A Green Flash concert at the Birch Aquarium. Under Assembly Bill 5, musicians must be employees rather than independent contractors in many cases. Courtesy of the aquarium

State Sen. Brian Jones introduced a bill Tuesday to exempt musicians from Assembly Bill 5, adding to efforts to blunt the controversial legislation’s impact on the gig economy.

AB 5 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego requires workers in the vast majority of occupations to be employees rather than independent contractors. Only doctors, dentists, lawyers, real estate agents, hair stylists and a small number of other occupations are exempted.

“Jazz musicians in the 1920s coined the term ‘gig’ for a temporary or occasional show they would do, such as performing a few songs at a music festival, teaching a private music lesson, or producing a couple of songs for a client,” said Jones, who represents East County.

“Musicians and music industry professionals are clearly freelance occupations, yet under AB 5 for each ‘gig’ a musician or producer books, the hirer must add them to their payroll as an employee and start paying fees such as unemployment insurance,” he said.

Jones’ Senate Bill 881 joins bills by Sen. Shannon Grove of Bakerfield to exempt freelance translators and interpreters, and by Sen. Patricia Bates of Laguna Niguel to exempt journalists.

Lawsuits against AB 5 have been filed by freelance writers and independent truck drivers, with a judge granting an injunction on behalf of the drivers.

Uber, Lyft and DoorDash were major targets of AB 5, but they have committed $90 million to a ballot measure that would exempt “app-based” businesses from the law.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.