LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Pop star Ke$ha has dropped a particularly powerful legal bomb on a former manager who is suing her for $14 million in allegedly unpaid commissions.
In a move that will not be a surprise to lawyers familiar with talent/management disputes, the “Tik Tok” songstress is asking the California Labor Commissioner to declare her contract with DAS Communications void because it acted as an unlicensed talent agent while representing her. That’s a big no-no in California, where only registered (and regulated) agents can “procure” work for clients.
Ke$ha (real name: Kesha Rose Sebert) was sued in New York in May for allegedly breaching a 2006 deal to pay New York-based DAS and principal David Sonenberg 20 percent of her music earnings. The singer later left DAS and hired RCA/Jive Record Group to represent her, according to the lawsuit. At issue is whether DAS is entitled to commissions from Ke$ha’s lucrative deal with Warner Bros. Records, among other things.
The singer fired back at the lawsuit in August with a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that she was well within her rights to fire the management company. And now she is moving the fight to California, where she is alleging many acts of “procurement” for her work, including singing engagements, songwriting gigs and even performing at house parties.
The Talent Agencies Act is a particularly fierce weapon when deployed against managers, and even the smallest acts of procurement can be lethal. The law was weakened a few years ago by the California Supreme Court, which questioned whether a single act of procurement should void an entire deal. But in this case, Ke$ha is alleging that her managers procured a large number of gigs.
More important, the underlying litigation often will be stalled (sometimes for years) as the Labor Commissioner takes his time reviewing whether a manager acted unlawfully. It’s likely that Ke$ha’s lawyers will file a motion to halt the case in New York while the TAA issues are resolved in Calfornia. If the court there agrees to stay the case, DAS could see a lot of tik-toks before it has its day in court.
By Matthew Belloni