Sony needs to face the music: Kesha is unable to leave her contract with an abusive producer

Sony needs to face the music: Kesha is unable to leave her contract with an abusive producer


[quote]By Ashvini Kartik-Narayan
Features Writer
Photo courtesy of the Mirror[/quote]

Back in March of 2015, Directioners everywhere mourned the departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction. Hearts were broken, tears were shed, but fans rallied around the singer with support and acceptance. Now, American singer Kesha struggles to be released from her own contract after her producer, Lukasz Gottwald (known as “Dr. Luke”), raped and emotionally abused her over a period of over a decade. The response? Radio silence.

Or at least, silence from Sony Music Entertainment, the company under which both One Direction’s Zayn Malik and Kesha were signed. Kesha’s legal battle began back in October 2014, and the trial and its proceedings went on for over a year before on Feb. 19 this year, the court ruled against Kesha’s plea.

The response from Kesha’s fans following the ruling was far from silent, spurring the hashtag #FREEKESHA and pushing influential female artists like Lorde and Adele to speak out against the injustice. The court’s ruling was based on the idea that it would not be profitable for Kesha to leave her producer, given the amount of money that is involved in her career. According to senior and Kesha fan Shehla Chowdhury, this means that Kesha is treated like a $60 million possession instead of a like survivor of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. “She is literally being viewed in the court as an investment,” senior and Kesha fan Shehla Chowdhury said.

Indeed, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Konreich, who presided over the case, claimed that it would be extreme to break a contract that was so heavily negotiated. “My instinct is to do the commercially reasonable thing,” Konreich told Kesha’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, according to a USA Today article published on Feb. 21. Kesha’s rights as a person were sacrificed for the sake of her monetary value.

“Despite not having any real reason to release Zayn, (Sony was) happy to let go of that ‘investment,’” Chowdhury added. The loss of Zayn probably made just as many national headlines, but legally, it is true that it was a lot simpler. The singer chose to leave One Direction because he wanted a normal life, out of the spotlight. He has since gone on to produce more of his own music under Sony’s label, but breaking ties with One Direction was a decision left to Malik’s interests alone.

One Direction’s contract included a “leaving member clause” that would allow the group to continue as four people, even when Malik left. Additionally, because Malik was signed both as an individual artist and a group member, his transition involved less of a legal struggle. Kesha’s contract, however, ties her to the same producer for six albums: as an artist and as a woman, she is seen as capital, and this makes it hard for her to leave.

The court’s verdict in Kesha’s case was based on what Konreich cited as a lack of evidence, such as hospital records and medical testimonies. Geragos maintains that Kesha’s silence was a result of threats by Gottwald to destroy her career and her family if she spoke out. Yet, while Malik’s creative freedom was respected, Kesha’s personal freedom was not.

“It’s a perfect example of the objectification of women, especially in the music industry,” Chowdhury said. The speculation and scrutiny that Kesha has faced under the laws that are supposed to protect her demonstrate how her value is seen in her monetary potential, not in her personal artistry. “Kesha is bound to her rapist by law now, purely because of her gender,” Chowdhury said.

While the United States has certainly been at the forefront of aiding victims of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse in recent years, there is still work to be done in how the entertainment industry values its artists, regardless of their gender. “I think it’s a great opportunity for women in the music industry to rally around the cause and to bring a lot of transparency to the issue,” Chowdhury said, in hopes that the future of women in the music industry will be a lot brighter.

As Lady Gaga tweeted in support of Kesha, “This is not over.” Kesha’s battle is far from won, but with the help of her supporters, she will be able to continue the fight.



*Disclaimer: This article is categorized as Opinions. The views of this article are that of the writer and do not represent the Stampede staff as a whole and should not be interpreted as a staff editorial.