Online petitions and tweets demanding that Sony release musician Kesha from her recording contract with her accused abuser, Dr. Luke, even after a judge ruled they don’t have to, have been joined by real-life protests, one at a Manhattan courthouse last week and another this morning in front of the iconic Sony Building at 550 Madison Avenue (although the corporation is moving further south, it’s still a recognizable Midtown landmark).
A spirited group of protesters, organized on Twitter and via online petition site Care2, braved cold temperatures and winds to hold up signs and talk to the press today, as tourists and businesspeople stopped to snap photos.
Indeed, there were so many cameras that every one of the several dozen young and determined placard holders was engaged in an interview nearly the entire time I was there. It felt like as much a press event as a protest, which makes unfortunate sense given the story’s celebrity factor.
The protesters I spoke to included some young fans from Saratoga Springs who drove in to New York City just to support their favorite artist. They wore glitter on their faces while holding handmade “Sony Sucks” and “Sony Supports Rape” signs, and told me they had learned a lot about exploitation in the music industry since the Kesha story came to light. All they want, they said, is for the artist to be able to make music on her own terms. “No one is too famous” for sexual assault to happen to them, a fan named Seanna told me, connecting Lady Gaga’s Oscar-nominated song about rape culture, “Til It Happens to You,” to Kesha’s experience.
But the awakening caused by this high-profile struggle has gone both ways. Another protester, 31-year-old Jessie, told me she had never heard a Kesha song until recently. An actress New York City, she is a volunteer at a shelter for battered women and families, and was out in the cold representing the young women she worked with who were fans of Kesha’s music and victims of gendered violence. She had heard about the protest during an audition earlier that morning and walked over to show her support.
The online and in-person protesting has made such a giant impression on the public that Sony was forced to respond with a statement this morning. An attorney for the company, Scott A. Edelman, told the New York Times:
“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.”
Kesha remains signed to Dr. Luke’s label, Kemosabe Records, a subsidiary of Sony, through a separate deal with his production company, Kasz Money Inc.
“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.
With mega-stars like Adele, Taylor Swift, and Arianna Grande sticking up for Kesha, however, it’s clear that Sony’s PR apparatus is sweating. The singer’s devoted young fans plan to keep the company’s feet to the fire. Given Kesha’s recent statement — “I would be willing to work with Sony if they do the right thing and break all ties that bind me to my abuser,” she said — there might even be hope that some sort of compromise or workaround is due to be hammered out soon.
Until then, we can expect glittery signs and impassioned social media pleas to keep demanding Kesha’s freedom.