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Public Musicians Forum #9 Report

MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report

Report by Dawoud Kringle (with Ken Hatfiled) – Photos by Dawoud Kringle

MFM held its 9th Public Music Forum – and the last such meeting of 2018 – on Tuesday, November 27th, 2018 (which fell on Jimi Hendrix’ 76th birthday). The meeting was run by Billy Harper (MFM Board member) and Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi (MFM President). It began in an indistinct way; the agenda having almost given way to a free form discussion.

MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report

After some discussion where Ken Hatfield (MFM AC member) brought up the question of how MFM is perceived in the digital world, he and Saadat spoke about the importance of activism in the fight for musician rights.

One point that was brought up was that while the MMA has been passed, we’re not out of the woods yet. There are still a great many things that need to be addressed and watched (many of which were addressed in the DBDBD article and other DBDB articles). All said, it’s vitally important that musicians not rest on our laurels after the signing of the MMA. There are still many ways we can be taken advantage of, despite the progress that was made.

Some discussion was devoted to the Justice for Jazz Artists (J4JA) Campaign ran by Local 802. They are not operating under that name anymore.

An interesting question was posed: where are the young people? MFM is in desperate need of reaching the younger generation of musicians and music creators.

Some discussion was devoted to an academic internship. The advantage is that it delegates work do that all the responsibilities are not concentrated in one or two people. The drawback to this is how to get the money to pay for this (unpaid interns create a bad precedent that work for no remuneration is the norm – and is antithetical to MFM’s stance of musical professionalism and commerce). One possible source of income that was suggested was merchandise: MFM t-shirts, hats, etc., sold through a fulfillment company.

During the meeting, Saadat received the following questioning the form of a text from Ross Brooks who couldn’t attend the meeting:

“The question I have for the group is, what types of services do musicians view as valuable that can be provided in exchange for use of content? That is, things of value other than a check , such as use of recording facility, publicist services , space for group classes, rehearsal space, etc . A venue can pay a musician an up-front fee for use of content, such as a live stream of a concert. But the question is , how to address future use / royalties. To what extent can that be addressed via services provided to musicians by the venue and media company.”

MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report


Hatfield discoursed at length on this (and was met with a general agreement). As a basic principle, any means of remuneration for our work as professional musicians should be rendered in forms that a bank, business, or private transaction would accept as currency. This is a good rule to stick with.

If one is open to barter deals, the most important thing is to crunch the numbers, then decide for yourself if the deal is worth it. First, decide how much you would normally expect to be paid for a gig. Establish your price. Second, determine if what you are getting in exchange for your performance is of equal or greater value (Hatfield gave an excellent and amusing example. Someone offers to let you use their club for a “free” rehearsal for two hours duration in exchange for doing a gig. You are a member of local 802, which charges $10 per hour for their smaller rehearsal spaces. It is clearly not a fair or good exchange to do a quartet gig of 4 hours duration in exchange for a two hour rehearsal that would cost you $20 at the union. On the other hand, if someone wants to give you something that is worth the, say, $1000 you would get for a quartet performance – and is acceptable to all the musicians involved – doing a barter gig that involves no monetary remuneration is not a problem).

Accepting anything of lesser value than what you provide damages music as a profession, and degrades what value your music has to you. Regrettably, we are struggling with the intolerable situation that music has little or no monetary value in our culture. Bartering won’t remedy the situation: which naturally relegates bartering to the category of the exception, rather than the rule. Accepting barter for a gig holds the danger of devaluing music as a profession, and limiting your individual freedom. No self-respecting musician should accept that unless the gains are real and tangible, and at least equal to the monetary value of the gig – and this, ONLY if that tangible gain is something exchangeable or of acceptable personal profit. Money is a form of storable and transferable wealth. If something is not equally storable or transferable, it ceases to be of value, because its value becomes isolated. (Needless to say, charitable offerings are not a consideration in this discussion).

MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report

Big Tech works a con of Trumpian proportions in that it grants us access to free content of things that it does not own, in exchange for all the data mining that big tech profits from. This is a bartering model. The question that inevitably arises – yet is rarely addressed – is if this has proven to be a fair or good deal for consumers and content creators. The answer inevitably points to those where the balance of power is not with those accepting the exchange, but lies rather with those offering it. Power respects power, and is never offered freely.

This actually leads us back to the question of getting young musicians involved in MFM. The necessity of getting young people in the gig economy to understand that they have common cause with us is obvious. Big tech has instituted a mindset in the public that demanding a rightful remuneration for one’s work is anti-free speech. Big Tech friendly lawyers, academics and judges have called copyright “obsolete” and “a tax on culture”. They say that internet piracy is just another form of “promotion” which they claim stimulates innovation – which is nonsense, and perilously close to Orwellian doublethink. The younger generation who works in the gig economy, or chases the dream job with Google was raised to believe music is free. This is in direct opposition to MFM’s platform, and a threat to the very existence of musicians. The only way out of this dichotomy is if they can be shown that they’re getting cheated in the same way musicians are. Then they will see that they share a common cause between us. This is a way to build solidarity, and change the mindset of the public, which happily accepts being cheated out of its own property and wealth.

The Public Musicians Forum #9 proved to be a good way of capping off 2018. It defined many of the problems that face us, and as a result, laid a good part of the groundwork for 2019.

A special thanks to Board member Billy Harper who initiated and has ran these musician meet ups with Sohrab since last year.

Special thanks also to Ken Hatfield for his input on musician rights and musician related legal issues.

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MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report

MFM Public Musician Forum

Report by Dawoud Kringle (with Ken Hatfiled)

MFM held its 8th Public Musician Forum in New York on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018. The meeting was run by jazzman Billy Harper (MFM Board member) and Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi (MFM President). Saadat began with suggesting that the meeting adhere to a simple agenda.

1. Discussion of what needs to be done after the Music Modernization Act (MMA) victory becoming law October 11th. Reminding the MFM members of the mid term elections in November and the 2018 MFM Annual Membership Meeting in December. Speaker: Ken Hatfield (MFM AC member) assisted by  Saadat,

2. The presentation of a contract for performing and touring musicians. MFM supporter Roger Blanc will lead the discussion.

