Music industry insiders reveal why they're not supporting #FreeKesha
Much like you, I had a visceral reaction to the Kesha verdict. Not only was I was enraged that it was a female judge who had ruled against her, but that Kesha was ordered to continue working with her alleged abuser.
Kesha claimed that mega-producer Dr. Luke drugged her and sexually assaulted her for more than a decade. As a psychologist, I found this a believable claim, since Kesha's stint in rehab in 2014 for an eating disorder and subsequent alcohol abuse seemed to me like they could be the culmination of some kind of trauma. Being raped would certainly explain it.
She instantly received Twitter support from many female pop stars, as well as a $250,000 donation from TSwift to help with her financial woes.
So I was surprised when many music executives I spoke with felt certain Kesha was – in their words – "lying," though no one could provide me with specific evidence.
"I've been working with pop stars for over a decade, and they are notoriously insane," one executive told me. Another claimed to have met with Kesha early on, and said that her vibe was to stay far away.
"She was a major young talent who didn’t have a stable foundation but really wanted to be famous." She said the combination of those qualities is inherently dangerous.
Surprised at the reactions I received, I wanted to understand why anyone in the industry would believe a person would lie about something as horrible as sexual assault. Rape is a very serious allegation, and to throw it around just to get out of a record contract didn’t make sense.
It came down to this: None of the people I talked to knew what had really happened to Kesha, but they did know a lot about contracts. "Girls that age sign infamously bad record deals, and then they do whatever they can to get out of them. Demi Lovato had a horrible deal, Lady Gaga had a horrible deal… this is nothing new," one exec explained.
The sentiment wasn't unanimous, though. I spoke with one exec at Epic Records who said that, while he thought Kesha had a lot of problems, "As with most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle."
A former Atlantic records employee told me that when you are so desperate to be famous, you sign the first deal you get, which is why it's more important to be smart about business.
"Record contracts are shitty for artists who don't know what the hell they are doing. Maybe he’s a Phil Spector, but maybe she's a talented girl who let her mother sell her soul to Sony Records for 20 years."
The good news is that producer Jack Antonoff — who's worked with powerhouses like Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen and Sia — has offered to produce Kesha’s next album.
Antonoff proposed the work partnership on Twitter. offering to wait "until that creep can’t block you anymore."
But one exec at Universal told me that, even if it’s a "360 deal," which means that Dr. Luke continues to take a cut of everything Kesha does, it isn’t all that much.
"Kesha is likely free to work with any producer she wants to," he said, "and if she needs cash, she can certainly tour or at least play a few shows since that is one of the few areas where the bulk of the money goes to the artist."
I will continue to stand by Kesha. As someone who has been in radio since 1996 and has met my fair share of young pop stars, I have yet to see Kelly Clarkson say a harsh word about anyone. Her tweet in support of Kesha, alone, is enough to convince me that her inside view is clearer than any other arguments I have heard.
Disclaimer: The sources quoted in this article requested their identities be kept anonymous.