EDITORIAL: Making Kesha work with abuser is wrong
Pop star’s court injunction to stop working with her producer denied
Kesha is mired in a convoluted quandary. The singer Kesha Rose Sebert is contractually obligated to create her next six albums with her producer Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald, who goes by the name Dr. Luke, but she wants out of the contract, citing alleged sexual harassment and long-term emotional abuse that occurred during the 10 years they worked together. She filed a court injunction in October 2014 that would allow her to record new music outside of her record label, Sony Music. Gottwald denied allegations and countersued for defamation and breach of contract December 2014. The events unfolded in a “he said, she said” fashion that’s typical of cases pertaining to abuse. Since all that the public can really glean from the situation is derived from the statements of each opposing party, we might never know what happened between the two.
Despite not knowing all that happened, the bottom line is that all Kesha wants is to free herself from a strict contract. She didn’t ask for reparations from Dr. Luke from the years of trauma she claims to have experienced — she just wants the freedom to create music on her own terms and away from someone she doesn’t want to work with. The kitschy party theme she’s built as an image, with the iconic lightning bolt over her eye and the tussled I-just-woke-up-from-a-long-night-of-partying hair was developed from the encouragement of her record label. After she took out the dollar sign out of her name (she was formerly Ke$ha), she wanted to release a new album using all of her creative faculties that’s on her own terms.
But the issue is exacerbated tenfold if the allegations she’s made are actually true. Among a litany of alleged descriptions of emotional abuse she’s experienced from Gottwald, Kesha says he drugged her with GBH before raping her while she was unconscious. To be forced to create six more albums (taking into consideration that each album takes at least a year to make) will — at the minimum — be six more years of her life without the autonomy every artist is entitled to and then, on top of that, being required to work with someone that actually did abuse her is downright excruciating. A New York recently judge denied Kesha the court injunction that would have allowed her to record new music outside of Sony Music and working with producer Dr. Luke, because Sony offered her the chance to work with other producers. But even if she doesn’t work with him, the contract would allow him a good share of the profits she’s earned. Giving someone a share of the fruits of your labor, especially if this person was hostile to you is unfair and adds salt to your wounds.
Many might criticize Kesha for signing a draconian contract in the first place. The contract obliges her to produce 10 albums, and that’s a lot. Kesha has already produced four albums in 10 years. But she was only 18 years old when she signed the contract, and what knowledge of law does an 18-year-old really have at that age? In short, not much.
Kesha’s fight to cut ties with her music label demonstrates how corporations can overstep their boundaries. She might not be able to void her contract, but Sony could let her go if it chooses to, and this would actually be the ethical thing to do. It’s not as if Kesha’s the only artist that they have. For a multimillion-dollar company, she’s just one of many. Although the company invested a lot of money into her future as an artist, forcing her to produce more albums would only result in low quality work. She’s being forced into a box and a hostile environment that isn’t conducive to creativity and, in turn, profit, so both Kesha and the company would be on the losing end.
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