3. Dawoud Kringle‘s presentation of MFM’s digital magazine / newsletter DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY. Kringle is along with Saadat the main contributor of this on-line magazine.

4. Discuss how MFM can make it easier for musicians to come to the meetings and get involved in MFM business.

5. Give attending musicians the opportunity to speak about problems and issues they have had recently.

MFM Public Musicians Forum



After the meeting opened, Hatfield spoke  (audio file here) in considerable detail on what we need to focus on now that the Music Modernization Act has passed:

The first was the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC). The MLC will distribute the money that the DSPs (Digital Service Providers), ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and various streaming services (e.g. Spotify) will pay us musicians for the uses of our music / content. The proposed configuration of this collective is: ten publisher members and four writer members (with the publishers wanting to choose who the writer representatives will be). The monies are to be split 50 / 50 between publishers and writers. It makes sense that the MLC be configured accordingly.

The MLC will operate under a five year charter granted and renewed by the Library of Congress. The music community can monitor it and offer comments on the Library of Congress website regarding how the MLC performed. This means the configuration could be changed for the second five year charter to a more equitable configuration (such as the ideal seven publisher and seven writer members).

The MLC will have a database for storing information that identifies who owns the rights to the music. They will grant blanket licenses to the DSPs, streamers, and other services that are using / broadcasting our music in exchange for the fees they will pay the MLC. This database will be the “official” source for “correctly” identifying who gets paid for the various licensed uses the MLC will supervise. This will require all tracks to have ISRC codes and be registered with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress as well.

The Case Act, Fair Pay Fair Play Act (FPFP), and the Classics Act will need to be monitored closely.

Probably the most important upcoming action concerns 512 reform of the Digital Music Copyright Act’s safe harbor provisions. Some other safe harbors have already been amended and/or repealed in FOSTA – SESTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking and Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking act) as well as Article 13 recently passed by the E.U. Parliament. 512 needs to be amended because it gives the DSPs immunity from illegal activities perpetrated on their platforms by the users of their platforms (such as copyright infringement). Reform could stop or limit such activities by requiring mandatory adherence to take down notices.

Two attempts to interfere with our efforts to fix these inequities are troublesome and need to be monitored closely:

(1) The USMCA (United States Mexico Canada Agreement: Trump’s re-branded version of NAFTA) – is purported to contain permanent protection for these safe harbor provisions (particularly section 512 of the Digital Music Copyright Act. Fixing it after ratification will require repeal of the entire treaty).

(2) The ALI’s (American Law Institute) “restatement of copyright” project. Since the MMA will open things up for more judges to hear PRO rate cases (a good thing), more judges will be needed. The judges are not likely to be experts on the complex nuances of copyright law. ALI, who are are hostile to copyright law, is writing a summarized cliff-notes version of copyright law to be used as a guide for judges hearing copyright cases. Big Tech friendly lawyers, academics and judges have called copyright “obsolete” and “a tax on culture”. They say that internet piracy is just another form of “promotion” which they claim stimulates innovation. Judges relying on a short hand description of copyright law written by a biased source, will doubtless undermine the foundations of copyright law by being less than impartial to content creators seeking redress for infringement of their rights to their own creations.

One important point Hatfield used to sum up the situation we are in is quite simple. Recording artists today have two paths to choose from. One: get signed to a big label and let them do the business (which generally means they will rob you blind). Or two: set up your own label and run things yourself. These are fundamentally the only two options available as the future of the music business unfolds.

MFM Public Musicians Forum

Hatfiled recommended the following resources for more info:

MFM’s website

After a break, Saadat and Roger Blanc presented a template for a contract for MFM members to use. The contract, (created by Saadat and Dave Ruch) is specific to live performances, and between performers and venues / promoters. It offers a concise outline of a fair and ideal agreement between Purchaser and Performer. Items in the contract include (but are not limited to) date, time frame, and type of engagement, guarantee or compensation, method of payment contact information, and additional terms and conditions.

The idea of this contract sets a good precedent. It solidifies and defines the terms of a performance agreement, and empowers and protects the musicians. This is something all too often neglected by musicians; and leaves us vulnerable to messy misunderstandings.

A PDF of the contract will be found here.

There were a few minutes devoted to discussing the dichotomy of  DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY  function as both a magazine and MFM newsletter. Regrettably, though, time proved too short to go over the last three items on the agenda. The depth of the first two items demanded thorough discourse.

But the meeting was productive, informative, and a lot of fun.

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MFM Public Musicians Forum #5: Addressing Tough Questions

Review by Dawoud Kringle

On Thursday, April 19th, MFM presented its fifth Musicians Forum.

The meeting was a little late in starting. As we waited, the subject of strategies for the MFM agenda, the politics of the music business, and various pension plans were casually discussed. There was also discussion about union vs. nonunion contracts.

The question of how hard it is to work around the stark difference between the professional experiences of the younger and older generations was raised. One of the problems the younger generation created for themselves is the constant undercutting of their own market value. The idea of professionalism – more to the point, earning an acceptable wage for their work – is often so far outside their experience as to be incomprehensible. This creates a toxic environment wherein musicians not only accept the devaluation of their work, they find the situation acceptable.

MFM Public Musicians Forum #5
Michael Moss and Ken Hatfield (photo by Dawoud Kringle)

With the arrival of Billy Harper, the meeting got underway in earnest. MFM founder Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi brought up the idea of redefining the MFM mission statement in a way that would attract the people we need to communicate and work with. AC member Ken Hatfield suggested inexpensive business cards. People could hand them out, and say “check out the MFM website.” This is a practical outreach method that could introduce MFM to those who have difficulty seeing what MFM is working to accomplish, and assist MFM members who lack high end sales skills.

The revised mission statement needs to get an important idea in the mindset of musicians: the music industry is in a state where the actual music itself has been devalued. This is the idea that must be communicated, and the state of affairs which must be opposed and ultimately transcended.

MFM Public Musicians Forum #5
David Belmont & Billy Harper (photo by Dawoud Krungle)

After Sohrab Saadat Ladjavardi and Board member David Belmont announced Billy Harper’s approval to the MFM Board, the dialogue returned to the problems of communicating what MFM is doing.

