As if the music industry isn't already complex enough, the state of California may make it a nightmare for independent artists and labels if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs the new gig economy bill into action.
California AB-5, which has already been passed by the Senate and verbally supported by Newsom, seeks to give regular employee benefits to individual contractors, like Uber drivers. It essentially turns freelance workers into actual employees of the companies.
The music industry will be directly affected by the bill in the sense that independent artists and labels will have to treat any other industry professionals they collaborate with, such as recording studio engineers and roadies, as employees. This will entail a minimum wage, insurance and other basic employee benefits.
Forbes reports that while certain types of workers have been exempt from the bill, like doctors, lawyers and private investigators, the American Federation of Musicians declined exemption to protect artists and labels.
“Either its going to drive the music economy underground so that people are going to bend the rules even more than they already do, or its going to encourage record producers not to hire musicians and either to play the stuff themselves or use [computerization] to generate music, because you don’t need to pay a machine workers’ comp, health insurance and all the rest," said Bill Berrol, an attorney in the music industry.
"If you care about allowing independent artists, songwriters and labels to remain in California, we need your help. Call your local state legislature, your union, the AFM. Tell them how important it is to you that we keep the music in California. Ask them to support an exemption to AB5 for independent recording in California," reads a statement by the Recording Industry Association of America, the Music Artists Coalition and the American Association of Independent Music.
"But hurry: The bill becomes law on September 13."