“This is not true,” Luke’s attorney, Christine Lepera, told Billboard. “Luke has an excellent relationship with Sony. His representatives are in regular contact with executives at the highest levels at Sony and this has never come up.”
Sony Music declined to comment on the report.
Kesha, who has accused Luke of drugging her and sexually assaulting her, was denied a preliminary injunction in her civil suit that would allow her to record outside of Dr. Luke’s purview. Ahead of the New York Supreme Court decision on the injunction Feb. 19, the singer’s lawyer contended that due to the generally short duration of pop stars’ success, an extended leave from recording music would destroy her career.
“You’re asking the court to decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry,” Justice Shirley Kornreich said in court. “My instinct is to do the commercially reasonable thing.”
Kesha signed with Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records label and Prescription Songs publishing company in 2005 at the age of 18 and has had a successful, if fraught, alliance with the powerhouse producer ever since. In 2011, Luke signed a joint venture deal with Sony for Kemosabe, aligning his stable of artists with the major label. With the litigation sparking social media backing and protests outside Sony headquarters supporting Kesha, often with the hashtag #FreeKesha, Sony has been under increasing pressure to sever ties with either Luke or the singer.
Complicating that decision has been the nature of Kesha’s record deal, which is solely with Luke’s companies, meaning that Sony’s hands are tied in terms of termination of her contract. Its deal with Luke, widely reported to be worth as much as $60 million over a five-year period, is due to expire later this year, and while Kemosabe hasn’t been as big a hit-maker as Sony may have hoped, Luke is still one of the most successful pop producers in the past two decades. While there is significant pressure on the major to sever ties with the producer — another planned protest to that end was announced just this morning — it is likelier that Sony would let its deal with Luke expire if the desire to distance itself from Dr. Luke becomes its solution.