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Why I quit A.F. of M. after 35 years

TMHeimer

Tom Heimer
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?
 

TMHeimer

Tom Heimer
Forgot to mention several others in the band I still play in quit the Local for the same reason. Wonder how many in total quit?
The "edit" thing doesn't last long enough.
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
Unions are either very good or very bad. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground. Most of the very bad ones, that aren't enforced by no hire methods are losing most of their member (I hear). Good luck with your decision making process. As a band founder, I have *many* of these kind of decisions to make for every concert.
 

Groovekiller

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
If you join the union to get jobs, you are joining for the wrong reason. Getting gigs is up to you and your abilities. The union helps to keep pay scales decent. MPTF gigs didn't stop because records & CDs didn't sell. MPTF gigs stopped because people quit the union.
 

TMHeimer

Tom Heimer
If you join the union to get jobs, you are joining for the wrong reason. Getting gigs is up to you and your abilities. The union helps to keep pay scales decent. MPTF gigs didn't stop because records & CDs didn't sell. MPTF gigs stopped because people quit the union.
Think I disagree about the MPTF. We had gobs of MPTF concerts since I joined in 1973-- right through the end of the century. Then all of a sudden for some reason so many quit the union at that time? IT WASN'T just those quitting like me, who only did MPTF concerts? I could be wrong, but that would be quite a coincidence. Our Local's Secretary said the MPTF was drying up because no one was buying records/tapes/then discs, as per the MPTF agreement decades earlier. Other union musicians agreed. Were they wrong?
Do you have statistics on how many MPTF concerts were funded in 1985 vs. in 2001?
Now, the 2000 yearly concerts MPTF says occur (on their website)--- If I alone played 15-20 in 1990 (Summer gigs ONLY), you'd have to think there were way more than 2000 throughout the US & Canada, no?
Do agree about why you join the union. When you accept a job teaching Band, you automatically are in a teachers union. The union didn't help you get the job, your credentials/experience did. You wouldn't join A.F. of M. unless your prospects for a job were good. My prospects for MPTF jobs petered out, so logically I quit.
 
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Groovekiller

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
I'm not going to get into a pissing contest about MPTF funding. The music biz was on life support in general. I'm not talking about weekend warriors. I'm talking about full time musicians who earn enough to live a middle vlass existence. That died as recording sessions that paid residuals slowly disappeared.That died when gigs that paid $100 in 1970 pay $100 in 2000.
In the past, if you played on a commercial for TV or radio, and the comnercial was used for a long time (13 weeks, I think,) you got paid more - forever. You paid work dues, which A. contributed to your pension, and B. gave the union more funding to, among other things, pay for MPTF gigs.
I did part of the sound track for the film "Something About Mary." It was a 3 hour UNION session. We got it done fast, no punching in and few retakes. As I remember, it paid about $300 - with residuals. The movie has been shown internationally so much that my residuals now total well over three THOUSAND dollars.
That's the way all musical gigs should be. If the gig makes a lot of money, the people who actually performed should get a piece of the action.
That's what unions did, but musicians began knifing each other in the back, something the union frowned upon, so musicians quit the union. Look at where we are now.
 

TMHeimer

Tom Heimer
If you join the union to get jobs, you are joining for the wrong reason. Getting gigs is up to you and your abilities. The union helps to keep pay scales decent. MPTF gigs didn't stop because records & CDs didn't sell. MPTF gigs stopped because people quit the union.
Think I disagree about the MPTF. We had gobs of MPTF concerts since I joined in 1973-- right through the end of the century. Then all of a sudden for some reason so many quit the union at that time? IT
I'm not going to get into a pissing contest about MPTF funding. The music biz was on life support in general. I'm not talking about weekend warriors. I'm talking about full time musicians who earn enough to live a middle vlass existence. That died as recording sessions that paid residuals slowly disappeared.That died when gigs that paid $100 in 1970 pay $100 in 2000.
In the past, if you played on a commercial for TV or radio, and the comnercial was used for a long time (13 weeks, I think,) you got paid more - forever. You paid work dues, which A. contributed to your pension, and B. gave the union more funding to, among other things, pay for MPTF gigs.
I did part of the sound track for the film "Something About Mary." It was a 3 hour UNION session. We got it done fast, no punching in and few retakes. As I remember, it paid about $300 - with residuals. The movie has been shown internationally so much that my residuals now total well over three THOUSAND dollars.
That's the way all musical gigs should be. If the gig makes a lot of money, the people who actually performed should get a piece of the action.
That's what unions did, but musicians began knifing each other in the back, something the union frowned upon, so musicians quit the union. Look at where we are now.
You are much more experienced and educated than I about the A.F. of M., it's functions and it's history. I only replied to the thread to tell my reason why I quit the union. I have explained that--it had nothing to do with the other very important aspects that you describe. I play in one summer concert band now, as opposed to several 20 years ago. The other people who quit the Local like I did, did so for the same reason. We weekend warriors quit AFTER the money from MPTF dried up completely--at least it did in our area. The band I still play in relies on funding from Parks Dept. and massive fund raising. We do a 7 concert season the last 20 years, as opposed to prior to that a 12 concert season fully funded by MPTF.
I did not know that there were, as you described, other sources of money that went into the fund. I was, perhaps wrongly, under the impression all these decades that all the money in MPTF came from a small % of each record/tape/disc that the public bought-- thus the reward was free live concerts for the public and gigs for weekend warriors.
But again, my reason for quitting was the end of the fund, not the other way around. I certainly was not going to do what the AFM Pres. said I should and continue to pay dues when the union did nothing for me, just to support all other members.
 
I was an AFofM member for years.

I was in a band playing in an upscale hotel in Miami Beach. We were the house band for the season, and on the weekends hitmakers that were past their prime would come in and do two shows. There was another lounge upstairs with a smaller group and plenty of conference rooms that held events.

One day the union rep came in and told us we couldn't play here any more, because there was a wedding in one of the conference rooms that was using a non-union band. We reminded him this was our season's work and if we quit we would not be able to get any work for the rest of the booked up season.

We asked him why he wasn't going after the headliners, and he said they weren't members of the Miami Local. We asked him why he wasn't recruiting the non-union band, and he said they refused.

He said if we continue playing there will be heavy fines every day we play.

We all handed in our resignation that night, and made it official the next day.

I haven't been a union member since. If the union isn't going to go to bat for me, they aren't getting any of my money.

Being in a set band, in a right to work state, and not depending on the union to get gigs, there is no reason to pay dues if they are going to attack me. We stayed in the club for the rest of the season, and never saw the rep again.

It's a shame the union didn't work for us.

Notes
 

TMHeimer

Tom Heimer
In response to Groovekiller's assesment that the MPTF disappeared because many quit the union, I followed up. I wrote MPTF and they said it does still exist (I knew that at least SOME funds existed), but that the Local I belonged to hasn't requested any monies for "a long time now" (that may explain why bands have dried up, reduced seasons, etc.). This is not what I was told by our Secretary and heard from other long time union members back in 2008. So, I wrote the Local's Secretary, who is the same guy as in 2008, and he knows me fairly well. I await his reply. Something's not right in Demmark (or in Westchester County). Maybe I owe Groovekiller and apology?
 
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