musician

San Diego Musicians Blame New Labor Law For Hurting California’s Music Industry

Controversy over a new California labor law is impacting independent and contract workers as they now must be considered employees of a company, rather than independent workers

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Ari Herstand is a Southern California musician. Herstand told NBC 7 he relies on booking gigs in local venues to make ends meet but says, that has all changed.

Herstand and other musicians said a new labor law is disrupting California's music industry.

“We’re actually thinking of leaving the state of California and going elsewhere because we can’t survive here,” said Herstand.

Herstand said Assembly Bill 5 is forcing him to act as an employee and an employer, just to earn money by playing his music.

“The bassists I’d normally cut him a check for $200, well now I have to put this bassist on payroll and pay payroll taxes. I have to incorporate myself, I have to get workers comp insurance, I have to get unemployment insurance, etc," Herstand said.

Herstand said the process will cost him and prevent him from doing what he loves.

“My accountant estimated it will cost me an additional $6,000 a year just to comply with this law and the additional costs,” he explained.

AB 5 was co-authored by assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez and supporters said the bill provides benefits to those in the gig economy.

Assemblymember Gonzalez told NBC 7 for more than a year they've been engaging with artists about how this would impact their work.

"It's a balance we have to make sure it works for musicians, we have to guide them through it and make it easier on them," explained assemblymember Gonzalez. "But, we also have to protect those people who are using music as a job."

“It’s completely unrealistic for us to change our entire way of operating for this that wasn’t intended to help or hurt us,” said Herstand. “I know assemblywoman Gonzalez did not have ill intention for the music industry when she wrote this bill."

Herstand is hoping to add an exemption to the law.  If that doesn’t work, he said he’s teamed up with Senator Brian Jones for senate bill 881 to tackle this issue.

“I never thought when I got into music that one of the most effective, impactful things that I would’ve ever written would be a law for the state of California,” he said while laughing.

"We're still working on trying to ensure people especially in creative industries have the kind of flexibility they need," said assemblymember Gonzalez.

Assemblymember Gonzalez’s office told NBC 7 addressing the music industry this year is a top priority.

The assemblymember provided the following statement to NBC 7:

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