This story has been updated with a response from the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association.
Pennsylvania musicians are up in arms over a state House proposal that would allow minors to play in bars and other liquor-purveying businesses if they are not paid.
The measure’s sponsor says payment is a completely separate issue, and the complaints are driven by people who haven’t read the bill.
The legislation, from Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland, amends state law to allow “a hotel, restaurant or club licensee [to] permit a minor of any age to perform music if the minor is not compensated and the minor is under the supervision of a parent or guardian.”
The proposal has drawn criticism online from state musicians and allies, like Chester County entertainment attorney Bryan Tuk, who claims the bill “will make the economic life of the professional musician much, much more difficult.”
“This bill is a boon for establishments that can now book minors for zero dollars rather than hire professionals for value,” Tuk said in an op-ed published by the Pittsburgh Current.
But Delozier told the Capital-Star those critics’ grievances are not with her, but existing state code. As currently written, minors can play in bars if they are taking a music class — and likewise, are not paid.
The bill “reiterates what is already in law.”
“I simply changed who can perform, not what they are paid,” she said.
The bill passed in April by a wide bipartisan margin of 185-12. A press release from Delozier’s office in response to the vote credited a teenager in her district as the inspiration for the measure, which some musicians also met with skepticism.
Delozier said she didn’t hear a peep from anyone opposed or even concerned with the language in the lead up to the vote. The attention she’s received after the bill’s House passage surprised her, but “as you know on social media, when one person says something, everyone believes there is a fire.”
With the bill now in the Senate, Delozier said she’s focused on getting it through and signed by the governor, and working with anyone who has complaints. But changing the law itself to pay minors may be beyond the scope of her legislation.
“If someone would like to change existing law outside of my bill to pay minors, I don’t have an issue with that,” Delozier said.
The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association said it backs the bill, and would still do so without the non-payment requirement, according to Executive Director Chuck Moran.
“If a similar bill would be introduced without the ‘play for free’ section, we’d still support it,” Moran said. “Ultimately, musicians and tavern owners will negotiate payments. Some may just want the opportunity to play and will offer to do so without payment. Others, particularly those in demand, will want to be paid.”