May 28, 2024
Join Union
I’ve been doing everything by myself or on my own and having success thus far. Texas is a Right-To-Work state. Why should I join the Musician’s Union in Austin?
The international American Federation of Musicians has been around since 1896 with membership in all parts of the United States and Canada ranging from smaller rural areas to the biggest cities, and it has been at the bargaining table for local, state and federal policies. You are joining a local professional organization that is part of an international organization with collective bargaining power that has been fighting for your rights for over 120 years.

Membership in AFM provides you with access to (partial list):
1. Pension. With proper documentation, you and your employers can contribute to your own pension fund. It is never too early to think about retirement. As much as we all love music, there will come a time when we may want to be in a position where we can slow down a bit and not have to work.

2. Recording Revenue and Residuals. The AFM protects musicians now AND in the future with a fair wage today and the necessary documentation and protection to ensure that all musicians are compensated when their work is republished or reused. We can only be in one place at one time, and there is income to be made that doesn’t involve being on a stage.

3. Instrument insurance. AFM offers very reasonable insurance policies to its members. Typically, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance does NOT cover your instruments or gear. If something happens to your instrument on a gig, and that instrument is your livelihood, you need to be protected. AFM Instrument Insurance can offer a lower rate than other providers because it considers your Union Membership to be a reduction of risk.

4. Contracts. The AFM has hundreds of contracts that will fit just about any performance situation. Are you recording an overdub track for a client from your home due to the pandemic? There’s a contract for that. Are you booking a club gig out of town? There’s a contract for that, too. Are you playing an outdoor wedding reception? There’s a contract. All contracts have been approved by a team of lawyers, and you have the backing of the union if the terms are not met as specified.

5. Democratic structure. Transparent funding.
All officials are nominated and elected by the membership. There are monthly treasury reports and minutes available from Executive Board meetings. There are strict bylaws and rules for how money is or can be received and spent. All members have a voice, and your input is valued.