Ultimately the thing that unites us across the board is music, and that we are musicians. Articulating the MFM mission across the boundaries of style, genre, and generations must use this idea to prove that MFM is a necessary organization that 1. Supports all that’s good for music and Musicians and 2. Seeks to provide services, based on advocacy, that other organizations (ASCAP, BMI, Local 802, etc) do not.

The idea of different levels of membership was floated. For example, the main qualification for MFM membership is that one is a professional musician. Others who are not professional musicians (e.g. music students, DJs, music producers, etc.) will arguably require a different classification of membership.

It was agreed that the new mission statement needs to be simple, to the point, and won’t alienate anyone. The question of what marketing methods can communicate this was debated.

The devaluation of music is a constant obstacle. Music is being given away for free. It’s the ingrained habit of most young musicians that they willingly give their music away for free. To complicate matters, audiences have come to expect music to be free: it’s impossible to beat a free giveaway. The idea of music being a thing of value that they spend their hard earned money on is outside the experience of the younger generations. In live performances, the economic models the venues use make it difficult or impossible to earn a decent wage. The traditional established outlets are tied up by the older guard – and they are not willing to surrender a lucrative position. The ecosystem of the music business is not healthy for musicians; and while changing it is, to say the very least, a tall order, it’s a necessity of musicians and the quality music they make are to survive.

MFM Public Musicians Forum #5
Billy Harper and Sohrab (photo by Dawoud Kringle)

Regrettably, there was no time to address the other items on the agenda (a Musicians March for 2020 in Washington DC, and Jimmy Owens’ query about “What should be done ASAP?”). MFM member Melanie Frey managed to contribute brief discourse about female musicians’ rights and issues. The meeting ended with some discussion about the Music Modernization Act (MMA). As of this writing, it is perhaps too late to lobby for a massive overhaul of the MMA; but it’s possible we can work with it.

It’s a potentially disheartening thought that we are going toe to toe with not only a number of powerful adversaries, but that our potential allies are so inured to this intolerable state of affairs that we are forced to actually reeducate them (this is part of the primal foundation of MFM: the promotion of the idea that musicians are professionals). With each of the Musician’s Forum, the detailed nature of MFM’s agenda and the universal problems facing musicians – becomes clearer. And this brings us closer to the method and means of achieving our objectives.

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MFM Public Musicians Forum #4 Focuses Upon Women's Issues in the Music Business

Ladies Night!

Review by Dawoud Kringle

MFM Public Musicians Forum #4
Billy Harper, Sohrab, Roger Blanc and Jimmy Owens (photo by Dawod Kringle)

On Tuesday, March 27th, MFM held its fourth Public Musicians Forum at Yeoryia Studios in New York run by Billy Harper and MFM’s President Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi.

Saadat opened the meeting by bringing up the recent gun control protests. Here are a group of mostly teens who, overnight, organized a nationwide protest. He wondered aloud why Musicians can’t organize like that. The idea of a mass march for musician’s rights is a bit idealistic (let’s face it: musicians are not easily disposed toward the kind of organizational skills such a march would require). But it’s also not an impossibility.

Saadat also stated that he wishes to redefine MFM’s mission with more clarity. MFM is an association; it’s financed by its members. This, and other contours and characteristics of MFM need to be clearly explained so as to avoid misconceptions.

The meeting was largely devoted to women musicians’ rights and issues. This is something Saadat had wanted to address for a long time.

MFM Public Musicians Forum #4
Melanie Frey (photo by Dawoud Kringle)

MFM member Melanie Frey offered a presentation, and spoke on women’s issues in music. There is what is best described as “Unconscious Sexism” in music industry hiring. It is something that is often unconsciously practiced by people of good will, without their consciously realizing it. Yet others deliberately intend to discriminate against women.

In the April 2017 issue of International Musician magazine, “The gender gap of instrumental musicians has changed noticeably since 1978. It began narrowing significantly in the early 1990s, and the percentage of women musicians in orchestras has climbed to 46%-49% of the total musician pool in the two decades since. Most attribute this improvement to the advent of screened auditions.”

Orchestras implemented a process of screened auditions. Judges are prevented from knowing the gender or ethnicity of the person auditioning before and during the audition. Some discussion was devoted to this, and how it may be applied to the process for hiring for jazz club dates. Jazz ensembles and venues do not operate the way classical orchestras do: screened auditions will not produce the same result. With the exception of Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra adopting and new selecting procedures for jazz orchestra in 2016. This change was achieved by San Francisco’s jazz musician, activist and Chairperson of JazzWomen and Girls Advocates Ellen Seeling.

It was suggested that where the process goes wrong is that musicians only hire who they know or someone recommended by a friend. This process often starts – and ends with men. There is, of course, no easy way to circumvent this.

Frey handed out a few documents she’d prepared, and discoursed on four general related topics:

  1. Unconscious sexism in the music industry
  2. Music instructors discouraging
  3. Salesmen in music stores belittling female musicians
  4. Emails sent to Saadat regarding these women’s issues
MFM Public Musicians Forum #4
Michelle Shocked (photo by Dawoud Kringle)

The first and second topics seem to be interconnected and interchangeable. The dynamics of how female musicians (and musicians of diverse ethnicity) were discussed. There are multiple factors that determine how female musicians are seen and how they prosper. It was mentioned that the best way for female musicians to prosper may be for them to produce themselves.

The third topic dealt with presumptions about what a woman can and can’t play. Bottom line, just like some teachers, some music salesmen are idiots. Such people may exploit the vulnerability of women or young people, students, or people of milder temperament. Part of it is how women are educated, how they play (hard vs soft), the actual nature of the instrument they’re playing, the nature of the music that’s being played, etc.

The fourth topic centered around a letter from Francesca Tanksley. It was read aloud. Her letter addressed important points such as:

  1. Human beings having the right to be treated according to inherent human dignity.
  2. We have purpose, dreams, and aspirations, and are not mere objects that are used as a means to another person’s ends. In treating that person as less than human, one has stolen from that person, and from oneself, our inherent human dignity.
  3. We relate to each other by seeing in each other those human attributes – our dreams and aspirations – that we have all been given.
  4. Unconditionally acknowledging the undeniable fact that whosoever de-humanizes others de-humanized themselves. And whoever uplifts others, uplifts themselves.

