by Dr. Paul Guise (originally published in 2005)

is an arts consultant, conductor and music educator living in Winnipeg, MB, Canada.
Check out his website at

This month we’ll be looking at a different type of clubbing, namely musician’s clubs (also known as associations, federations, societies, unions, etc.). These organizations offer a wealth of information and benefits, including networking opportunities, job postings, legal and financial help, and many ways to learn from the experiences of others. There are many different types of associations, so we’ll look at a few examples. For more information, look in the Links section at

Sometimes associations can be great money savers! For example, a common concern regarding a career in music is the lack of benefits (meaning health/dental/optical, not tickets/beer/etc.). However, many musicians’ associations offer their members benefit packages that are similar to those found in the corporate world, and usually at competitive rates. My local Music Industry Association (MIA), for example, charges between $70 and $136 per month for comprehensive coverage for your entire family. That’s not too bad. In addition to such coverage, most MIAs offer members access to professional development funds, which means you can establish or expand your business more effectively than if you were paying exclusively out of your own (empty?) pocket.

Another type of association here in Canada is SOCAN, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. SOCAN’s primary function is to collect and distribute Canadian royalty money to members and, through various reciprocal agreements, ensure that Canadian artists get paid for the use of their work in other countries. The organization is also takes an active role in furthering artists’ rights in Canada and abroad. Simply put, SOCAN members often make money through being members: how many associations can offer that? Actually, there are others in Canada, particularly CMRRA, the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency, which covers mechanical rights (CDs etc.).

No discussion of associations would be complete without mentioning the various performers’ associations that exist. No matter whether you’re a songwriter or composer, fiddle player or violinist, there is an association to suit your needs. Unfortunately, it is all but impossible to list the many organizations in an article such as this, but a brief web search or a look at the links mentioned in the first paragraph will get you started.

One of the cornerstones of musicians’ associations is the musicians’ union. In North America, that usually means the AFM, or American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (guess which part they added!). The AFM is extremely powerful in some regions, and where they are, you’ll need a union card to play: take this seriously. Where the union controls the market, they also control the minimum rate of pay for musicians, meaning venues that try to change the payout at the end of the session are asking for trouble. The union also works to improve the lot of professional musicians overall, so even if you’re not a “union person”, consider the merits of supporting this important organization.

Don’t forget to consider various forms of professional development, such as conferences, workshops, master classes, or song circles: professional associations don’t need to be long-term to be beneficial. Finally, take the time to read about each of these organizations on their respective websites, and consider joining the club! See you in December for a roundup of this year’s articles.