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Dr. Luke Cancels Kesha’s Billboard Performance, Approves It Two Days Later

CREDIT: CHARLES SYKES/INVISION/AP
CREDIT: CHARLES SYKES/INVISION/AP

Kesha will be performing at the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday, May 22.

Two days ago, her scheduled performance was canceled by Kemosabe Records, Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald’s label. Sebert has accused Gottwald of sexual and emotional abuse. Kemosabe Records is a subsidiary of Sony to which Sebert remains signed, despite repeated legal efforts to extricate herself from her contract.

But a statement from Kemosabe released to the AP on Thursday said that “Kesha’s performance on the Billboard Music Awards was always approved, in good faith. Approval was only suspended when Kemosabe learned Kesha was to use the performance as a platform to discuss the litigation. Now that Kemosabe has obtained assurances, that it is relying upon, from Kesha, her representatives and Dick Clark Productions that neither Kesha nor her supporters will use the performance as such a platform, the approval has been restored.”

Sebert plans to sing a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe” and be introduced by Lena Dunham, who has written about her support for the pop star in her Lenny newsletter. Gottwald, apparently, was afraid that Sebert would use the platform as a protest against him and his label. For Sebert’s part, in her Instagram on Tuesday, she claimed that “this performance was about me… and has never had anything at all to do with Dr. Luke.”

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On Tuesday, Dick Clark Productions released a statement announcing the cancelation of Sebert’s performance, which read (emphasis added):

Kesha accepted an invitation to perform on the show and she received written approval from Dr. Luke’s record label, Kemosabe Records. Kemosabe subsequently rescinded its approval following a media report on Wednesday May 11 regarding Kesha’s appearance on the BBMAs. Unfortunately, Kesha and Kemosabe have since been unable to come to an agreement for Kesha to perform on the show.

A representative for Sebert told the New York Times that she had “provided Dr. Luke with a written assurance that she would not mention or allude to the producer or her legal situation during the performance or on the red carpet.”

Judge Rejects All Of Kesha’s Claims Against Dr. LukeOn Wednesday, pop star Kesha lost yet another legal battle against her producer and alleged rapist, Dr. Luke. Kesha…thinkprogress.orgBut apparently those assurances were not enough, and Kemosabe pulled the plug less than a week before the performance. In response, artists have rallied around Sebert throughout her public legal ordeal — even the controversy-averse Taylor Swift sent a cool $250,000 Sebert’s way to aid the musician during these “trying times” — and, in the wake of this latest setback, were at her side again. Lady Gaga expressed her support for Sebert on Twitter:

And on Wednesday night, Ben Folds invited Sebert onstage at the Orpheum Theatre in L.A. to play “It Ain’t Me, Babe” as well as Folds’ “Still Fighting It” and a mash-up of Folds’ “Rock This Bitch” with Sebert’s “Sleazy.”

Sebert thanked Folds on Instagram “for believing in me… [and for] being a good friend in this scary business.”

It’s not clear whether it was Sebert’s written assurances or public backlash that changed Gottwald’s mind. But none of this, really, portends well for Sebert. She has been pleading with judges to believe her — not just that she was sexually assaulted and abused by Gottwald, but that her professional career would fade into nothing should she be forced to remain under contract with Kemosabe and Sony — for months on end, to no avail.

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Sony has said that they will promote whatever music Sebert produces, but Sebert’s representation has said in court that those are “illusory promise[s]” Sony won’t keep. It may seem absurd that a record label, having invested significant financial capital in Sebert’s career, would want Sebert to fail. Why hold her to this contract if not for the expectation that she’ll be minting money for them for years to come? But this move by Kemosabe suggests that, perhaps, Sebert was right: Kemosabe and, by extension, Sony, will keep her under contract for the sole purpose of controlling her, to dismantle a pop star they helped construct.

Why Sony Doesn’t Want To Let Kesha Out Of Her Contract With Her Alleged AbuserWhy can’t Kesha get out of her contract? On Friday, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich declined to grant…thinkprogress.orgBut as much as allies rally around her, tweeting #FreeKesha and sharing stages — not to diminish the significance that has for Sebert as a human being and an artist — there is only so much room Sebert has, as a professional musician, to earn a living and do her job as long as she is under contract with Kemosabe. If, despite Sebert’s repeated legal efforts to do so, she is stuck in the contract she has now, this is a harbinger of her future: Performances canceled whenever Gottwald says so, rescheduled again at his pleasure, and on and on until Sebert fulfills her contract. Which means, depending on how you’re counting her EP Cannibal, she needs to record three or four more albums with Kemosabe before she can get out from under Gottwald and his label.