A New AFM President And Why You Should Care

Following yesterday’s National Convention election, Tom Lee has been replaced by Ray Hair (president of Dallas Local 72-147) as president of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). Lee garnered 44 percent of the vote while Hair secured 56 percent (figures via Robert Levine’s AFM Convention blog). It wasn’t a landslide, but a clear victory nonetheless. For some managers, this event might be best filed under the heading “Who Cares?” but in reality, it will have a substantial dynamic impact on the field…

The king is dead. Long live the king!

Don’t expect major changes overnight but it seems clear that business as usual isn’t something the organization can afford to maintain; literally and figuratively. Major revenue shortages, protracted battles over fundamental issues related to representation and services, and questions about the very nature of relevancy have developed to levels of near-paranoia (sound familiar?).

Ideally, new leadership will be able to address those issues in a way that not only slows down the organization’s slide into the quagmire but will begin to inch their way back out. The ill effects of this quagmire aren’t restricted to the AFM; it crosses institutional boarders and touches nearly every professional orchestra that operates under a collective bargaining agreement overseen by that union. I touched on this issue in expanded detail on 9/18/2009 in an article titled Something Every Good Manager Knows and nothing’s changed since then.

If you have a burning desire to know about internal AFM politics, the issues they are dealing with, and how they plan on addressing them, Robert Levine’s AFM Convention Diary blog is a good place to start.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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6 thoughts on “A New AFM President And Why You Should Care”

  1. The raw numbers understate the size of the victory. NY and LA are only allowed 50 votes, even though their membership should entitle them to about 30 more each. If they had gotten to vote their membership, Ray’s share of the vote would have been 60%.

    More important is that incumbents in the AFM rarely lose; and when they do it’s generally by very close votes. Tom Lee beat Steve Young for president in 2001 by 11 votes out of over 800 cast; Sam Folio beat Florence Nelson in 2005 by only a slightly greater margin. For the AFM , this was indeed a landslide victory.

  2. While I don’t know any specifics, I’m be shocked if Ray didn’t spend every work week either in NY or on the road on AFM business.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if, in the end, he ended up living in NJ and commuting to work by bus. It’s one of the oddities of the AFM that the President makes less than a significant number of rank-and-file musicians living in the same town.

    Actually that’s not an oddity; that’s a good thing.

    • I don’t understand why the AFM has to based in NY at all. Wouldn’t it be just as good to be based in Nashville (music city), Denver (central location), Cleveland or Detroit (cheaper realestate), DC (where all the politics occur), or just about anywhere else? From my perspective, we live in a time that affords us e-meetings and virtual conferences. It seems like the base could be more affordable and just as access-able just about anywhere but NY.

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