Special contribution by @PhillipReq
As many people are now aware (considering the news has made it to almost every major media outlet), Phillip Phillips has filed a petition to break from his management contract with 19 Entertainment. 19 Entertainment is American Idol’s show developer and co-producer.
The Hollywood Reporter gave out the full details of Phillips’ claim through this link. I advise you to read this, as it gives full understanding to what Phillips is alleging. In the claim, Phillips alleges that 19 Entertainment has purposefully left him out of important aspects of his career, including the title of his sophomore album, Behind The Light. I remember this vividly, as we all found out the album title and the cover of the album before Phillips even knew about it. Someone found the album cover on a press release, and then hours later, Phillips announced it as well after finding out through media.
The complaint further adds how, “19 has constantly manipulated (Phillips) into accepting jobs and entering into other transactions that were for the benefit of 19 and its affiliated companies rather than for (Phillips). … This case presents exactly the kind of situation that the Act absolutely forbids: a purported artist manager and its related entities openly operating as an unlicensed talent agency.”
He was told to do a concert for JetBlue, which he was not compensated for, as well as perform for corporate events for an “insurance company” that was stated as an endorsement deal. The reason it was stated as an endorsement deal, was so 19 Entertainment could claim a bigger pay-cut from this (a whopping 40%), as it would fall under the Merchandising agreement. This deal however, should have been done through a licensed talent agency, where the company should only take a 20% commission through the Managements Act. He is seeking to invalidate their management deals on the grounds that their personal managers procured employment for them in violation of the TAA, which states that only licensed talent agents can solicit employment for performers. Furthermore, 19 Entertainment told Phillips that he should use a producer for his album (we assume this is Gregg Wattenberg), which Phillips stated was a conflict of interests. He was also told that this producer would not receive huge royalties for his work, however this was false information.
It was also stated in the claim that Phillips asked 19E several times to improve his contract, because of the successes that he brought to the company. We can assume that he wanted to work more under Interscope Records, his label, or be given more freedom with his work. However, these requests were either denied or ignored. Phillips claims that this is a breach of their fiduciary duty to always have the best interests in mind for their clients.
In case many were not aware, the contracts that American Idol offers are basically a death-grip, where the artist is given no freedom whatsoever. They have control over every aspect of your career, which in turn, conflicts with someone who is so artistic as Phillips. Were the label frustrations obvious? For me, they were. Countless times. So many errors were taken into his sophomore era, Behind The Light, which is considered the most important for an American Idol winner:
- Phillips stated himself that the lead single was supposed to be something else, but the label changed at the last second
- He stated that he did not even know about the album title name until it was found out through media, a claim that most fans can all attest to as well
- His album was much more “pop-driven” that he had liked.
This is not the first time that American Idol contestants have had trouble with 19 Entertainment. Both Kelly Clarkson and Fantasia Barrino have left 19 Entertainment and enlisted the help of another management company. Adam Lambert left 19 Entertainment. There are several instances where American Idol contestants want to get out of this contract immediately. It’s even been alleged (but not confirmed) that 19 Entertainment lengthened the contract after Kelly and Fantasia’s departure.
What does this mean for Phillips’ future? It’s not entirely clear, but one would assume that his career would have to be put on hold, unless they can come to some sort of agreement while fighting in court. This is because 19 Entertainment controls the touring that Phillips does, as well as his recordings. 19 Entertainment has already released a statement, where they indicated they intend to fight with force.
A spokesperson from 19 Entertainment denied Phillips’ allegations and stated, “We’re very proud of everything we’ve accomplished together with Phillip, working closely to help nurture his extraordinary talent and advance his career.” The spokesperson further told Deadline, “We have always acted in the best interest of Phillip. We will vigorously defend ourselves from any baseless claims to the contrary and from any attempt to interfere with our rights and relationships.”
If neither party backs down, this fight in court could go on for several years before a decision is made.
The latest artist to file a similar complaint is mega popstar, Ke$ha, who claimed that DAS, her management company, acted as an unlicensed talent agency. You can see that Ke$ha won her case, however only the parts of the contract that were illegal were voided. She was still obligated to work with the management company. You can view the full case and outcome here.
As I look at the comments section of every article, I see that people are saying that Phillips “should not bite the hand that fed him,” that “he was given the opportunity to perform for millions and was given a fast lane into stardom.” My favourite one is that “he signed the contract knowing what he was getting into.”
This is completely absurd. When a contract is visibly one-sided (unconscionable), the defendant has a right to sue. He was given little artistic control (being forced to use a producer that conflicted his interests, not knowing his album title name, etc.), forced to perform events with no compensation, and 19 Entertainment acted as a talent agency, by setting him up with live events.
This is illegal. They are unlicensed. Plus, we fans know that Phillip is being directed more towards a Top 40/Pop route to generate success, which is not his wheelhouse at all.
Though this is all speculation at this point, this is bad news to all of Phillips’ fans, as I do not think we will be getting anything major for a while. However, in this time, the most important thing we can do is support Phillips’ decision to fight for artistic integrity and control over his career. This is a very bold move for Phillips, as if he were to become victorious, it would become a precedent for future talent show winners and their contract negotiations.
**Note: If you see any errors in information, please let one of us know. The point of this article was for Phillips’ fans to know as much about the case as possible, and what we can expect. I urge you to look over Phillips’ complaint yourself listed in the article. Thank you.
Photo credit: ET Canada