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Sony Music maybe negotiating an end to its business partnership with Dr Luke

By | Published on Wednesday 26 April 2017

Dr Luke

Sony Music is seemingly distancing itself from Dr Luke, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Though it’s not yet clear if this means the major will ultimately cut the producer loose, or whether it will simply restructure its partnership with him.

Sony and Dr Luke, real name Lukasz Gottwald, have a joint venture together around the label Kemosabe Records, though for the major it’s the producer’s work on tracks for artists signed to its other labels that have really delivered the goods. Happy with the performance of those recordings, Sony generally gave Gottwald a free reign over his own imprint, which sat alongside the producer’s other companies.

However, the major’s alliance with Gottwald created PR challenges aplenty after he was accused by one of his artists – Kesha Sebert – of sexual assault. The producer has always denied those allegations, accusing Sebert of lying in a bid to get herself out of contractual commitments to his various companies, including Kemosabe Records, and he has sued for defamation.

The legal dispute between Sebert and Gottwald has been long-running and multi-layered, and at one point involved separate litigation in three American states. In the main, Gottwald has enjoyed a lot more success in court, though outside the courtroom there has been a lot of sympathy for Sebert.

Sony got caught up in the story when Sebert attempted, unsuccessfully, to get out of her record deal with Kemosabe on the basis that she was being forced to work with – or at least for the benefit of – her alleged abuser. Sony sought a compromise – that Sebert could work with another label and producer within its empire – though the singer continues to try to get out of her record deal, most recently by citing California’s seven year rule. That line of argument didn’t work in court, but is now subject to appeal.

Meanwhile, Gottwald’s current deal with Sony is soon to expire, and one source has told The Hollywood Reporter that the major hopes to part company with the producer once the current arrangement is complete. To that end, said source says, current negotiations are focused on ending the Sony/Gottwald partnership. Though, the Reporter concedes, another source has played down talk of a divorce, but it still notes that Gottwald was no longer listed as CEO of Kemosabe Records in a recent court filing and that the Dr Luke page on Sony’s website has been taken down.

Needless to say, neither Sony nor Gottwald have commented on speculation about their future working relationship. Either way, the two parting company wouldn’t necessarily help Sebert, who has deals with the producer’s companies other than Kemosabe Records. And, in a recent court submission from her reps, Sebert expressed concerns that if Sony ends its alliance with Gottwald, the major will no longer be available to her as a go-between with her former collaborator.