The ugly situation between pop star Kesha, pop starmaker Dr. Luke, and Sony is tawdry and filled with cruel angles. Kesha alleges that Sony took advantage of her talent and wants out of a lucrative contract. That is everyday stuff on the frontlines of talent v. management, artistry v. big business. The two sides need each other — and mostly compliment each other — but they’re also at odds. The business runs on numbers while the artist works on instinct. Prince, Mariah Carey, Bob Dylan — the list of artists who’ve clashed with record labels is about as long as the list of artists, period.
But the Kesha case contains a rape accusation against Dr. Luke that has superseded the business conflict. The alleged physical/sexual transgression registers in the public mind not only as an heinous act, but as an analog to the perceived artistic “rape” of the performer by the big bloodless corporation that seeks profit over everything, even dignity. People are outraged — to the point of irresponsibly claiming “Sony supports rape.” (It’s a hashtag, of course.) That’s absurd; Sony supports profits. Dr. Luke has been quiet about the case until recently, but has pointed out that Kesha previously denied under oath that he raped her. (Note: that kind of denial doesn’t mean it didn’t happen — it’s common for a victim to deny rape.) But in finally publicly addressing the case, Dr. Luke denied it again yet said, “I understand why people without all the information are speaking out. I can appreciate their compassion.”