The general consensus is that women need to stand up for themselves. Expecting some men to change their misogynistic ways without a more proactive (and possibly aggressive) holding of one’s ground in the face of such bullying is probably unrealistic.

On a personal note, I must state that the problems facing female musicians can very easily be solved with the simple foundation of logic, common sense, and good manners. If a woman can play the music well, she should be allowed to do so without having to qualify herself beyond her musicianship. This and embodying an attitude of common courtesy and respect. For years – millennia – this has not been the case with much of humanity. The thing that is needed is, to quote Tanksley’s letter, “a cultural shift in the way men view women, the way men view their fellow men, as well as in the way women view themselves, and their fellow women.” It’s simple; but the inevitable fact of human hubris and stupidity need to be overcome.

MFM Public Musicians Forum #4
Carla Maria Ruppy, Blue Ray, Ken Hatfield and Jimmy Owens (photo by Dawoud Kringle)

The final part of the meeting was devoted to the Music Modernization Act (MMA). Ken Hatfield, who just joined MFM’s Advisory Committee, spoke about this at some length. Hatfield mentioned that if MMA is passed, it will probably not get a lot of publicity. So we all need to pay close attention as things develop, especially regarding our concerns with it’s problems (which were addressed at the previous MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3). Hatfield also suggested we support the points that MusicAnswers advocates regarding our issues with the current version of MMA, such as (1) the makeup of the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) Board and (2) issues of transparency (i.e. the right to audit the distribution of the funds, especially those that are unidentified). For more details on these issues please watch MusicAnswers’ Maria Schneider‘s video here explaining the issues and advising how to take action to improve the MMA by emailing to members of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives and a few key senators.

The pros and cons of the MMA are a detailed subject requiring a separate article. A great deal of it was touched upon in the review of the MFM Public Musicians Forum #3.

MFM Public Musicians Forum #4
On Ka’a Davis and Reggie Sylvester (photo by Dawoud Kringle)

The fundamental changes that are occurring in the music business are rewriting the rules of how our business is conducted – and the fundamental attitudes toward music as a profession. It is essential to be on top of these issues. This is one of the reasons MFM exists; music professionals must take control of their own affairs and secure their own power in order to survive and avoid the exploitation they’d endured in decades past.

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Review: The MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3: Laying the Groundwork for Action

By Dawoud Kringle (with Ken Hatfield and Sohrab Saadat Ladjavardi)

MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3
Photo by Dawoud Kringle

On Tuesday, February 27th, the MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3 was held at Yeoria Studio. Organized by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi and Billy Harper, the agenda of the meeting was threefold. 1. Ken Hatfield and Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi were to discuss the Music Modernization Act (MMA). 2. The rights and problems of women musicians. 3. Organizing a Musicians’ March in NY and DC in 2019.

The attendance of these meetings is growing. Attendees this night included Ricky Ford, Cynthia Scott, Stanley Banks. Jimmy Owens, Robbi Kumalo, Bill Saxton, Melanie Frey; and Gene Ghee.

Saadat opened the meeting with a brief introduction. Hatfield hit the ground running with his discourse about the Music Modernization Act, and other bills that affect the future of digital music production, distribution, and remuneration for creators. Ken Hatfield handed out a document he’d prepared (later, Saadat joked that he’d asked Hatfield to prepare a one or two page document; Hatfield came with 10 pages). This document formed the main body of his discourse, and it covered a lot of ground.

A wide variety of interrelated subjects and problems were brought up, discussed, analyzed, dissected, and argued over. This began with a historical perspective (including the fact that present copyright laws have remained almost unchanged since 1909). This overview included:

1. The 1996, the Digital Music Copyright Act (DMCA), a US copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization. It criminalizes production of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted material (this became a necessity with the advent of the Internet; and the nature of digital music medium). One of the biggest problems with DMCA is section 512 (a.k.a. the “SAFE HARBOR” provision). This provision makes it impossible to sue the digital service providers (DSPs) when they violate our copyrights. Elimination (or as some propose revision / restriction) of section 512 would allow musicians a leverage similar to how the tobacco companies could be held financially accountable for the death and disease their product creates.

2. The Fair Play Fair Pay act (HR1836) which amends federal copyright laws to extend copyright owner’s rights to include the exclusive right to perform or authorize the performance of a recording publicly through the means of any audio transmission. It proposes that terrestrial broadcasters will have to pay the same four concerns that digital broadcasters now have to pay. Previously terrestrial broadcasts only generated revenues for composers and publishers (though at higher rates than those paid now by DSPs) while digital service providers pay (1) composers and (2) publishers…… each at much lower rates. Composers and publishers currently get 1/12th of what record companies and performers get) and also pay (3) owner(s) of the mechanical rights to the sound recording (generally a record company) and (4) the performing artist (i.e. the featured artists). Under FPFP all broadcasts would pay roughly the same (or similar) concerns and amounts. That is the game changer here.

3. The Classics Act: HR 3301, which was initiated by a bipartisan group of senators. If passed, HR 3301 could close major loopholes in US copyright law that left Artists out of the royalty payments of digital radio play in platforms such as Pandora and Sirius XM. Currently artists are not paid for their contributions/performances of digital broadcast of any recording created before 1972. This is the main loophole from the DMCA that the Classics Act closes.

4. The Case Act HR 3945. Copyright law is adjudicated in Federal Courts. Federal litigation is so expensive and complicated that most creators and small businesses cannot afford to enforce their own rights. Because of this, infringements regularly go unchallenged, and many creators feel disenfranchised by the copyright system. HR 3945 addresses the problem of federal courts having exclusive jurisdiction over copyright claims. Content creators will for the first times since DMCA be able to sue those that infringe upon our copyright and mechanical rights in small claims court for amounts up to $30,000 U.S.D. This also means that those guilty of infringement will (1) be limited regarding their delaying tactics, and (2) they will be more likely to have to pay and therefore will settle and hopefully cease and desist their infringements.

MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3
Photo by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi
MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3
Photo by Dawoud Kringle










5. The Music Modernization Act. From legislative perspective this bill is important because 1. It is an omnibus bill that consolidates many of the best provisions of its predecessors into one bill and 2. It has substantial support from the major players in the music community, including ASCAP, BMI, RIAA, AFofM, and NMPA. The MMA promises to reform music licensing in ways that are advantageous to songwriters and composers in the modern digital age. The bill is, as of this writing, a work in progress. As such, some of the problems have yet to be worked out. The pros of the MMA include the fact that DSPs have finally agreed that they have to pay for every play/stream/broadcast use of our music (identified and unidentified). This money will go to the music community and no longer stay with the DSPs (as currently happens under the issuance of Notice Of Intentions (NOI) in lieu of or at least delaying our payments). This money will be distributed by a Collective (in some versions it is called the Mechanical Licensing Collective or MLC). This collective will be under the Library of Congress who will grant it a charter of 5 years duration.

This Collective will not only distribute tens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars to writers and publishers, but it will also oversee (and create or choose/contract/outsource the creation of) a data base that all the DSP’s will rely on to identify and pay us accordingly for any and all of the music that the DSPs play/stream broadcast etc. or otherwise use to generate revenue for their business. The cons include the fact that the aforementioned collective as presently configured will be comprised of 10 publisher members and only 4 composer/writer members (and the publishers want to choose the writer members). There is little or no transparency for independent self-published writers /composers because the right to audit the Collective is limited to the Big Publishers (which means that Sony, Warner, and Universal will not only have the lions share of board members on the collective, but will be the only ones that can audit the Collective’s disbursements of the money they receive from the DSP’s). Additionally, it has been widely reported that these big publisher / record companies have substantial investments in several of the biggest streaming entities. This configuration of the Collective is clearly unfair when the writers are entitled (by law) to at least 50% of that revenue.

MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3
Photo by Dawoud Kringle

The music community will need to decide individually and collectively if we can live with the basic procedural intent of MMA while working to fix the issues we have with it before it is voted on by Congress. The DSPs see these issues as an internal disagreement within the music community (between publishers and writers), and do not care how we divide the money that they have agreed for the first time to pay us. The publishers may need this deal more than we do. However, it may be advantageous to accept the good provisions of the MMA, and deal with its problems later (with the exceptions of the Collective Board configuration and section 512, the Safe Harbor provision, which are unacceptable). Every single musician that writes any of their own material, and/or creates/produces their own recordings needs to educate themselves about the MMA and the 512 section of the DMCA and determine where they stand. Then they need to act accordingly to proactively help create a sustainable musical eco-system that we can all live with and prosper within.

MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3
Photo by Dawoud Kringle

The scope of this analysis is too complex to be sufficiently presented here; and is not complete. MFM is at work examining the dynamics of this, and especially the Music Modernization Act, which holds great promise. This publication will present MFM’s findings and position on these issues.

Hatfield brought up a few other related issues of importance that musicians need to be aware of. This includes the necessity of ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) codes, which will help to ensure that we get paid once a fair system is finally established.

MFM Jazz Musicians Meeting #3
Photo by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi

The meeting was a fast paced and detailed analysis of the present situation we musicians are facing, and what can be done using the resources available to us. The streaming companies are willing to pay; though the details regarding method(s) of distribution of funds is still being fought out.

The subject of MMA was too complex a subject to simply skim over. And it brought a great number of other questions to the surface which has yet to be answered. Because of this, the other subjects of the meeting’s agenda (the rights and problems of women musicians, and organizing a Musicians’ March in NY and DC in 2019) were tabled for the time being.

In my review of the 2nd Jazz Musicians Meeting, I mentioned how MFM had reached a new milestone in its development as a musician’s advocacy organization. This night, that milestone was firmly established.

A handful of attendees agreed to work within the framework of a working group to address and act upon these issues. While the question remains whether they want to that privately or under the umbrella of MFM, an important step has been taken. This is where MFM can get into the game and affect real change for the music community.

While much work (both theoretical and practical) lay ahead, progress is being made. The agenda of MFM is no longer a mere theory. It is beginning to work.

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The Annual MFM Membership Meeting 2017 Report

MFM Rocks the Vote…

Report by Dawoud Kringle (Photos by Dawoud and Sohrab)

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017, MFM held it’s Annual Membership Meeting 2017. The meeting was held at the Brooklyn Music School (NY). 

This was an important event, because it serves as a platform for MFM members to make their voices heard. The main item on the agenda was voting on the Board of Directors (BoD) consisting of: Arturo O’Farrill (musician, band leader, composer, educator, activist and 5-times Latin Jazz Grammy Award winner), Paul Testagrossa (musician and MFM web developer), and Stefan Andemicael (DJ and Blue Note program director). Some MFM members emailed their votes in-absentia. Some of the attendees had limited time to stay: the sections of the meeting were arranged to accommodate this. 

The results of the election will be announced here on the MFM’s website, and on DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY.

A large part of the agenda was also devoted to of the meeting consisted of the 2017 Business Report. 

The meeting began with MFM founder and president Sohrab Saadat Ladjavardi opening and describing how the meeting will proceed. 

Annual MFM Membership Meeting 2017In keeping with the MFM traditions of beginning with a musical performance, Kaveh Haghtalab offered a beautiful improvisation in a Persian Radif on the kamancheh. On a spontaneous urge, the attendees moved the chairs into a circle to better accommodate the performance. Afterward, Haghtalab explained what he’d played and answered questions. The conversation turned to his attraction to MFM. Saadat asked how he thought MFM would be received in Iran. This opened a labyrinthine discussion of the dynamics of the music business in Iran. According to him, a great many Iranian musicians are returning to Iran because they get paid better in Tehran than in the US, Evidently, the US’ claim to being progressive and entrepreneurial compared to other nations is not completely true.

Before long, Saadat steered the meeting to the main purpose of the meeting. After some discussion about the MFM mission, talk turned to the corruption within the music business. For example, MOMA books music performances and pays musicians little or nothing – with the usual platitude of “it will be good exposure.” The recent revelations about Spotify were also instructive. Spotify is consistently losing money, and the artists see nothing. But recent tax returns show CEOs and top executives of Spotify are pocketing seven figure salaries. This clearly explains why Apple Music is planning on copying Spotify’s debt ridden business model.

