A new law in California called AB5 could gut the independent music industry in the state, warns music executives and trade groups. Learn how to take action!
California Musicians Face Uncertain Future Under Assembly Bill 5 (AB5)
California lawmakers passed a controversial bill, known as Assembly Bill 5 (AB5). The bill seeks to give regular employee benefits to individual contractors in the gig economy, like Uber and Lyft drivers. It essentially turns freelance workers into actual employees of companies. It also makes it more difficult for companies to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees.
According to many industry experts, AB5 will also have a devastating effect on the music industry. Independent artists and labels will have to treat other industry professionals they work with as employees.
Under AB5, musicians who hire engineers, producers, publicists, managers, vocalists, and other outside help would be treated as an employer and subject to strict employment regulations. An artist in California could become the employer of these people.
The proposed bill states that any person who provides services that relate to the usual course of the “hiring entity’s” business is an employee of that entity. This clause makes sense for large corporations; it does not make sense for the independent artist trying to make music.
In an open letter, music industry heavyweights expressed the problems the law could potentially create for musicians:
Think of a 14-year-old kid in her bedroom making music with friends: Is she capable of becoming an employer and providing punch cards, timesheets, guaranteed meal breaks, health care, retirement benefits, minimum wage, overtime pay calculation, mandatory tax withholdings? Imagine N.W.A., when they were making independent records in Compton, faced with the expense and administrative tasks of becoming employers.
Support Independent Music
California has always been a music mecca, offering opportunity and haven for inspiring artists. If approved, the new law could drive independent artists out of the state. Artists and labels work with various people to help them accomplish their creative vision. It would cripple independent artists if they had to provide employee benefits such as minimum wage, overtime, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and other protections to outside help. While changes in technology have made it possible for artists to remain independent and create music on their own terms, this law will effectively force them to make that music outside of California.
It’s understandable that legislators want to protect people in the state who are working without benefits, while the corporations involved reap the profits of their labor. Unfortunately, the law is so broad it will have adverse consequences on musicians in the state.
Music industry opponents insist that if legislators do not provide an exception for artists and smaller musical productions, AB5 will force them to leave the state.
Act Now! Contact Your State Legislators
California has always protected independence for artists. Don’t let AB5 pass without an exemption for independent artists, songwriters, and labels.
The music industry needs your help. Call your local state legislature, your union, and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). Tell them how important it is to keep the music in California. Ask them to support an exemption to AB5 for independent recording in California.
But hurry! Gov. Newsom is expected to sign the bill into law on September 13.
Personal letters are one of the most effective ways Americans have of influencing lawmakers. Download the AB5 Sample Letter below, fill out your information, and send to your local state Representative.