public free of charge"--2000 in all of the US and Canada....? You also can get MPTF money by playing in schools, other institutions--apparently they agree to pay $ to MPTF and in turn that $ goes to the players. As a Band teacher back then we used to hire groups to play for our students and paid them with District or fund raising monies. Who needed MPTF a a millde man to do that?