6. Solidarity. You will be part of a longstanding professional organization that looks out for you. In turn, you will have the tools and know-how to help others. Our voice is strongest when we band together. Musicians in The Union understand their value and do not pay to play or play for free. Union Musicians have the information needed to negotiate good jobs and to turn down substandard work. Union Musicians have a love and passion for their art, while consciously working toward making it more valuable.
Why should I join The Musician’s Union?
Joining a union means that you believe that all musicians and performers should be treated with the dignity and respect that the art form deserves, and together, we can have the strength to uphold the standards and values we expect.
You are a musician (artistic, creative).
You are also a professional (business, finance, scheduling).
You deserve good wages, guaranteed working conditions, healthcare, legal advice, and secure retirement. It is through collective action and advocacy that musicians gain the power to attain a healthy and secure living which will allow us the freedom to pursue our artistic goals and a fulfilling career.
How much does it cost to be a member of Austin’s AFM Local 433?
- New members $205 (six months of membership dues + initiation fees)
- Existing members $190 if paid annually every January, or $200 annually
- Best Value, Per Article 9, Section 2b of the AFM Bylaws:
When all non-AFM members of a self-contained band or musical unit (consisting of two or more musicians) make applications together to join The Union, the total cost to join AFM Local 433 is only $100.00 per member. This is a huge savings whereas your group does not have to pay the Local Initiation Fee of $40.00 or the National Initiation Fee of $65.00.
What if I am having financial hardship and struggling to pay my dues?
Your Local Office is here to help! Get in touch to let the office know about your situation and we will do our very best to come up with a plan that works for you.
What do union dues pay for?
Union dues pay for the organization, services, and structure that the union provides at the local and national level: Negotiating and administering contracts, resolving conflicts in the workplace, pursuing grievances when resolutions cannot be found, contract enforcement, low-cost instrument loans, a subscription to the International Musician magazine, as well as fair wages and benefits for the staff who maintain these benefits.
Will the union get me work in Austin?
Short answer: no. The union office does get calls for referrals or specific requests, there are annual performance opportunities as well as funded concert series that specifically feature union members, but on the whole, the union is not a booking agency.
Aren’t unions inherently political?
This is a common overgeneralization. Unionizing is simply organizing. Clubs, corporations, and companies are organized. Unions are made of and by their members. They are democratic. A union simply brings organization to the goals of a community. Unions are responsible for a 40 hour work week, minimum wage, child labor laws, maternity leave, sick leave— these are accepted standards of day to day employment that unions had to fight for. Even though many in the workforce aren’t in a union, they are directly benefiting from the work unions have done and continue to do.
Should I play for free in Austin?
No, however, there may be certain instances where you may want to donate your time and talents for various fundraisers or charity events.
Should I pay to play in Austin?
No. Absolutely not. Under no circumstances.
Why should I use a contract?
You may be the most creative person under the sun, but you’re also professional. When you leave your home to perform or record, you are providing a service with agreed upon terms. Don’t leave anything to chance. Using a contract is good business. Nobody rents an apartment with just an email. Nobody buys a new car with just a text. Contracts don’t just ensure you are protected, they are a guarantee for your client that YOU will meet all of their expectations as well. In order to contribute to your pension for services rendered, you must have a contract on file with the union office.
Will I alienate Austin venues if I ask them to sign a contract for a show with a door deal?
Simply because it hasn’t been done in the past, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done in the future. Any club or venue worth playing should not have any hesitation with using a contract. Again, it protects both you (artist) and the club (client/purchaser). A club/venue absolutely operates with written contracts for other facets of their business (rent, license to sell alcohol, insurance, etc.) and their live music should not be an exception. Sometimes the individual booking the entertainment on behalf of the club is not in a position to sign a contract, but they can put you in touch with somebody that is. In order to pay into your pension, you must have the paperwork complete. If you approach a venue with a contract as a way to let them know that you’re trying to take care of yourself, your musicians, and that this is a protection for both sides with clear expectations, this is often all the persuasion that is needed since there is no further investment from the club.
Hypothetical: There is a club in downtown Austin that offers a $100 guarantee for bands for two hours of work. Should I take it?
The union is working to educate both musicians and venues that this model is neither fair or financially sustainable. While there might be zero nefarious intent on the part of the venue (it’s an equally difficult business), and it might believe it is providing a service and a stage for musicians, a club\'s business should not be subsidized at the expense of musicians being able to earn a living wage for their work.

First, you are a professional, and like any other occupation, you are being paid for your talent AND your time— not just the time you are on stage.
Suppose a club offers a guarantee $100 per band for two 60 minute sets of music from 8pm to 10:30pm, there’s no cover charge, and your group has 4 members. Each musician stands to earn $25 for the evening.
There is the commute to the gig, parking, load in, setup and soundcheck (leave house at 6pm rush hour for a 7pm load in), park, perform from 8-9pm, take a 30 minute break, perform from 9:30 to 10:30pm, a tear down and load-out (ends 11:30pm), and you are home by midnight. Assume each member is getting to the gig on their own and has to pay for parking which takes about $40 off the top, so each musician is now actually splitting $60 instead of the initial $100, which comes out to $15 per musician for a 5.5 hour commitment— $2.72 per hour.

The minimum wage in Texas is $7.25/hour. If the club paid each musician even the minimum wage, they would earn double ($39 total, subtract $10 for parking, $29 remains per musician) for the same amount of work
What is a pension and how do I contribute to it?
A pension is income that you set aside while you\'re working so you will get a monthly paycheck when you retire. Unions of working people advocate for strong pensions, expanded Social Security benefits and adequate wages so people can build up retirement savings over the course of their careers. (AFL-CIO) This differs from an IRA or 401k. When you retire, you are eligible to receive your pension benefits. A percentage of your income generated through live performances, live streams, teaching a lesson or masterclass, recording on a song or album, is eligible to be put toward your pension.
What does The Union have to do with safety protocols with CBA groups?
Union Groups that have a Collective Bargaining Agreement are able to negotiate safety protocols and working conditions as part of their contract with the employer with assistance from experienced negotiators and lawyers that are employed by The Union. All of the musicians then vote on the ratification of such measures resulting in a workplace that is safe for everyone. Don’t sign a liability waiver, Unionize!
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