[Dixielandjazz] Summer days on the DJML and the AFM

Bill Gunter jazzboard at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 15 09:44:31 PDT 2004

Hi listmates,

I've also notice a diminution in DJML postings. Referring to this, Dave 
Hanson writes:

>The lack of email from this august body indicates to me that we don't have 
>any interesting topics to discuss. Perhaps this might be . . .

And, on the other hand, perhaps not. I've notice this before in the depths 
of summer. Outdoor activites tend to take over. A trip to the mountains, 
gardening, fishing, hiking etc. etc. etc. tend to take precedence over the 
daily routine of sitting hunched over a damn keyboard writing who knows what 
to the DJML.

I'll attribute the dearth of postings to summer doldrums rather than a lack 
of interesting topics.

But Dave Gravatt did respond with a provacative question on the good and bad 
aspects of the Musicians' Union.

Over the time I have been gigging I've noticed the clout of the Union 
diminished to the point where a once fairly powerful force has been reduced 
to a relatively weak one.

Once organizations get established and a hierarchy is installed the 
organization can fall prey to the bureaucratic phenomenon and then it's easy 
for a bit of curruption to sneak in and those in power may be tempted to use 
the organization for their own purposes.

Case in point: A dance band I know of belonged to an AFM chapter. Everyone, 
leader, sidemen -- everyone. They sort of had an understanding that, being 
staunch union supporters, they would get a fair share of gigs when clients 
phoned the union to recommend a band for some event they were planning. It 
became apparent to the band members after a while that NO gigs were coming 
from such sources.

The bandleader had his wife phone the union office and, posing as a client 
looking for a particular sort of dance band, one that played all the old 
standards, asked if they could recommend someone.

The Union agent said that they could and proceded to recommend a band that 
just happened to be led by the president of the chapter. The bandleader's 
wife then said something to the effect that she had heard of a band named 
(she mentioned her husband's band at this point) and did the Union agent 
know about them. The agent said that band was not too bad, but that the one 
she really wanted to book was the better band (the one led by the Union 

The leader's wife, being steered away from her husband's band and directed 
to the Union guy's band, said "Thank you for the information and hung up." 
She related the experience to her husband and the band and they all got 
totally pissed off and resigned their union membership en masse . . . every 
one of them!

Brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?

I certainly don't mean to imply that all local chapters are corrupt, but 
what do you know about the leadership of your local and what is their record 
when it comes to supporting the efforts of the musician members.

What do you suppose the percentage of working musicians (those that gig on a 
fairly regular basis) who belong to the AFM is compared to the total number 
of musicians? I don't know the answer but I would hazard a guess that it is 
relatively small as compared to 40 years ago.

Anyone have any information on that?

Respectfully submitted,

Bill "Some of my best friends are union members" Gunter
jazzboard at hotmail.com

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