Annual MFM Membership Meeting 2017Annual MFM Membership Meeting 2017

Ultimately, the point was that musicians need to acquire positions of power. The way most musicians have been doing business has produced the exact opposite result. In fact, the whole mindset of playing for the vague and fruitless possibility of “exposure” or breaking our backs playing for nothing is a pathetic state of affairs. If MFM succeeds in dispelling this mindset, and inspiring musicians to take a stand for their professional due, it will have made a supreme accomplishment.

At Saadat’s introduction, Sylvain Leroux spoke of how he opened a music school in Guinea, and how his non-profit organization operates.

Saadat introduced Executive Director of the school and MFM member, Piruz Partow the head of the Brooklyn Music School. He spoke about how the school operates, it’s financial structure, and its commitment to music education. 

Annual MFM Membership Meeting 2017Pam Jennett, a.k.a. BAASSIK, offered a solo bass guitar performance. After a masterful display of funk infused bass discourse, she spoke briefly on her concept of music and how she approaches music as an art and s business.

Some more discussion on the MFM mission, history, and its considerable accomplishments, followed.

Another subject that was broached upon was female musician rights. It is no secret – yet rarely discussed – that women are paid less than men for the same hours and quality of work (this is not confined to the music business. Women make 15% to 25% of a male’s salary or fee. They also have less work opportunities than males; especially in the jazz world). Saadat has been urging female musician to join MFM. He’d also suggested to MFM member Lindsey Wilson to consider to found a female musician caucus in MFM.

After the discussions, debates, and controversies were concluded, there was the inevitable jam session at the end. This was the most fun part (let’s face it; put a bunch of musicians in a room with instruments, and sooner or later, music will be made). After some free improv, a tonal center of D was agreed on. A lively and nuanced musical conversation between the roomful of musicians ensued. Some of the highlights included Marco Lienhard on shakuhachi, guitarist On Ka’a Davis on piano, Lindsey Wilson on electric guitar, and yours truly on upright bass. 

Annual MFM Membership Meeting 2017One thing that was noticeable about the meeting was that there was somewhat of a lack of young people in attendance. This is a liability for MFM. The presence and energy of the younger generations of musicians, and the fresh perspective, unprecedented ideas, and fearless challenge to the status quo would be an asset for everyone.

That aside, the meeting was a success, and an important step in the development of MFM’s mission. As we face challenges and obstacles, we are moving into 2018 with determination and hope. 

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Review: MFM New Member Orientation November 2017

Date: November 27, 2017
Venue: WeWork Wall Street (NY)

Review by Dawoud Kringle (Photos by Dawoud and Sohrab)

The November 2017 MFM got off to a bang.

I opened the meeting, and explained the origins of MFM. Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi (MFM founder) augmented the presentation of the MFM mission of advocacy of musical professionalism.

There were some new prospects for membership, and a new member. Their presence and contributions made for a very interesting meeting.

Some impassioned discussion over questions of semantics needed to be ironed out. But the problem of musicians needing proper financial remuneration for our work, work that has real value, remains the priority.

There was some discussion about some of the individual artistic goals of the attendees.

MFM New Member Orientation November 2017

Saadat brought up an important point. All whose work contributes to the empowerment of professional musicians have value. Teachers, etc – all have value, all are relevant, and all have indispensable contributions to make.

The question arose of of how members are interacting with each other. Saadat described how MFM is a business league. We need this solidarity to stand toe to toe with the likes of Google, and other such giants as equals.

The finances of MFM were discussed. MFM has operated in the red since its inception. But MFM’s financial investment is bearing fruit. The highly successful events MFM has presented are moving MFM in a very progressive direction. A financial statement will be published.

MFM is working toward building its membership. The importance of this cannot be overstated. The goals of MFM are of vital importance to the musical community. This can only be happen through numbers and solidarity.

People are going to be skeptical about MFM. And they should be: every musician who reads this has horror stories about dealings with shady characters. It’s perfectly understandable to want to carefully examine this organization before deciding to join or not. It’s a new idea; one that few, if any, have ever attempted before. And in this lay it’s greatest promise.

It’s worth taking a look at.

PS: Michael Moss (composer, sax, flute and clarinet) who attended the Orientation for the first time decided to join MFM after this meeting.

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Review: MFM Presents “Make Music Your Business” #5 MFM Talk Series W. Steve Gordon

Entertainment Attorney Steve Gordon in conversation with Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi

Review and photos by Dawoud Kringle

On Thursday, October 19th, 2017, the latest installment of the MFM Talk Series was held at WeWork Wall Street, NYC. This installment featured the celebrated entertainment lawyer/author Steve Gordon. 

Steve Gordon is an entertainment attorney with over 20 years of experience in the music industry, including 10 years as Director of Business Affairs for Sony Music, attorney at a law firm representing Atlantic and Elektra Records, and in-house music counsel for a Hollywood Studio. His current and recent clients include  MTV, Music Choice, Time Life Films, and Soul Train Holdings; record labels such as Smithsonian Folkways and Shout Factory; Television Services such as PBS, Maryland and Louisiana Public Broadcasting; and established as well as up-and-coming artists, producers, indie labels, and managers. 

Steve Gordon Book CoverGordon operates a music clearance service for producers and distributors of documentaries, concert videos, feature films, home video, audio compilations, and both streaming and interactive music based websites and apps. His practice also includes serving as an expert witness in music business and digital entertainment cases counseling producers of and participants in reality TV shows, registering trademarks and copyrights, and advising on copyright and contract litigation.

The talk centered around Gordon’s new book The 11 Contracts That Every Artist, Songwriter, and Producer Should Know.

(Attention please, here’s the publisher’s discount offer:

Steve Gordon 7MFM founder Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi opened with some autobiographical information that led to the founding of MFM. He spoke about MFM’s mission to empower a fragmented community of musicians. He also welcomed legendary jazz musician Jimmy Owens and later in the evening Wynton Marsalis’ drummer Ricky “Dirty Red Gordon.

Saadat then asked Gordon why the 11 contracts. Gordon pointed out that the 11 types of contracts are the most common and important aspects an artist will encounter. It was written largely from, and geared to, the perspective of the artist.  

