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New California Law Might Give Musicians Precisely What They’re Trying To Avoid

1Calfornia Bill AB 5 has now passed both houses of the Legislature and is headed to the Governor to be signed. The bill, aimed primarily at helping ride-share drivers, could also reak havoc in the indie music industry, re-classifying those who were once known as independent contractors as full employees.

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Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0

One major attraction of being a musician is that most want to avoid a real job as much as possible. That’s the dream, after all, to just spend your day creating without being beholden to “the man.” A new bill by the California Legislature may put a big ding in those aspirations though, as most people who were previously classified as independent contractors will now be designated as employees instead.

In a move made to help ride share drivers for Uber and LyftCalifornia Assembly Bill 5 (AB5might inadvertently make musicians, engineers, songwriters, producers, dancers, studio musicians, and most other part-time workers in the music business, employees as well. This will subject them and the people who hire them to all the rules and regulations set forth by the State for employers and employees, including withholding taxes.

4While it’s the ride-share industry, and to another degree, the tech industry that are in the crosshairs of the Bill, there are so many other ordinary people who will get caught up in besides musicians. Truck drivers, manicurists, some nurses, therapists, exotic dancers and newspaper deliverers are just a few that come to mind (there’s are at least 50 industries at risk). That said, lawyers, doctors, architects, accountants, travel agents, commercial fishermen and photographers have managed to carve out an exemption, and that’s what the industry lobbyists are trying to achieve as well. Word is that the various music industry organizations cannot agree on the exact wording of an exemption though, which could mean no exemption at all if the Bill passes.

Until now, works could be classified as independent contractors if they met the following criteria:

1. they are free from control and direction of the company that hired them while they perform their work

2. the worker is performing work that falls outside the hiring companies usual type of business

3. the worker has their own independent business or trade beyond the job for which they were hired.

If that language was included in AB5, then the music industry could breathe a sigh of relief. If not, Oregon and Washington might see their music scenes explode soon.

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