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Joining the musicians' union...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by thrash_jazz, Apr 17, 2003.


  1. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I have been thinking about doing this - I am told it is one of the easier ways to find gigs, but I have no experience whatsoever with musicians' unions.

    What are the dues like?
    Can you join if you have a non-music-related full-time job, as I do?
    What are the advantages and disadvantages?

    Thanks in advance :)
     
  2. NJL

    NJL

    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    Do you do a lot of recording?

    Do you tour or do local gigs?

    Member, Local 23

    Pro's:

    Contract safety

    Pension (stongest in the industry) - freelancers can now get pension on gigs. before, you had to be incorporated to get pension on casual gigs, now there is a new form to get pension with out being incorporated

    networking

    insurance for your gear (in the states - your homeowners ins won't cover your gear - they will find out you are a pro and say "you ain't covered buddy!" our insurance recognizes you as a pro musician)

    local, regional and national contracts already negotiated (i would have to explain how it works for new use)

    other stuff - pm me for a full scoop
     
  3. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I've been on the local scene here for a year and a bit and have been trying to get noticed as a freelancer. I've done this mostly by networking at jam sessions and open stages, and it's starting to work a bit, but I heard that joining the union might be a helpful asset, especially when dealing with pro acts.
     
  4. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    If you tour with a backup band, its nearly a necessity. If you do session work or piecemeal studio work, its nearly a necessity.

    If you play in bar bands in your own city, its not likely to do you any good.
     
  5. NJL

    NJL

    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    if you were to join, would it be the local 180?
     
  6. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    This is exactly the kind of scene I'm looking to get into. Do you mean that it's a necessity in terms of finding these gigs, or in terms of not getting screwed in the process?

    So how do I join? Is it really as simple as calling them up, paying dues, and Bob's my uncle? Or is it more complicated...?

    I am already a member of the union at my day job - would this get in the way? Can I be in two unions at once?
     
  7. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Errr... I really have no idea - I was looking at the local Musicians' Federation. I don't think that's the same as your AFM, but then again I know almost nothing on this subject.
     
  8. NJL

    NJL

    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    most locals don't have booking agencies, but do referals. in the US, you have to have two sets of books, one for the local union and one for the booking agency. why?

    local union - non-profit
    booking agency - for-profit

    if you are looking for gigs, get an agent. if you want protection, join the union, but remember the local in your area may have a booking agency

    to join, just fill out an app; dues are paid on a yearly or quarterly basis and in the US are tax deductable

    in the US, you can be a member of any Union you want and as many as you want
     
  9. NJL

    NJL

    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    The AFM is the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada.

    What city and province do you live in?
     
  10. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Ottawa, Ontario :bassist:
     
  11. NJL

    NJL

    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    Musicians Association of Ottawa-Hull
    Local 180
    485 Bank Street
    Ottawa, ON K2P 1Z2


    this should be the local nearest you; they have about 800 members

    any more questions?
     
  12. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Thanks man! :) That's actually the same one I had looked up earlier...
     
  13. NJL

    NJL

    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    thrash, you have a pm with info to your questions about the musicians union

    cheers!
     
  14. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Thanks for the reply Ed!

    I wasn't thinking so much of "gigs rolling in" as a result of being in the union so much as having a better idea of what types of gigs are available as a result of being in the union. As a result, I'd have a better idea of what to work towards, if that makes any sense.

    Also, wouldn't it be helpful from a networking standpoint?

    What advantages have you found to being in the union, other than the credit thingy? Any major disadvantages?

    (Nojazzloco - you already answered these questions via PM :) but I'm just curious as to Ed's take on this)
     
  15. ConU

    ConU

    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    I've played some major venues here and in the states,had an H1 temporary visa to work in the states ,played on 2 major label albums,more clubs than I care to remember and I've never been asked for a card.I think like Ed said,if it comes up that you need it,just join.As far as I know,none of the clubs in Ottawa require cards.Not a bad idea to join though,if you want,just don't see the point unless it's required.The one here in Quebec is tied up in some power struggle from what I know.
    Go to a club and ask the owner to pay you scale:eek:
     
  16. NJL

    NJL

    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    It really boils down to if you want to be musician or treat your musical career as a business, the union has great benefits to offer and is a tool for your tool box.

    Only you can make that decision; when you have time, drop by the local office and talk to the staff and see what happens.

    Yeah, I have some gripes about my union, but I won't just give up. I am able to voice my opinion if I want too and I do. If i really wanted to be hardcore about making a change, I would run for the board.

    Also, when it comes to scales, i'm sure Ed meant to say that the rank and file members of the union set the scale, by way of vote. In your instance, the members of the local in your city set scales for local gigs.

    The members set scales even for national and regional contracts.

    my $.02
     
  17. rumblethump

    rumblethump Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    Pioneer CA. 95666
    Being brought up in a very Unionized location, it was necessary to join. I moved 30 years ago to a more rural location, and have not needed to be in the union since. I would join only if I HAD to. Millions of dollars has been paid into the musicians union trust fund from record royalties and dues. If you want to want to get ruled out of order, ask at a union meeting how much is in that fund and what is being done with it? You will also find out that many clubs can't or won't sign union contracts because they can't or won't pay union scale. JMHO YMMV :bag:

    PS: you can join as many unions as you like, they all will happily take your money.
     
  18. Although I have nothing against unions and honestly don't know much about them, I've never run into an instance where it would have helped me to be in a union. I know a lot of bands and musicians in the Southeast, so I get a lot of calls from people looking for musicians. I've almost always played in a band (rather than doing fill in work), but I've never had any trouble getting into a working band. I guess my point is if you're looking for work, getting out and meeting other musicians will probably do more for you than just joining a union. If you're joining a union to meet people, that's a different story. I think people are most likely to call a guy they know to fill in if they know someone (that's what we do whenever we need someone to fill in for a night).
    -Wade