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Musician Groups Strike Deal To Be Exempt From California's Gig-Work Law

Thomas Hawk / Flickr
A musician sits with his guitar in Oakland, California.

The music industry has reached an agreement with the state assembly for musicians to be exempted from AB5, the state’s new gig-work law.

AB5 makes it harder for employers to classify workers as independent contractors. For freelance musicians, this meant that every gig or collaboration needed to be through an employer-employee relationship. Even a performance at a small coffee house. This caused many work opportunities to dry up.

That’s about to change. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, music unions and lawmakers reached a deal on Friday to exempt most musicians from the law effectively allowing the industry to continue working as it had in the past. The exemption extends to others in the industry involved in any part of the creation and distribution of music. Lawmakers plan to introduce the amendment once the state legislature is back from recess on May 4.

Advocates say they were pleased with the deal, but noted one glaring concession: musicians who play in live symphonies and musical theater productions are not exempt. That’s in part because many were classified as employees before the bill.

As musicians look ahead to how their industry will emerge from the lockdown, many say that this compromise strikes the right tone.


Chris is a graduate of KALW’s Audio Academy class of 2020. He is currently an Editor-Producer for KQED Podcasts and a freelance reporter. His reporting focuses on disability, mental health, and healthcare inequities, and has won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Public Media Journalists Association, and the San Francisco Press Club.