[Editorial] How the AB5 "Gig Economy" Bill Hurts the Music Industry

I’m sure by now you have heard about the Assembly Bill (AB5) in California. Also, more casually known as the “Gig Economy” bill. The landmark bill was signed into law yesterday by Governor Newsom, but what does this mean for music?

First, a little background about the bill. The bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez in January. The details of the bill involve a test called the “ABC test”. While designing a test for companies to prove their workers are independent contractors, it seems like a thorough, and effective tool. Furthermore, it will be bringing contract workers from companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash one step closer to full employee status.

The potential gain in change of status for employees in these types of positions is evident. Instead of large companies avoiding labor protections such as overtime pay and health insurance, the “ABC test” will be providing support to these workers who deserve them. Furthermore, even polling in California shows 50% in support of the bill while 24% opposed. Heck, with backing support by Democratic presidential candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris why wouldn’t Californias support the bill? But again I ask. What about the music industry?

One Size Fits All?

The bill would change the employment status of over a million California workers. Naturally, monster tech companies like Uber aren’t very happy about providing these benefits. Well, they aren’t alone. Many important music industry organizations very much oppose the bill too. This includes: The Recording Industry Association of America, the Music Artist’s Coalition and The American Association of Independent Music.

If you haven’t heard of the Music Artists Coalition (I hadn’t), it’s because it is a fairly new organization. It was put together in fighting for creators’ interest in the digital space, and protecting artists rights. Not to mention, the MAC is made up of some huge industry names. The individuals representing the group include: Don Henley, Dave Matthews, , Anderson.Paak, , and Earth, Wind & Fire’s Verdine White. Even some managers have some representation. Some managers involved are including Irving Azoff, Coran Capshaw and John Silva. In a statement made to Billboard, Don Henley discussed the MAC:

“Artists decide their musical fate every time they write a song or step on stage. Their true fate — the ability to protect their music — is being decided by others … bureaucrats, government legislators, and the powerful digital gatekeepers…We are forming the Music Artists Coalition to ensure that there is an organization whose sole mission is to protect the rights of music artists — performers and songwriters.”

He goes on…

“We have a responsibility to protect the people who write the songs and create the music. MAC will be the voice and defender for all music creators.”

The RIAA and Others Took to Variety

So, the Music Artists Coalition doesn’t support the bill. Moreover, their sole purpose of forming this coalition is protecting artists. Additionally, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America, Mitch Glazier doesn’t support the bill either. Furthermore, he even went so far to say the unintended consequence of the law will push the music industry out of California. This came from an op-ed penned in Variety. While including a few other important industry individuals, the piece presents a clear opinion on the AB5. A2IM president and CEO Richard Burgess said:

AB5 music bill law

“Unless there is an exemption for the music industry, it will make every studio engineer, employees for whoever is hiring them…On a practical level, I don’t see how it can work.”

As you can see, countless industry veterans aren’t in support of the bill. In fact, I couldn’t find any public industry figures who are in support of the bill. I kept coming across countless articles covering the negative impacts of the bill.

What’s Next with The AB5?

AB5 music bill law

Democratic assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez told Billboard that she had been working with the music industry on the bill. Hoping to solidify an exception for artists, apparently nobody could agree on the language that should be used.

“All year, we have engaged with the recording industry… and how this new court decision will impact their work…We were hopeful they would reach an agreement, but once language was drafted to chart a path forward after the Dynamex decision the recording industry preferred no legislation at all.”

With little support from the music industry, I only hope agreements and provisions will be reached to help settle some of these concerns. The LA Times lists the various occupancies which will be affected by this bill. some of these are including: janitors, truckers, construction workers, manicurists, medical technicians, nightclub strippers to name a few.

To sum up, as a New Yorker, I’d welcome the industry to relocate to here with open arms. Although, the idea of passing a bill with such a “one size fits all” feeling is unsettling. Clearly this bill is affecting many industries, especially the music industry. Hopefully this backlash is only just the beginning.