Puneet Varma (Editor)

American Federation of Musicians

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76,290 (2015)


Full name
American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada

October 19, 1896; 120 years ago (1896-10-19)

Key people
Raymond M. Hair Jr., president

Office location
New York City, New York, U.S.

The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM/AFofM) is a labor union representing professional musicians in the United States and Canada. The AFM, which has its headquartered in New York City, is led by president Raymond M. Hair, Jr. Founded in Cincinnati in 1896 as the successor to the "National League of Musicians," the AFM is the largest organization in the world to represent professional musicians. They negotiate fair agreements, protect ownership of recorded music, secure benefits such as health care and pension, and lobby legislators. In the US, it is the American Federation of Musicians (AFM)—and in Canada, the Canadian Federation of Musicians/Fédération canadienne des musiciens (CFM/FCM). The AFM is affiliated with AFL–CIO, the largest federation of Unions in the United States; and the Canadian Labour Congress, the federation of unions in Canada.


The Musical Mutual Protective Union of New York became Local 301 of the American Federation of Musicians in 1902. In 1904, the local had 5,000 members, who were almost entirely German. In 1910, approximately 300 black musicians were members in the roughly 8,000-member local. The local lost its charter and was disbanded in 1921.

Among the most famous AFM actions was a ban on all commercial recording by members in 1942–44, to pressure record companies to agree to a better arrangement for paying royalties. This was sometimes called the "Petrillo ban", because James Petrillo was the newly elected head of the union. Petrillo organized a second recording ban in 1948 (from January 1 to December 14), in response to the Taft–Hartley Act.

Early history

The American Federation of Labor recognized the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) in 1896. In 1900, the American Federation of Musicians modified its name to "American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada". The AFM is now one of the most recognized labor unions in America and Canada.

The downfall of the 1900s

In the early 1900s, record companies produced recordings and musicians profited. However, around World War I, general unemployment also affected musicians. Movies displaced some traditional entertainments, and were silent films. Because of that, the declining economy, and other factors, many musicians were laid off.

By the end of the 1920s, many factors had reduced the number of recording companies. As the nation recovered from World War I, technology advanced and there was diversity in recording and producing music. This encouraged the American Federation of Musicians. AFM was motivated to bring music awareness of music to the public. In 1938, the American Federation of Musicians established signed an agreement with motion pictures companies.

Birth to a new generation, 1960s

The early 1960s marked a new beginning to the music industry. Rock and roll became mainstream in the 1960s. After the second World War, American culture entered the baby boom era. Rock and roll brought an explosion to the music industry market. It became "mainstream" music, proving its popularity through record sales.

By 1970s, North American music had divided in into more genres than ever before. As more genres were entered the market, record sales accelerated as well. Earlier genres such as classical, jazz, and rhythm and blues contributed to new sounds such as gospel, rap, and hip hop.

20th century, New millennium

A hundred years after its founding, the American Federation of Musicians continues to grow. It has nearly 20,000 members in each region.

The AFM is active in trying to prevent plagiarism and illegal downloading. The sheer volume of recording industry output contributes to the possibility that songs might overlap in sound, melody, or other details of composition. Also, as Internet and technology advances and becomes easily accessible, it is easier for people to share the music online. Illegal downloading is a serious matter, yet hard to regulate.


There are several AFM departments:

  • Administration offices (Presidents, Secretary)
  • Education
  • Symphonic
  • Legislative
  • International
  • Immigration
  • Each department strives to assist and develop strategies that help members and the public.


    The main American Federation of Musicians headquarters is in New York City. AFM has branches in Los Angeles, Hawaii, Washington, Toronto, and hundreds of small branches in smaller cities throughout the United States and Canada.


    According to the AFM's Department of Labor records since 2006, when membership classification was first reported, around 81%, or three quarters, of the union's membership are "regular" members, who are eligible to vote for the union. In addition to the other voting eligible "life" and "youth" classifications, the "inactive" members have the rights of active union members except that "they shall not be allowed to vote or hold office" according to the bylaws in exchange for the rate less than "life" members. As of 2015, this accounts for 64,163 "regular members" (84% of total), 10,505 "life" members (14%), 756 "inactive" members (1%) and 866 "youth" members (1%).


    The current president of the AFM is Ray Hair. As of 2016, the executive committee consists of the following AFM members: John Acosta, Tino Gagliardi, Tina Morrison, Joe Parente and Dave Pomeroy.


  • 1896–1900 Owen Miller
  • 1900–1914 Joseph Weber
  • 1914–1915 Frank Carothers
  • 1915–1940 Joseph Weber
  • 1940–1958 James C. Petrillo
  • 1958–1970 Herman D. Kenin
  • 1970–1978 Hal Davis
  • 1978–1987 Victor Fuentealba
  • 1987–1991 Martin Emerson
  • 1991–1995 Mark Massagli
  • 1995–2001 Steve Young
  • 2001–2010 Tom Lee
  • 2010–present Ray Hair
  • References

    American Federation of Musicians Wikipedia