Before the days of Facebook and Twitter, major record label execs didn’t worry about seeing their reputations hit rock bottom within minutes.
If a recording artist challenged a brand in the major label system, the brand would probably prevail.
However, as Bob Dylan sang: “The times, they are a-changin’.”
The lyric rings true with regard to singer Kesha and her legal battle with Sony Corp. The 2014 lawsuit claims producer Lukasz Gottwald—known as “Dr. Luke”—“sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally abused” Kesha for years after she signed with his label, Kemosabe Records.
Dr. Luke denied the charges, and roughly 2 million people took to Twitter using the hashtags #FreeKesha, #DearSony and #BoycottSony in light of Friday’s decision from a New York State Supreme Court judge not to “free” the pop singer from her contract with the label.
On Monday, The New York Times obtained a statement from Dr. Luke’s lawyer. It said Kesha (whose full name is Kesha Rose Sebert) is “already ‘free’ to record and release music without working with Dr. Luke as a producer if she doesn’t want to. Any claim that she isn’t ‘free’ is a myth.”
Members of the music community used the hashtags to attack Sony for its lack of sensitivity, dubbing it “the brand that’s holding a victim hostage”:
Some users have shown disapproval for the brand’s decision by unfollowing Dr. Luke:
A public protest of the brand has been planned for Friday in New York.
Tales of successful marketing partnerships gone sour are not uncommon in the entertainment industry. Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World
" made headlines today after his talent agency alleged that he has failed to pay commissions. More and more, brand managers have to be mindful of potential legal pitfalls and crises involving celebrity partners.
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For the time being, Kesha is still signed to Sony, Straight.com reported. Whether or not social media users and celebrity support will induce Sony to release Kesha from her recording contract is unclear.
Do you think Sony can bounce back from the current social media backlash? How might you advise the brand’s crisis communications strategy?