Here’s Why Sony Can’t Drop Kesha Even If It Wanted To

Kesha Makes An Appearance At New York State Supreme Court
Photograph by Raymond Hall—GC Images

Kesha Sebert has been at the middle of a protracted legal battle to get out of a recording contract with producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, citing extreme emotional distress due to allegations of sexual assault. A New York judge rejected her plea to break the contract, setting off a stream of popular support for Sebert and calls to boycott Sony Music, a player in the contested contract.

However, Sony Music has its hands tied. The music company can’t unilaterally cancel the contract, even if it wanted to. Gottwald must also agree since the deal was made through his Kasz Money music company. The contract wasn’t negotiated directly between Sebert and Sony Music, explains Bloomberg.

Sebert is linked to Sony Music through a music furnishing agreement negotiated by Gottwald’s company, rather than an outright recording contract. The agreement was established four years after she entered a professional relationship with Gottwald’s firm, Kasz Money. “On Jan. 27, 2009, Kasz Money negotiated an agreement with RCA/Jive, a label group of Sony, to furnish Sebert’s recording artist services to Sony,” according to court filings. With Gottwald in the middle, Sebert and Sony Music weren’t negotiating directly, meaning that the company couldn’t drop Sebert if it wanted to. After the success of Kesha’s Animal, a platinum album, she sought to renegotiate her contract. It was Gottwald, not Sony Music, who declined.

So, even if Sony Music wanted to let Sebert out of the contract, it’s stuck without Gottwald’s agreement. That is made even more clear cut via a contractual clause struck between Kasz Money and Kemosabe, a unit of Sony Music that’s led by Gottwald. The contract, which was obtained by Bloomberg, says that the two companies “will mutually determine the producer of Kesha’s recordings.”

So, at this point, without an injunction by the courts, Sebert is still tied contractually to both Gottwald and Sony Music. Based on New York Supreme Court Justic Shirley Werner Kornreich’s comments on Friday, that isn’t likely to happen.

“You’re asking for the court to decimate a contract, which was heavily negotiated and signed by two parties, in an industry where these kinds of contracts are typical,” said Kornreich in court. “It’s no different from all other contracts which require a certain number of records and require exclusivity and have copyrights.”

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