Phillip Phillips, the 2012 ‘American Idol’ winner has lodged a petition with the California Labor Commissioner which could test the contracts that competitors of talent shows such as ‘Idol’ enter into with the show formats’ owners, relationships which often begin with the terms contenders sign up to when first auditioning. It may also look into the legal problems that can occur when an artist has contracts with multiple divisions of one company, one of which is a management contract, as is the case with Phillips and ‘Idol’ owner 19 Entertainment, now part of the CORE Media Group (although this dispute relates specifically to California’s Talent Agencies Act, and will mainly test if Phillips’ deals with 19 fall under that legislation and, if they do, whether his management firm has complied with the rules and is empowered to secure bookings for him). Phillips signed a series of contracts with 19 governing his management, merchandising, recording and publishing. Explaining his action, Phillips says: “I am very grateful for the opportunities provided to me through appearing on ‘American Idol’. The value that the fans and the show have given to my career is not lost on me. However, I have not felt that I have been free to conduct my career in a way that I am comfortable with. I look forward to being able to make my own choices about my career and to being able to make great music and play it for my fans”.
In a long list of specific complaints against 19, many accuse his management reps of negotiating deals on his behalf that primarily benefit other 19 group members – either by aiding other 19 ventures or securing favourable revenue shares for other parts of the business – when, as managers, the company has a ‘fiduciary duty’ to secure the best possible deal for him. And while in this case those complaints are specifically framed in 19’s obligations under Californian law, that conflict of interest problem has been raised before when people have proposed 360 degree music companies which include management. Phillips’ post-show complaints include being forced to perform for free for one of Idol sponsor, and not even knowing the title of his last album before it was announced publicly.
According to the petition, “Because 19 Recordings, Inc. is also Petitioner’s record company, 19, as Petitioner’s management company, failed to secure even a single improvement to the terms of the Recording Agreement, in breach of Respondent’s fiduciary obligations to Petitioner.”
19 Entertainment insists it operates within the law. A spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter: “We’re very proud of everything we’ve accomplished together with Phillip, working closely to help nurture his extraordinary talent and advance his career. 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”.