Last Friday, scores of Kesha fans took to social media and gathered in front of the New York County Supreme Court in support of the embattled singer who is currently seeking to end her contract with producer Dr. Luke, also known as Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald. Currently she is an artist under the Sony umbrella via Luke’s label Kemosabe Records, LLC and also under agreement with Kasz Money Inc. (also owned by Dr. Luke). Lastly, she is also signed to Prescription Songs, LLC as a songwriter.
According to Kesha, during her time with Dr. Luke she was subjected to mental, physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse. However, at Friday’s hearing the judge moved to reserve ruling on the motion until Kesha’s lawyers provided more evidence of the alleged mistreatment. So for the time being, Kesha, who was photographed leaving court in tears, must remain in her current contract.
The social media sphere immediately reacted with an outpouring of sympathy. Fans, other artists, and numerous public figures spoke out in support of Kesha…
So how did it come to the highly publicized crossroads we’re seeing today?
Here’s a timeline of the allegations…
2005: The Beginnings
According to a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of California in October, 2014, Kesha and Dr. Luke’s working relationship began as follows…
In 2005, while Kesha was living with her family and attending high school in Nashville, Tennessee, Dr. Luke heard her demo and recognized her potential.
He encouraged the then 18-year-old to drop out of high school and relocate to Los Angeles to pursue a singing career. In the complaint’s statement of facts, Kesha’s lawyers maintain that at the time the singer had near-perfect SAT scores and a very promising academic future.
Upon relocating to Los Angeles Kesha alleges that a decade-long pattern of abuse soon began.
According to the complaint, not only did Dr. Luke fail to prioritize Kesha’s success, he also “displayed despicable conduct in front of Ms. Sebert.”
Amongst the troubling allegations are also claims that Luke bragged to his young artist about taking women out on first dates, getting them drunk and then performing anal sex on them.
The complaint also goes on to state that Luke engaged in explicit sexual activities with women while threatening to leave his pregnant wife if she did not agree to an abortion, and also claims that Kesha was initiated into these activities in order to groom and desensitize her to the coming abuse.
According to Kesha’s lawyers, these initial interactions allegedly culminated in Dr. Luke forcing Kesha to consume drugs and alcohol after which he slipped the singer a “GHB” pill, and then sexually assaulted her while she was incapacitated.
2006: Kesha Signs to DAS Communications Inc
In 2006, Kesha signed with New York-based firm DAS Communications Inc. As part of her agreement she consented to paying the company 20% of her music income. However, she also had the option of terminating the contract if DAS failed to furnish her with a major record label deal within the year.
2007: Still No Major Record Deal
Kesha did not land a major record deal, but nevertheless waived the pre-agreed deadline with DAS Communications. They continued to rep the songstress through 2007 and well into 2008.
2008: Uncredited and Unpaid
In late 2008, Kesha provided vocals for the Flo Rida hit “Right Round” at the instruction of Dr. Luke. Despite the song climbing to number one on Billboard‘s charts Kesha alleges she was uncredited for her contribution, and thus, never paid.
In September, Kesha officially cut ties with Das Communications.
2010: Going Platinum
Under the direction of Dr. Luke, Kesha signed with Jive Records/RCA label group, a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment.
Kesha’s debut studio album, Animal, was released through Jive Records; it was produced by Dr. Luke.
The project would go on to reach platinum-level success with the single “Tik Tok” reaching multi-platinum certification in over a dozen countries.
DAS Communications went on to file a $14 million lawsuit against Kesha claiming the singer was “induced, intimidated and convinced” to sever professional ties under the direction of Dr. Luke.
2011: More Abuse
Kesha allegedly attempted to renegotiate her contract on par with industry standards. According to the complaint, though Dr. Luke had formerly promised to do so (contingent on her success), over the next year and a half he refused.
Dr. Luke also allegedly redoubled his verbal abuse, calling Kesha “untalented,” “unattractive,” and “a fat fucking refrigerator,” among other insults.
Kesha also claims that she was forced to sing lyrics she did not agree to and often had her songs edited in ways that displeased her. She also maintains that Dr. Luke would threaten to take away publishing rights to her own songs if she did not do what he told her to.
2012 – 2013: Bad Timing
The alleged abuse continued while Kesha kept working closely with Dr. Luke. During this time Kesha also released “Die Young.” The timing just so happened to coincide with the tragic Sandy Hook school shootings.
After much public outrage, Kesha tweeted and deleted that she was forced to sing the lyrics. The song, which briefly occupied a number one spot on Billboard‘s chart, dropped after several radio stations removed it from their rotation.
2014: Rehab and Lawsuits
In January of 2014, Kesha checked into a rehab center in Illinois for issues related to an eating disorder, specifically bulimia nervosa.
According to the complaint, doctors told Kesha that her blood pressure and sodium levels were on par with that of a stroke or heart attack patient.
The complaint also alleges that the facility doctors found that Kesha suffered from severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, social isolation and panic attacks.
In October of that same year Kesha filed a formal complaint against Dr. Luke.
Dr. Luke filed a countersuit the next month. In it he claimed that Kesha and her mother fabricated the allegations specifically to get out of the exclusive contract and possibly extort him.
2016: Court Case
February 2016 saw Kesha in court to face Dr. Luke. There her attorney, Mark Geragos, claimed that Dr. Luke mounted a campaign of abuse against Kesha with the end goal of destroying her.
He also filed an injunction demanding Kesha’s release from her contract on the grounds that Sony would not support Kesha after she came forward with her claims against Dr. Luke.
In response, Kesha’s fans took to Change.org to launch the “I Stand With Kesha” campaign, which called for a boycott on Sony music and products until the singer has been freed. So far it’s garnered over 244,000 signatures.
In the same month Dr. Luke also quietly deleted the below picture of Kesha sleeping…
In a series of tweets, Luke also denied all allegations of wrongdoing…
The Full Complaint
You can read the complaint in its entirety below…
Sony’s Involvement (or Lack Thereof)
According to Bloomberg Business, Sony Music may not actually be the problem. As mentioned earlier, Kesha’s original contracts were signed through three companies founded and owned by Dr. Luke. And though Kemosabe, LLC, where she signed her contract as an artist, is owned by Sony Music, Dr. Luke still serves as its chief executive officer.
So essentially, the contract involves more than two parties with Sony acting as more of the middle man than the primary party with autonomous power. This means that Sony literally cannot release Kesha without also having the consent of Dr. Luke.
Officially, the company’s attorney related, “Sony has made it possible for Kesha to record without any connection, involvement or interaction with Luke whatsoever, but Sony is not in a position to terminate the contractual relationship between Luke and Kesha.”
“Sony is doing everything it can to support the artist in these circumstances, but is legally unable to terminate the contract to which it is not a party,” Mr. Edelman said.
It’s a hairy situation, no doubt, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted as the situation unfolds.
- Lead Image: V Magazine / Popjustice.com