Gavin Newson Ends California’s Restrictive Musician Contractor Laws by Signing AB 2557

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Photo Credit: CA Governor’s Office

Four days back, Digital Music News was first to report that the California Legislature had passed AB 2257, a bill that would exempt musicians from AB5 requirements. Now, Governor Gavin Newsom has signed the legislation into law.

The governor recently approved AB 2257, which made its way through the Senate and the Assembly (along with a series of other bills) just prior to the Legislature’s adjournment. Essentially, AB 2257 enables most musicians and music industry employees to resume working as freelancers, identifying their employment statuses under the previous Borello test as opposed to AB5’s ABC test.

Plus, the just-enacted law (which was penned by the same individual who wrote AB5 itself) creates exemptions for youth-sports coaches, writers, photographers, graphic designers, and several additional professionals.

Governor Newsom’s AB 2257 signature has arrived quicker than experts – including some members of the Legislature – predicted, likely due to both AB5’s far-reaching consequences and the economic difficulties ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of freelancers (including a sizable segment of California’s music community) voiced their opposition to AB5’s stringent stipulations, and Newsom has indicated that his state won’t allow traditional concerts to return until a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available. (Despite the strict large-gathering ban in the state, an estimated 12,000 people assembled at the Capitol over the weekend, protesting California’s church-reopening guidelines with a massive religious music concert.)

AB 2257 exemptions have already gone into effect, allowing industry pros and musicians alike to accept freelance work once again. But while many on social media appear to be voicing their approval of the law, others are continuing to demand a full-scale AB5 repeal.

One musician wrote on Twitter: “Read the fine print on AB2257, musicians. It is NOT a full exemption for all of us. #RepealAB5.”

In our previous piece on the Legislature’s voting in favor of AB 2257, we covered this “fine print.” Artists headlining an event with 1,500 or more audience members – and those playing a festival that sells over 18,000 daily tickets – aren’t exempt from AB5 under AB 2257. Additionally, neither are musicians performing with a symphony orchestra, at an amusement park, or in a “musical theater production.”

It’s unclear whether future AB5-modifications bills will extend exemptions to the latter musicians. However, lawmakers also passed AB 323, affording newspaper companies a one-year exemption from abiding by AB5 requirements for delivery persons.  That suggests that AB 2257 is one of several upcoming attempts to amend the scope of 2019’s Assembly Bill 5.