Gordon spoke of specific examples he’d encountered in his experience as an entertainment lawyer of how these contract types apply to real life situations. He knows how unfair the contracts can be to an artist, and went to great lengths to explain how an entertainment lawyer serves the function of interpreting music contracts of all varieties, and protecting the legal interests of their clients. 

He spoke of some of his experiences with things like music licensing, video productions that violated corporate branding, and supervising litigation. These were the type of anecdotes that can only come from training, a natural aptitude for one’s profession, and hard earned experience. 

Steve Gordon 4Steve Gordon 5

After pointing out how expensive litigation is, he got down to going through the 11 contract types.

For example, there are “Management Contracts.” The most important element of a management contract is duration: the duration of a contract and the goals of the management are to be well defined. He spoke about how a good manager won’t want you unless he / she sees that you’re going to be successful. There’s also the “sunset provision:” which protects the artist from managers who could theoretically leech revenues from the artist and/or record company indefinitely.

When discoursing on production company deals, the subject of “the Contract from Hell” was examined. Some production companies masquerade as a label. They do not function as one, and cannot offer the benefits of a label. Sometimes they will present an agreement that locks the artist into a long term deal. This deal can also make the production company the artist’s music publisher, and takes a substantial cut of all the income that the artist may make in every aspect of the entertainment business. 

Saadat addressed the question of how this information affects the DYI/independent artist. Gordon gave many examples of how to apply these ideas to the independent artist. He spoke of publishing, and other examples of how the independent artist’s interests overlap with those of labels, etc, (such as licensing, sync deals, etc.)

Steve Gordon 2 w. Dawoud and JimmySteve Gordon 6


Gordon touched briefly on performance contracts, and essential things artists can do without the services of an attorney. He also spoke about performance rights organizations such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Jimmy Owens pointed out that SESAC is the best for jazz musicians. 

The floor was opened up for questions. Things got lively as subjects like performance rights organizations, how artists are paid, endorsement deals, and other relevant topics were bantered about. 

The event was closed with a brief statement by Saadat, and a musical performance by Kaveh Haghtalab on the Persian kamancheh. He offered a piece in Dastgāh-e Māhur (one of the seven dastgahs in Persian classical music). It was a brief, and very poetic piece, with some subtle and beautiful colors that wove their way in and out of the music. 

Steve Gordon 3 w. Kaveh performing


This installment of the Talk Series was clearly indicative of the progress MFM is making in addressing the real life needs of the professional musician.

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Review: MFM New Member Orientation September 2017

Date: September 25th 2017
Venue: WeWork Wall Street (NY)

Review by Dawoud Kringle

The MFM Orientations are a platform for new members, or for those interested in MFM membership. They are held on the last Monday of each month.

However a deviation from this occurred on Monday, September 25th 2017. The meeting was not attended by new or prospective members. The attendees were veteran members Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi (MFM founder and president), Lindsey Wilson, Reggie Sylvester, yours truly, and MFM friend and adviser Jimmy Owens.

As such, the meeting took on a very different contour. It turned into a roundtable discussion about the subtleties of the very idea of musical professionalism, the possible and probable direction the music business is going, and the very delicate subject of racism in the music business.

Some discussion was devoted to the factor of using the Internet for music promotion. The presence of the Internet has changed the music business to the point where the older models of the business are useful only for historical study. This is so obvious it hardly bears mentioning. Yet the exact method or methods on how to exploit this are not as clearly defined as one might assume. Certainly, processes exist that have worked in the past. But these processes work or do not work according to factors that have not yet (and may never be) condensed into a predictable model. To complicate matters, The people who have the skills, aptitude,And vision to exploit fourth the technological problems and psychological mindset associated with music promotion on the Internet form subculture that, as of this writing, MFM has yet to make contact with.

The recent rise of the alt right from our small and dark subculture into a dominant force in American, European, and Russian politics happened through a brilliant manipulation of the Internet. The details of this beyond the scope of this article, but it proves that within the Internet our processes and potential that have not yet been exploited to the benefit of the professional musician.

This is a slippery slope to navigate, especially for musicians. Musicians and artists tend to have idealistic view points of the world and of their own work and it’s worth. This is all too often in sharp contrast with the nature of commercialism and advertising. While commercialism and advertising are an integral and inescapable parts of musical professionalism, advertising trivializes. It manipulates. It’s vulgar. The musician who is serious about the professional dimensions of a musical career must navigate a very fine line between staying true to their artistic and moral principles, and using the art and science of commercialism in order to earn money to live on and sustain their business.

Some debate was devoted to the mission and accomplishments of MFM itself. A few of the participants expressed doubts about this. MFM is venturing into uncharted territories. As such it is not only a work in progress, but taking the models of the Local 802 Musicians Union and Justice for Jazz Artists, and expand on them into something unprecedented. Like the use of the Internet in music promotion and marketing, MFM is writing it’s own rules. This may appear to some as reckless arrogance and vanity. However, the reality is that re-writing the rules has become a necessity.

That said, the expression of the aforementioned doubts is a good thing. This, because of the uncharted territories MFM is exploring. Such debates are useful in clearing up misunderstandings, exploring new ideas and contributions, and solving problems before they threaten the stability and success of the foundation.

The subject of racism in the music business was discussed at length, and quite passionately. The dynamics and history of this are outside the scope of this article. But this evening’s meeting made something quite clear. The subtle (and not so subtle) dimensions of racism in America are often difficult to translate to the mindset of people who were not raised here. In fact, it is often all too difficult to make these ugly realities clear to people who are native to the United States of America. As such, misunderstandings and miscommunication are a very easy trap to fall into. This is, of course, easy to remedy; at least on a one on one basis. Implementing change in the mass psychology of a nation or civilization is another matter altogether.

One of the most enjoyable and instructive parts of the meeting was contributed by Jimmy Owen. His resume is extraordinarily impressive and dates back over half a century. He shared stories of his experiences performing with Charles Mingus and other legendary musicians. This alone made it worth the effort to attend the meeting; and I dare say that those who didn’t attend are all the poorer for it (especially young people who would find a historical perspective to be of great value).

The meeting ultimately proved to be another important step in the development and establishment of MFM. It will be to the ultimate advantage of the community of musicians to participate in, and contribute to, MFM’s unfolding.

