After the California legislature passed its AB-5 bill -- which will reclassify private contractors into full-time employees -- many Uber and Lyft drivers rejoiced at the opportunity to be considered full-time employees rather than contractors.
However, other contract employees might face hurdles further down the line in their careers. For many independent musicians, AB-5 requires everyone who has worked on a song such as producers, background vocalists, publicists and engineers to be considered an employee, entitling them to minimum wage and benefits.
Many musicians rely on the aspect of freelancing to have freedom with the direction of their work but the bill would limit the way they cooperate with others.
“I would much rather make the art I want, with whom I want, when I want, and on my conditions and make less money,” said Jessica Harper, a popular music student who is also a singer-songwriter. Harper said the bill would discourage her from hiring people to help her with her music.
The Recording Industry Association of America released an open letter supporting Uber and Lyft and also raised concerns that the law will “threaten to quash the innovation” for hopeful musicians. Musicians would have to go to other states, such as New York, to have the independence of freelance work.
Torn between the decision to stay or go is Amoye Ooutosin, a USC freshman studying classical piano. Having just moved from out of state to attend college, Ooutosin is open to the idea of seeking out future work opportunities outside of California if the need arises but also agreed with certain conditions of the bill that would create more financially stable working conditions for musicians.
“If it’s something stable, we can at least sustain or build a living off of that because we may have a gig one day that pays a lot but that type of activity may not follow after those one or two gigs,” Ooutosin said.
The independent contractor model that sustains gig economies isn’t anything new. Hernan Galperin, a USC professor of Communication, said that “the independent contractor model has been at the heart of other industries for decades, including the music industry.” The key to restructuring this system lies in acknowledging worker misclassification while maintaining the relationships these gig economy companies have with their employees, he said.
California Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the bill, which would then go into effect in 2020.