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Musicians to Be Exempt From California ‘Gig Economy’ Assembly Bill 5

Musicians to Be Exempt From California
Asilvero via Wikimedia Commons

Multiple music industry organizations announced today that an agreement has been reached with California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Majority Leader Ian Calderon on pending amendments to California’s “Gig Economy” Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) that will provide relief to the majority of affected music professionals, including recording artists, musicians, composers, songwriters and vocalists. Upon the Legislature’s reconvening, amendments will change prior language in AB5 that created obstacles for music professionals securing work.

Assembly Bill 5 is largely aimed at “gig economy” jobs such as ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft and is designed to make it more difficult for such companies to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

Assemblywoman Gonzalez introduced legislation in January to continue working on the issues affecting musicians and a variety of other industries, following the passage of AB5 which established a three-part ABC test for determining employment status. The new language has been agreed upon by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), Music Artists Coalition (MAC), Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL), Independent Music Professionals United (IMPU), Songwriters of North America (SONA), American Federation of Musicians (AFM), the Recording Academy, International Allegiance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) and Teamsters.

According to the announcement, the language of the pending amendment states that most music professionals will once again be able to follow the Borello test (which defines whether a person is an employer) to determine employment classification for both live performances and studio recordings. The language also specifically provides for unions to continue to organize the work of recording artists, musicians, singers, and others.

Jordan Bromley on the Board of the Music Artists Coalition led the negotiations on behalf of the music industry.

“I am proud to be a part of this amazing consensus. Having worked personally with every stakeholder in the process for the last year, I can say that each elected official, coalition, association, union and individual working on behalf of their constituency truly cared about not only the members they work to protect, but also our industry as a whole,” said Bromley. “By reclassifying our economy of independent contractors into employees, the law ran the risk of making an employer of every independent artist making music in their basement, or garage band making ends meet to succeed in music. We kept the economy intact, but provided for any musician, recording artist or vocalist who got paid less than minimum wage to be able to appeal to the state for compensation.”

“Whether you are in a union or not, protecting the rights of working people has been the primary goal throughout this entire process,” said John Acosta, president of the American Federation of Musicians Local 47. “Finding a model that fits the unique needs of musicians has been no small task, and we are grateful to everyone involved for reaching a solution that will serve to benefit musicians and all workers throughout California.”

“I am grateful for the extraordinary work of the entire music community in California. This agreement once again reflects that we are strongest when we stand together,” said Mitch Glazier, Chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America. “The amendment appropriately narrows the effect of AB5 to clarify that music professionals, due to the unique nature of our business, cannot be treated as an employer every time they collaborate. We thank Assemblywoman Gonzalez and Majority Leader Calderon for being true partners in this effort to ensure that musicians can continue to create, live, and thrive in the state of California.”

Recording Academy Chair and Interim President/CEO Harvey Mason jr. added: “With this exemption, music creators can get back to work on their own terms of collaboration. The history of music making in California has played a vital role in shaping the world’s culture, and we can now continue that for generations to come. These are challenging times for creators but this is good news for those in California. I want to extend our gratitude to Assemblywoman Gonzalez and Majority Leader Calderon, and thank our own California members for fighting to bring this exemption to life.”

SAG-AFTRA Chief Deputy General Counsel, Jeffrey Bennett, added, “Keeping the music industry strong in CA, maintaining our ability to protect and organize the work of recording artists and singers, and allowing the creative community to thrive makes this a real and timely win for us all.  A special thanks to Assemblywoman Gonzalez and Majority Leader Calderon for their leadership.”