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MFM New Member Orientation August 2017 Report

MFM Facing New Challenges

Text by Dawoud Kringle

In keeping with its forward thinking and progress oriented approach, MFM presented its second monthly orientation meeting. The meeting was held at WeWork on Wall street, NYC, on August 28th, 2017. It was well attended; and had the added honor of legendary musician Jimmy Owens in attendance. 

The meeting got started a bit late. MFM president and founder Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi began informally with a description of the MFM mission. 

MFM Orientation August 2017

Saadat’s discourse was expanded upon when MFM member Kaveh Haghtalab asked about the possibility of a pension. Jimmy Owens answered that the Union and the American Federation of Musicians both have pension funds. They have, of course, specific requirements. The only other way is to set up your own pension fund. The AFM are experiencing problems with their pension fund; they’ve not been making enough money in their investments. They’re looking at possible solutions to this. The AFM gets no help from the government (not that the present US presidential administration is of any use to anyone), and is entirely dependent upon what musicians pay into its fund. MFM is in a similar situation; its financial resources are from its membership. An MFM pension fund, insurance, etc. is an excellent idea as a long term goal; but will require a great deal of planning – and finances.

Some discussion was devoted to taxes and efficient ways of dealing with the IRS. 

Saadat emphasized that the most important component of MFM is membership. Without numbers, without members, MFM is a theory without substance. It requires a bit of strategy and psychology to properly introduce MFM to people of artistic / musical temperament, because some people of this temperament are resistant to the concept of professionalism / acknowledging and navigating the business dimensions of music (and, sad to say, with some people this will never change). With the power of membership, of solidarity, MFM has the leverage to affect change. This is why Saadat set up MFM as business league under a 501c(6). This way, MFM is legally entitled to lobby in favor of musician’s rights. 

At this point, Saadat asked Jimmy Owens to become an Advisory Committee member of MFM. Owens replied that MFM needs to define its mission in more detail. He went on to describe how he set up his own business and financial model. He asked what benefits members get from MFMSaadat answered that, among other things, MFM provides access to the member portal (with networking services it provides), its online magazine DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY, finding work, etc. It may have been expedient to simply open the MFM website, and read its objectives and campaigns. This, however, didn’t happen until later in the meeting.

Owens went on to describe how each musician has his / her own individual list of problems. Saadat and Owens indulged in considerable disagreement about how to define, and most importantly, address these problems. It was suggested that members be asked what these problems are, and brainstorm how to solve them. Owens elaborated on this; emphasizing that the services MFM provides, and how MFM defines and faces musician’s problems are still ambiguous. Other questions that were brought up were how MFM plans to manifest the necessary power to advocate musician’s rights, and how individual musicians assess their own artistic and market value. 

MFM Orientation August 2017

Saadat’s line of thinking that acquisition of a larger membership and propagating the concept of #MakingMusicIsAProfession is an important beginning. But a beginning nonetheless. This inevitably leads back again and again to the difficult question of exactly what MFM is  attempting to accomplish. MFM’s Campaigns are an excellent start. These include, but are not limited to; 

  1. Fair Play Fair Pay Act (which would force FM/AM radio to pay royalties to artists and labels).
  2. Support of the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA),
  3. Equal pay for female musicians,
  4. Reforming the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA),
  5. Reforming obsolete copyright laws

There are other services MFM had begun to put into place; including, but not limited to, the objectives outlined in the MFM website:

  1. Work out a general contract for performing musicians,
  2. Contact NYC’s “musicians friendly” venues and discuss a guaranteed performance agreement,
  3. Help members become familiar with the inner workings of the music business, including the digital / Internet world,
  4. Continue our successful workshop series,
  5. Organize an MFM Music Festival for the end of next year (with performances by our members),
  6. Improve the member portal,
  7. Invite the VIP (1%) musicians to our organization to advocate #MakingMusicIsAProfession.
  8. Form alliances with the AFM and other musician support organizations and support them in their endeavors,
  9. Reach out to politicians who care for musicians rights,
  10. Expand MFM’s on-line magazine to promote our members.

Saadat’s line of thinking that acquisition of a larger membership and propagating the concept of #MakingMusicIsAProfession is an important beginning; but a beginning nonetheless. This inevitably leads back again and again to the difficult question of exactly what MFM is attempting to accomplish. Perhaps the biggest weakness MFM is faced with is in moving beyond the foundational emphasis on #MakingMusicIsAProfessionThis is vitally important, and nothing can contradict the idea. For a lot of otherwise talented musicians, this is an idea that desperately needs to be brought to the forefront. It especially needs to be hammered into the minds of people in the music business who would exploit musicians who lack the inflexible resolve to stand their ground as professionals. 

But the concept behind #MakingMusicIsAProfession is a means to an end; not an end in itself. The propensity of MFM to return, again and again, to this idea when presented with the inevitable question of “OK; we’re professionals. We get it. Now what?” is its greatest handicap. This, especially where dealing with people who have been successful professionals for decades. It is an act of ultimate futility to sell something to someone who’d already bought it years ago. MFM is still wrestling with the inherent ambiguity this tunnel vision creates; and this is its greatest obstacle in building up membership. MFM faces a tremendous challenge in finding a way out of this cul-de-sac of being unable to attract the membership it needs to realize, and define, the objectives it can only realize with a larger membership. 

MFM Orientation August 2017

MFM differs from the Local 802 Musician’s Union in that the 802 follows a model that is either too specialized to encompass all music professionals, or is simply obsolete and inflexible. On the other hand, MFM attempts to solve this problem by setting up an unprecedented model of advocacy to establish a power base. This, in a business that traditionally (and to its own detriment) exploited and drove to ruin the very people that create the product it sells. It is an unsustainable business model that its falling apart at the seams.

To complicate matters, it is presently in a state of constant change while struggling to prevent its own obsolescence and extinction. In many ways, MFM is still a work in progress. It is making good progress in empowering musicians to realize the true value of their work; but it is not yet in a position to, as its stated goal, raise the standard of living and provide adequate working conditions for musicians. It needs to evolve beyond the anthemic constrictions of #MakingMusicIsAProfession, without sacrificing this basic concept, if it wishes to evolve, and remain relevant.