Rather than risk loss or damage to sometimes one-of-a-kind or very expensive instruments, musicians of all types routinely insist on taking them onboard with them.

The terrorist attacks on America have prompted Congress to address aviation security measures – a move few would dispute. But without clarification, the legislation could pose a significant threat to musicians who regularly carry instruments in passenger cabins of airplanes rather than in cargo holds.

A coalition comprising 27 national music industry groups and celebrities are led by the American Federation of Musicians in representing more than a half million musicians. The coalition is trying to make sure language is added to the measures to protect their unique needs.

At the same time, the group is quick to point out that the music industry wants to do its part to preserve safety and security in aviation.

“… we absolutely support our government’s efforts to keep our airlines safe,” AFM President Tom Lee said. “However, many artists who rely on expensive, irreplaceable musical instruments fear that new changes in carry-on regulations could put those tools, as well as their careers, at risk.”

The AFM is concerned that storage of instruments in an airplane’s cargo hold could result in damage due to climatic changes, excessive turbulence or rough handling.

AFM National Legislative Director Alfonso Pollard told Pollstar the aviation security bills passed by the House and Senate are very different. The coalition took separate approaches with each.

Musician reps lobbied to get effective language inserted into the Manager’s Amendment attached to the House bill. With the help of Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), that language was added.

The amendment states, “[the FAA shall] Develop security procedures to allow passengers transporting a musical instrument on a flight of an air carrier to transport the instrument in the passenger cabin of the aircraft, notwithstanding any size or other restriction on carry-on baggage but subject to such other reasonable terms and conditions as may be established by the Under Secretary or the air carrier, including imposing additional charges by the air carrier.”

The coalition also helped to get an amendment rejected in the Senate bill that could have had an adverse effect on musicians. Additionally, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) inserted a statement in the record addressing the special needs of musicians.

His statement, as printed in the Congressional Record, reads in part, “Rules promulgated by the federal government or by air carriers that would prohibit musicians from traveling with instruments in-cabin would, among other things, severely limit the ability of orchestras to present guest artists, audition musicians and tour within the United States and internationally, and put at risk valuable, historical musical instruments. Limitations on carry-on bags should not put an undue burden on musicians, consistent with the requirements of safety.”

Lee expressed gratitude toward Inouye and everyone involved in the effort. He said allowing legislation that would negatively affect musicians’ ability to transport their instruments safely “would only have served to allow these terrorist acts to affect our cultural landscape as they have our physical one.”

The House bill passed on November 1 set the stage for a joint conference committee comprising House and Senate members. They were expected to meet next week to work out differences and combine the House and Senate bills into one comprehensive piece of legislation.

Musician reps lobbying on Capitol Hill were standing by to convince the conference committee to keep the favorable language in the Manager’s Amendment.

In addition to the AFM, member organizations lobbying on behalf of the coalition include the RIAA, the AFL-CIO, NARAS, AFTRA and Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary.