I subscribe to the Lefsetz letter regularly. For those who don’t know, the Lefsetz letter is a daily music industry email sent out by Bob Lefsetz, in which he comments on the most relevant events going on in pop culture. Highly polarizing and designed to provoke, The Lefsetz Letter has always been effective in helping me develop my own thoughts on various current events in our industry. Never had I responded to Bob, however, until he wrote about the Kesha vs. Dr. Luke verdict. Below, you will find his letter and my response.
LEFSETZ LETTER ARCHIVES 2/23/16
I’m glad Dr. Luke finally spoke up, because every other male in America is afraid to.
That’s the country we now live in. One wherein men are guilty until proven innocent and they’re all rapists under their skin, despite even the “New York Times” saying that most rapes are violent crimes perpetrated by the same individuals. (“Research suggests that more than 90 percent of campus rapes are committed by a relatively small percentage of college men – possibly as few as 4 percent – who rape repeatedly, averaging six victims each.” http://goo.gl/141w3V)
But this isn’t about rape, this is about contracts, this is about LAW! Leave the emotion out, focus on the system.
And the system is one wherein Sony Music spent millions to make Kesha a star. And now she wants to turn her back on the company.
No one put a gun to her head and made her sign, she wanted to be famous, she went in with representation and made a multi-album deal and now she wants out of it. Should this happen?
That’s today’s music business, that’s today’s life, no-nothings pontificating loudly upon that which they are clueless about. Of course no one condones rape, of course we hate to see Kesha cry, but the LADY judge said an injunction was unnecessary, that Kesha could record for Sony without Dr. Luke’s involvement and everybody would be unharmed.
But Kesha wants out completely.
So when you sign that cellphone contract for two years and a clerk uses an epithet on the phone should you be able to nullify that deal and take your iPhone with you? Certainly not, especially if you didn’t pay for that iPhone with cash. The company is upside down, you owe them. And did that uttered epithet speak to the quality of service? Is this remedy necessary?
Why should Sony be aced out of this deal? Why is everybody who puts up money the bad guy? You don’t have to take it, but you believe the faceless corporation will suffer no consequences. Sony does not support rape, that hashtag is heinous, Sony supports BUSINESS!
We are a nation of laws. And we have to abide by the decisions of the courts. Hell, the Supreme Court made George Bush President. Deal with it. During his term tens of thousands of people lost their lives. But now Kesha alleges rape and therefore the Supreme Court of New York should throw out the rulebook?
I have no idea what happened between these two. For all I know Kesha may be right, she may be telling the truth. Although she has not done a good job of proving her case, by testifying under oath that it did not happen and never reporting it to police. But that does not make it untrue, it just makes it very difficult to hold Dr. Luke accountable, assuming, that is, that he did it.
As for Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande… If they want real change that will have real benefits agitate against the contractual system ruling the record business. Insist on one album deals. Change recoupment rates. Make it so after recoupment you own your copyright in the recording.
But they don’t want to do this, because they want to take the money.
Sisterhood only goes so far.
But we reside in a sad nation when emotion sways business, when judicial decisions are decried not on the facts, but on the feelings.
But that’s the country we live in. Where everybody’s working the refs all the time. Utter liberal thoughts and you’ll hear from right wing nutjobs all day long, trying to get you to shut up. Stand up for anybody on the wrong end of a rape case and you’re a social pariah.
A court will decide if, in fact, Dr. Luke raped Kesha.
If he did, his career will be ruined. Our society does not believe in sexual redemption, people won’t allow convicted yet released child molesters to live anywhere near them.
As for Kesha…
Chances are her career is already ruined, over, toast, that’s how fast the game moves. If her rape allegations are true, she’ll get a huge check, as she should.
But for now…
She can make an album with the producer of her choice and sure, there’s a possibility Sony won’t work it, but based on all the support Kesha has gotten any new release will be a big story and will get major attention, Sony would be stupid not to promote a track, assuming it’s a hit, which is not easy to achieve, which is why Kesha worked with Dr. Luke to begin with.
It’s a messy situation.
But we have to let the courts decide and so far the court has decided that Kesha is not entitled to be freed from her contract.
