Ridesharing giants and the music industry stand united against California’s AB5 — though the opposition effort doesn’t seem to be working.
Ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft have formed an unlikely alliance with the music industry to oppose California’s Assembly Bill 5 (AB5). Just yesterday, the California Senate approved the measure, setting up likely passage in the coming days. California Governor Gavin Newsom has pledged to sign the bill.
If implemented in its current form, the bill will make it exponentially more difficult to classify individuals as independent contractors. And because these workers would then need to be identified as employees, they’d be entitled to an hourly minimum wage, health insurance, vacation days, sick time, and much more.
That’s a huge attack on the ‘gig economy’ ushered in by Uber and Lyft, though scores of other companies rely on temporary contractors. That includes musicians, labels, and publishers, among other music industry stakeholders.
AB5 was written with Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing businesses in mind, and these companies oppose the legislation for obvious reasons, including that it would dramatically increase their costs and make it much harder for freelance drivers to complete gigs at their convenience. That said, the bill will also affect independent musicians, the vast majority of whom rely on one-off freelance work as they develop and release their songs.
RIAA, A2IM, and the Music Artists’ Coalition wrote a letter that made clear their opposition to AB5, which they said will result in up-and-coming artists having to “employ” producers, mixers, engineers, recording professionals, music-video creators, and many others.
Because this is financially and logistically impossible for most new musicians, the letter indicated that independent artists will likely leave the state unless sweeping exceptions are established. To be sure, the authors wrote, “Get ready, Nashville and New York — it looks like you’re about to have your own recorded-music boom…”
So far, the music industry’s fight seems to be ineffective.
Lorena Gonzalez, who has represented California’s 80th Assembly District since 2013, co-authored AB5. Speaking to reporters, she stated that dialogue with music industry representatives hadn’t brought a consensus on precisely which exemptions should be included in AB5, and that as a result, no special conditions were added to the final text.
Instead, organizations like the RIAA seem to be focused on crushing the law entirely, instead of accepting piecemeal exemptions. Gonzalez stated that “the recording industry preferred no legislation at all,” instead of an exemption. A number of other industries and professional areas, including doctors and lawyers, have been busily crafting special exemptions under AB5.
Though Gonzalez placed the blame squarely upon the shoulders of music’s representatives, she seemed open to forging some middle ground. The question now is whether the music industry is willing to accept some form of compromise, however imperfect.