Does organizational membership matter?


Posted on September 5th, 2013 by Kristin Thomson in What We're Learning. 1 Comment

Membership levels among interviewees

Before we can examine the effects, we need to understand how common membership is.

Some, but not all, of our eighty interviewees were members of at least one organization. Almost all of those who wrote songs or composed music belonged to a PRO, and those interviewees who did consistent session work or were a member of an orchestra belonged to AFM or SAG-AFTRA. Additionally, a healthy number of interviewees said they were members of SoundExchange.

For some interviewees, however, membership in organizations was not considered necessary, or it simply didn’t make sense based on their career arc. When asked about union membership, a jazz performer said:

“The only friends in my field who do AFM are those who end up doing a lot of show work. It’s too bad. Politically I’m very pro union, but in the reality of my working life there’s very little work I do that would be under union structures …”
– Jazz composer and performer

Sometimes decisions about membership depend on managing scarce resources effectively – that can include money, time and relevancy. A classical manager said:

“We have in the past been members of groups like Chamber Music America and The Early Music Society, because the group was founded to do early music, and Chorus America is the only one that we’re a member of now because, frankly, in tough times I have to evaluate the usefulness of these memberships and the Chorus America one is the one that’s the most relevant to us.”

Another manager that we interviewed summed it up:

“I encourage them to join but unfortunately a lot of times with artists—and I found this to be the case, male, female—is that it only becomes important to them when it’s relevant or relative to them.”
– Urban/hip hop manager

Membership levels among survey respondents

On the survey, we asked respondents whether they belonged to any music-related organizations. We split the question into two categories:

  1. Membership in any performance rights organizations – ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, foreign PROs and/or SoundExchange.
  2. Membership in any of 24 musician-focused organizations. This included the unions AFM and AFTRA, as well as genre- and role- specific associations.

The list was a composite of organizations that FMC has encountered or worked with over our history, and whose constituents are primarily US-based musicians, composers, performers or songwriters. Most of these organizations have “members” that pay annual dues, but some would be better described as affinity groups [note 2]. Survey respondents were also given the opportunity to manually enter the names of organizations that were not on the checklist.

Membership in performance rights organizations

Just over a third of survey respondents – 38% – reported belonging to at least one composer PRO and/or SoundExchange.

membershipPRO.002

The most popular composer PRO was ASCAP, closely followed by BMI. But, the largest percentage of respondents – 62% – were not a member of any PRO or SoundExchange.

Why would musicians not join one of these groups, which are each conduits for income? The survey data cannot tell us the specific reasons, but there are some that we heard from interviewees and other peers:

  1. Not applicable: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are organizations that represent songwriters, composers and publishers. Survey respondents who are neither composers nor songwriters would have no reason to join one of these composer PROs. Similarly, salaried performers, session players and background musicians would not need to join SoundExchange, as any royalties due to them would flow through the AFM/AFTRA Fund.
  2. Not aware:  In other cases, awareness is an issue. For instance, SoundExchange collects millions of dollars of digital performance royalties, which it then pays to featured performers. However, SoundExchange has only been in existence for ten years, and broad awareness of the organization and why musicians should join is still needed.
  3. On to-do list: There’s also a problem of busy musicians setting aside precious time to gather the information needed to complete the application process. During our interviews, a number of respondents told us they had started but not finished the SoundExchange signup process, either finding it too cumbersome or too time consuming to complete.
  4. Not interested: There’s a small group of creators who do not think it’s necessary to join any of these organizations in order to further their career.
Membership in musician-focused organizations

Let’s move on to the second membership question, which included 24 organizations, and space for respondents to type in additional organizations not on the list.

membershiporgs.003

Over two thirds of respondents – 67% — were members of at least one music organization. The top ten answers were:

Organization (sorted) Number Percent of survey pop*
American Federation of Musicians (AFM)

2615

48.7%

Recording Academy (NARAS)

298

5.5%

American Composers Forum

246

4.6%

Chamber Music America

244

4.5%

All About Jazz

201

3.7%

Jazz Educators’ Network

176

3.3%

AFTRA

160

3.0%

American Music Center

159

3.0%

Screen Actors Guild (SAG)

110

2.0%

Just Plain Folks

109

2.0%

*Column percentage totaling more than 67% accounts for respondents who were members of more than one of these organizations.

Nearly half of the respondents belonged to AFM. Second on the list was the Recording Academy, with nearly 300 member respondents. Below that were role-specific groups like American Composers Forum, and genre-specific groups like Chamber Music America, Jazz Education Network, All About Jazz, and Folk Alliance.

Combining these PRO and organizational lists together illustrates the range of membership. Note that many respondents were members of more than one organization.

Organizations + PROs (sorted) Number Percent of survey pop*
American Federation of Musicians (AFM)

2615

48.7%

ASCAP

1024

19.1%

BMI

907

16.9%

SoundExchange

348

6.5%

Recording Academy (NARAS)

298

5.5%

American Composers Forum

246

4.6%

Chamber Music America

244

4.5%

All About Jazz

201

3.7%

Jazz Educators’ Network

176

3.3%

AFTRA

160

3.0%

*Column percentage totaling more than 100% accounts for respondents who were members of more than one organization.

No memberships at all

While we asked about PRO membership and organizational membership in separate questions, it is possible to combine the answers from these two questions together measure how many respondents were members of nothing at all.

membershipsnonjoiners.004

Over a fifth – 1114 respondents – were non-joiners. In other words, they did not belong to any organizations or PROs, and they did not type in an answer for either a PRO or an organization.

But consider the other number in this calculation; nearly 80% of respondents were a member of at least one organization. In fact, many were members of more than one.

membershipdistribution.005

For respondents who indicated belonging to two organizations (N=886), some of the common pairings were ASCAP + SoundExchange (N=137) and BMI + SoundExchange (N=148). Also:

  • 77% of those who said they were members of the Recording Academy were also members of a PRO (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or SoundExchange).
  • 78% of those who said they were members of AFTRA were also members of AFM.
  • 81% of those who said they were members of American Composers Forum were also members of a PRO (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or SoundExchange).
  • 81% of those who said they were members of Meet the Composer were also members of a PRO (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or SoundExchange).
  • 68% of those who were members of Chamber Music America were also members of the AFM.

For the most part, these pairings make sense; composers who are members of a professional composer organization are highly likely to be members of a PRO, and it’s presumed that many members of Chamber Music America also have a reason to be members of the AFM, which is very active in the classical freelancer world.

There are endless ways to explore membership combinations. But let’s move on to the more poignant question; do these memberships make a difference in earning capacity?

________

[Note 2] In November 2011, the American Music Center and Meet The Composer merged to form a new organization called New Music USA, with an expansive mission to support and advocate for new music in the United States. Immediately previous to the merger, all AMC memberships were transferred to the American Composers Forum. New Music USA does not have members.

Next: Analyzing membership






One response to “Does organizational membership matter?”

  1. […] Does organisational membership matter? This material was first presented at Music: Parts and Labor conference at New York University in April 2012 and examines the relationship between organisational membership and income. […]