In this episode, Elena Armijo interviews Ned Hanlon, the president of AGMA (American Guild of Musical Artists) union, about leadership and the future of the arts industry. Ned shares his journey to union leadership, starting with his involvement in negotiating his contract with the Metropolitan Opera. He found his calling in the legal and negotiation side of union leadership and has been actively involved for the past 10 years.

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The pandemic has served as a wake-up call for artists, making them realize the importance of taking care of each other through unions. Companies cannot always provide stability, and artists need to rely on collective action to protect their interests. Ned’s goals as AGMA president are to build solidarity through alliances with other unions, empower artists to speak up, and protect them from retaliation.

One of the key focuses of the union is diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. This is addressed both internally within the union and during contract negotiations with companies. By addressing these important issues, the union aims to create a safer environment for artists, tackling problems like harassment and discrimination.

Ned sees his role as a facilitator rather than the sole leader. He believes in harnessing the collective power of union members and building consensus. Effective negotiations involve understanding all perspectives, finding common ground, and being willing to exert collective power if necessary. However, Ned emphasizes the importance of avoiding “scorched earth” tactics that can harm all parties involved.

Looking to the future, Ned’s hope is for the arts industry to survive its current difficulties. He wants all artists to feel empowered to improve their work conditions without fear, and he believes the union can play a crucial role in creating a safe and supportive environment for artists to speak up and advocate for themselves.


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This podcast was produced by the following amazing team:

Alan Meaney, Audio Engineer

Aaron Boykin, Musician & Artist (Get updates about Aaron’s music via Instagram)

Jo van Eeden, Project Manager