Sony to drop Dr. Luke amid public pressure over Kesha, internal headaches (Exclusive)

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Sony Music is expected to end its working relationship with controversial producer Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald a year ahead of his contract's expiration, knowledgeable individuals have told TheWrap.

The output deal has become a public relations headache for the company since pop star Kesha's sexual abuse allegations against Gottwald have resulted in a nasty court battle — and a groundswell of support for the singer from influential fellow artists like Adele, Lady Gaga and Kelly Clarkson.

A Sony Music spokesperson declined to comment on the matter. Representatives for Gottwald did not return TheWrap's requests for comment.

Kesha through the years:

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Sony to drop Dr. Luke amid public pressure over Kesha, internal headaches (Exclusive)
Photo by: Raoul Gatchalian/STAR MAX/IPx 5/23/15 KeSha at Rehab at The Hard Rock. (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Kesha performs at the 2015 Delete Blood Cancer Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on Thursday, April 16, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Kesha and boyfriend Brad Ashenfelter are seen flying out of LAX airport, 15 April 2015. 15 April 2015. Vantage News/IPx
Kesha performs on stage during Brian Fest: A Night To Celebrate The Music Of Brian Wilson at the Fonda Theatre on Monday, March 30, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP)
Kesha attends the DKNY Fall 2015 show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2015 at The Theater at 547 W. 26th Street on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015, in New York. (Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)
Kesha arrives at the MTV Video Music Awards at The Forum on Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Inglewood, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Ke$ha poses in the press room at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, May 18, 2014, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Eric Jamison/Invision/AP)
FILE - This Nov. 24, 2013 file photo shows musician Ke$ha at the American Music Awards at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles. Ke$ha's representative confirmed Friday, March 7, 2014, that the singer checked out of rehab. She entered in January. The 26-year-old vegetarian said she entered rehab to "learn to love myself again, exactly as I am." Ke$ha, whose real name is Kesha Rose Sebert, is the performer of such tunes as "Crazy Love," ''Die Young" and "Timber" with Pitbull. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
Ke$ha, left, and Pitbull perform on stage at the American Music Awards at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)
Ke$ha performs at IHeartRadio Music Festival, day 2, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Al Powers/Powers Imagery/Invision /AP)
Ke$ha performs at the iHeartRadio Ultimate Pool Party at the Fontainebleau Hotel on Saturday, June 29, 2013 in Miami. (Photo by Jeff Daly/Invision/AP)
Ke$ha arrives at the iHeartRadio Ultimate Pool Party at the Fontainebleau Hotel on Saturday, June 29, 2013 in Miami. (Photo by Jeff Daly/Invision/AP)
Pop music singer songwriter Ke$ha performs on her Warrior Tour at the Golden Nugget Casino on Saturday, May 25, 2013, in Atlantic City, N.J. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)
Ke$ha arrives at the 26th annual Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards on Saturday, March 23, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Invision/AP)
Ke$ha arrives at the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Charity Benefit, on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 in Washington. (Photo by Stephen Boitano/Invision/AP)
Ke$ha performs during the second night of KIIS FM's Jingle Ball at Nokia Theatre LA Live on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Kesha arrives at the 40th Anniversary American Music Awards on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)
Singer-songwriter Ke$ha poses for a portrait, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
U.S. pop singer Ke$ha performs during the Rock in Rio music festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday Sept. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
U.S. singer Ke$ha performs at the Wireless Festival in Hyde Park, London, Saturday, July 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Jonathan Short)
Singer Ke$ha arrives at KIIS FM's Wango Tango in Los Angeles on Saturday, May 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg)
Ke$ha arrives at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Ke$ha appears on the NBC "Today" television program in New York Friday, Aug. 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Kesha, signed to Gottwald's Kemosabe Records imprint at Sony, filed suit in 2014 against both the producer and Sony to exit her own deal. The New York State Supreme Court has thus far sided with Sony given a lack of evidence to support the abuse claims, but the public relations nightmare has internally been deemed not worth the hassle, the insiders said.

"There is no contest. Kesha has no case in regards to her contract but they can't afford the Adeles of the world out in the streets calling the label unsupportive," one individual familiar with upper management's thinking told TheWrap. "The fact that this hasn't already been taken care of with Luke is confusing, especially for people in the building."

Gottwald, who has vehemently denied the claims, signed a five-year agreement in late 2011 that comes up in early 2017, two individuals familiar his contract said.

It's currently unknown how Sony intends to free itself from the relationship, a decision that would fall on CEO Doug Morris and his boss, Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton. Any unilateral dissolution of the contract would be a direct breach, so a negotiated exit would be most likely to save face on both sides.

"Somebody has been convicted via Twitter," a second individual close to the decision said of Luke and the outcry over unsubstantiated accusations. "No court has convicted this person, so there may not be any legal basis to terminate an agreement. It would have to be mutual."

It's also unclear what would happen to Gottwald's other signed artists. Many appear on Kemosabe as co-signees to more established Sony labels like RCA and Columbia Records. They include 27-year-old rapper Lunchmoney Lewis, who is expected to deliver an album with Gottwald in late 2016.

Gottwald's deal has been widely reported to pay him $60 million over its duration, though an insider familiar with the terms told TheWrap that figure was inflated. Sony is believed to have hired Gottwald less for his ability to build a stable of artists under a traditional label model than to secure exclusive rights to his services as a producer of hit records.

"He's the best guy at the moment, as far as a writer and a producer," Morris told the New York Times in a 2011 profile in which he compared Gottwald to Jimmy Iovine — the storied producer who co-founded Interscope Records and developed talent like Tupac Shakur, Eminem and Gaga.

After five years, though, Kemosabe has not emerged as a mini-Interscope. The label's biggest star is Kesha, who has not released new music since 2012. Rapper Juicy J, who was featured on the hit track "Dark Horse" with frequent Gottwald collaborator Katy Perry, and pop star Becky G are also on the roster.

"There have definitely been portions of the deal that are profitable," another person familiar with the financial details of Gottwald's operations told TheWrap, citing Prescription Songs, Gottwald's music publishing operation.

As a producer, Gottwald has provided Sony with hits like Miley Cyrus' 2013 adult pop crossover "Wrecking Ball," rapper Pitbull's monster single "Timber" (featuring Kesha) and songs for Sony artist Nicki Minaj. He's also been recruited to provide original music on soundtracks for Sony Pictures releases like "The Smurfs 2."

In addition, Sony has received compensation when Gottwald has worked for non-Sony labels, the insider said. Like on Katy Perry's hit record "Prism," released by Universal's Capitol Records in late 2013. Seven out of 13 were songs co-written and produced by Gottwald and Swedish pop institution Max Martin. The record also landed a Best Pop Vocal Grammy nomination.

Earnings from Sony's music division rose 4 percent in 2015 to $1.16 billion, according to the company's annual statement. But operating costs climbed 20 percent to $122 million.

Sony's top-selling records of last year included Meghan Trainor's "Title" and Shogo Hamada's "Journey of a Songwriter" — neither of which was affiliated with Kemosabe or Gottwald.

Read original story Sony to Drop Dr. Luke Amid Public Pressure Over Kesha, Internal Headaches (Exclusive) At TheWrap

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