Keeping Kesha means no musician will want to join Sony

Even on a business level, Sony forcing Kesha to stay makes no sense.

Kesha in concert
The singer who could topple Sony Keeping Kesha means no musicians will want to sign to Sony.

The harrowing court case that has seen Kesha forced to stay under contract to the music mogul she says raped and assaulted her is one of the saddest and most disgusting in entertainment history.

When she was 18, Kesha joined Sony Records under an imprint owned by Dr Luke – a hugely successful writer and producer behind hits for Rihanna, Pink, Miley Cyrus and a host of other pop stars. Katy Perry’s I Kissed A Girl? That was one of Dr Luke’s.

Kesha in court
"Stay with Sony" Kesha breaks down after learning she has to stay with Sony. Image Picture Jefferson Siegel/Pool

A decade later, and the New York Supreme Court has heard how Dr Luke – real name Luke Gottwald, a 42-year-old New Yorker – effectively groomed Kesha. He raped her when she was an 18-year-old virgin newly signed to his Sony-owned record label, Kemosabe.

Why has it come to court? Because, despite Kesha’s claims, Sony wants to tie the singer to her record contract and release her next six albums on Kemosabe – the label owned by her alleged rapist.

And guess what? The New York Supreme Court has sided with Sony.

In an era when Zayn Malik is allowed to change labels within Sony because he’s unhappy with his contract, it’s genuinely inhuman of the record label to force Kesha to stay.

For once, a hashtag has become a powerful and moving way to protest: the #freekesha movement has become a howl of anguish against such a horrific decision to back power and influence over a vulnerable woman’s needs.

Ariana Grande, Iggy Azalea and Sony signing Kelly Clarkson – one of Dr Luke’s biggest artists – have tweeted their support. Lady Gaga spoke movingly about how “I don’t want to live in a country where the government decides if you were raped or not.”

“Taylor Swift’s silence is disappointing. But where are the male musicians coming forward?”

Taylor Swift has been criticised for not speaking out in favour of Kesha. Yes, her silence is disappointing. But this shouldn’t be an issue where only female musicians show support. Where are the male musicians coming forward? Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Jay Z, Justin Timberlake, One Direction – not a word.

Foo Fighters, probably Sony’s biggest rock act and usually a liberal voice of protest, have also so far stayed silent.

And yet, the #freekesha protest could ultimately topple Sony.

Kesha producer Dr Luke
A man accused Kesha's alleged rapist, Dr Luke Image Picture Frederick M Brown/Getty Images

Because which female musician will want to join a record company that is keeping a woman against her will?

The pictures of Kesha breaking down in tears as Justice Shirley Kornreich ruled against her are heartbreaking.

It’s important to state here that Dr Luke is innocent until proven guilty. You can understand Sony backing Dr Luke until Kesha’s claims are proved.

But there has been no sensible offer of mediation to keep both parties happy: Kesha believes Sony won’t promote her albums properly unless she keeps working with Dr Luke.

Justice Kornreich ruled that Sony would suffer a major financial loss if Kesha were allowed to leave. Which is undoubtedly true, and the real reason Sony probably want the singer to stay.

There is a long history of musicians making deliberately unlistenable albums when they’re unhappy with their record contract – Marvin Gaye, Neil Young, Lou Reed’s infamous Metal Machine Music… all made intentionally poor records.

“Keeping Kesha is like a Premier League club keeping an unpicked squad player in case he plays well for one of its rivals”

You can only imagine how unhappy Kesha’s albums are going to sound if she does indeed have to stay with Sony. So what do they gain? Well, it’s not so much that Sony want to keep an unhappy musician. No, they doubtless want to keep Kesha to prevent her from releasing great albums with someone else.

It’s like a huge Premier League club keeping a squad player who they’re never going to pick just in case he ends up playing well for one of their rivals.

Some idiots have claimed that Kesha must be making up her claims against Dr Luke. That’s because, when she began having hits like Tik Tok in the 00s, Kesha had a party girl image. This is, let’s be clear, no different to those who say women “deserve” to be raped for wearing a short skirt.

It’s even been claimed Dr Luke designed Kesha’s party girl image so that nobody would believe her rape report, knowing she would one day speak out against him. Sound too lurid to be true? Well, look at the New York Supreme Court ruling…

The Kesha case is undoubtedly awful. Right now, it must seem that the might of Sony has triumphed against a desperately unhappy woman who would rather do anything than work for them again.

But try to look at the longterm picture. If you’re a young musician – male or female – offered a record contract by an organisation as sleazy as Sony. Would you take it?

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Loaded’s deputy editor John Earls has covered entertainment and sport across a range of national newspapers, plus several football and music magazines, since 1990. Follow him on Twitter at @EarlsJohn

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