And her supporters can do all the jawboning they want. It’ll certainly send a message to most men, then again, most men aren’t rapists…but having sexual assault taboos on top of their mind is not a bad thing.
However, if you think Sony is gonna capitulate, just walk away from its investment and forgo potential profits, you’re not living in America, that’s not the capitalist way, and even Bernie Sanders believes in this kind of capitalism.
Once again, a case is being tried in the press, on Twitter. And with a media that refuses to render an opinion, unless it’s in support of an agenda, and nobody supports rape as an agenda, the words of celebrities and those who yell loudest trump truth.
And that’s just a sad state of affairs.
1. Read Dr. Luke’s lawyer’s statement, it’s articulate and informative: http://goo.gl/z2457m
2. Read Dr. Luke’s tweets re the case: http://goo.gl/FJyuAY
Note: It’s irrelevant that Kesha’s lawyer represented Scott Peterson and Chris Brown, everybody’s entitled to an advocate. But it plays well in the press. And although the injunction was heard in a courtroom and denied, this case is being tried in the press. And that’s both sad and counter to the rule of law.
3. This case is primarily about money. Kesha could offer to repay Dr. Luke and Sony for their investment and give them an upside in any recordings she does with another company, but…to my knowledge, so far she hasn’t done this. If Kesha is allowed to skate, scot-free, who else should be able to do this and for what cause? This is akin to the Apple/iPhone case wherein many people want the San Bernardino perps’ iPhone cracked, but a huge number are fearful of then having their iPhones cracked and having their privacy sacrificed.
4. Kesha is right about one thing, pop careers are usually short. Pop careers are usually made via money, investment in creation and marketing. You may call it a deal with the devil, but Kesha made that deal and so many others have too. But you don’t have to. But without major investment your odds of success are long.
5. Institutions outlast both artists and the people populating them. Tommy Mottola is long gone, but Sony Music lives on. Mo Ostin built Warner Music, was handsomely compensated therefor, but it’s somebody else’s company now and it continues to exist. You can speak truth to power, but if you want to bring down power you’re asking for a revolution, something that almost never happens, although it is being debated in political circles right now. And the evisceration of contracts in the music business would be a revolution. But if that’s what artists want, they should not focus on the alleged rape, but the underlying business conditions. Last week’s decision was all about the issue of setting Kesha free from her contract, not the rape. Best to separate out the issues. But that’s tough in a country where critical thinking takes a back seat.
I love your letters. Please don’t be someone who condones rape. Your voice is so strong. You could speak out about how millions of women live in constant fear of the men in their lives, and what those men will do to them if they don’t comply. There are very few psychologically safe spaces for women to report a crime to. By this I mean a space where the victim is taken seriously and offered immediate, systematized support. And when women do speak out, the default reaction is to assume they are lying. It’s the opposite of what you said in fact; it’s really more that women who are raped are seen as liars until proven innocent. Can you imagine anything more hellish?
Kesha’s case is just one of the millions of cases that happen each year. I’m glad it went so public and if I’m understanding you correctly, I like what you said about men now keeping sexual assault no-nos at top of mind. No woman wants to be raped, and they definitely don’t want to keep recounting it to people who don’t believe them.
You mentioned focusing on the law, but the law still very much privileges the rapist. The law makes the rapist innocent until proven guilty. This is very difficult to do, especially if society doesn’t want to punish men for having a good time. It hates women who are strong enough to have a voice, because that voice comes at the expense of men’s play time. Maybe that judge is a female, but she is still bound to uphold laws that are written by men, for men.
You have been in the industry for so long. You have seen men commit horrible crimes against women in the name of sex, drugs and rock n roll. When women resist, they are ostracized for not “playing along”, perpetuating the bullying and fear.
We have men in positions of power today who frequently take advantage of that power because they know they can. This is applied not only to sexual assault but really any types of harmful arbitrage opportunities when it comes to information asymmetry and power imbalance.
Sisterhood can go far. It will succeed when its brothers join in and stand up for justice too, especially when it feels most difficult to do so.
Thank you for writing. Thank you for having a voice. It inspires me to have mine!