Controversial “Gig Economy” Bill in California May Push Out Music Industry

The music industry might be leaving the west coast and relocating to New York or Nashville. Billboard is reporting that the California Senate passed a bill titled AB5 which may have some lasting effects on the music industry. The bill would give new wage and benefit protections to workers at gig economy companies such as Uber, Doordash and Lyft. However, others are more concerned about how this will be influencing the music industry in California. Steve Smith of the California Labor Federation said of the bill:

“Misclassification is not something that just happens in California, it happens everywhere…the trend towards cheating workers out of basic protections has been accelerating in recent years. We think this is significant for us here in California, but its national significance cannot be understated.”

This will most certainly be changing the way independent contractors work. The bill would be making these companies classify their workers as employees instead of contractors, which will have an impact on many of these companies, including the music industry as a whole. The music world typically involves many contractors on projects. This includes anyone from session musicians and vocalists to producers, engineers, songwriters, tour managers, dancers among many more. Furthermore, the AB5 would offer unemployment insurance, healthcare subsidies, overtime pay, paid breaks, and parental leave to all these individuals.

Who Supports the Bill?

Surprisingly enough, some Democratic presidential candidates have supported the bill including US senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Kamala Harris of California. Whereas many music rights organizations have not. This is including the Recording Industry Association of America, A2IM and the Music Artists Coalition. Mitch Glazier, President of the RIAA addressed the AB5 in an op-ed published in Variety earlier this week:

This is not an issue of big versus small; this is small struggling to become big. There are tens of thousands of kids with dreams in California—dreams to become a recording artist, a singer, a producer, a rapper, a small label executive, a major label executive. The unintended consequence of this law is that they will have to move out of California to pursue this dream.

The op-ed lays out some of the opportunities that will be threatened from the AB5 pretty clearly:

  • The young girl in her basement recording on Garageband who invites a friend over to play bass. She is an employer.
  • The rapper who hires a mixer to punch up the levels on the production. He is an employer.
  • The producers in a garage who hire musicians to play on a track. They are an employer.
  • The songwriters who ask people to play on a demo so they can pitch it to an artist to cut: employers.
  • People who organize “song camps” where songwriters come together and write songs:employers.

The bill was sponsored by the California assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. Additionally, it is supported by California governor Gavin Newsom. It passed the state senate with 29 votes in favor and 11 votes against. Meanwhile, the governor should be signing the bill into law soon. Stay tuned to see what comes of this new bill.