Musicians – are you an Independent Contractor or an Employee?

FYI to musicians (from Chris Daniels). Please pass this long…

“In case any of you have not been included in the emails going around, there is a problem and concern that musicians in Colorado are facing concerning the Department of Labor and how they classify band members, bandleaders, and event companies. There are no villains here, just a very important discussion that effects the livelihood of every working musician and every bandleader and every event company that hires artists to play their gigs. In simple terms, the question is: are you an independent contractor, free to work for whom ever you want, or are you an employee? The DOL’s policy, that goes back to the 1990s, is to classify any musician who makes more than 50% of their income from one band (or event company) as an employee of that company.

This is a long discussion but in short, if you are a band and you make all your money from performing with that specific band ..DOL wants to require you (and your company) to do withholding, unemployment, and matching payments…and many musicians do not see themselves that way … as employees … but as independent contractors. The difference between the two in dollars and cents, accounts fees, and money withheld is huge for the musician, the event company, the bandleader etc. So this is the issue. If you know nothing about it, I encourage you to read the ‘common law rules’ about who is and who is not an independent contractor. The current policy of the DOL is causing many bandleaders and event companies to consider ending their business because they simply cannot afford to follow DOL’s policy that is basically … if you make more than 50% of your living from one organization you are employee/employer not independent contractors. The results of not following that can be a $25,000 fine for each noncompliance.

For more information, check with Barb at the Colorado Music Business Association, there are some very important hearings coming up on this issue.”

Chris Daniels
Assistant Professor
University of Colorado, Denver

Author: goat

I've been on the air in Northern Colorado since 1978. The Colorado Playlist is broadcast on 30 FM frequencies in the state. I am also a musician, talent buyer and business consultant. Email me at

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