Katy Perry Kelly Clarkson Kesha Lady Gaga

Free Kesha: Why I’m Boycotting Dr. Luke & How You Can, Too

Disclaimer: This post was originally drafted in December 2015, added to in January and February, and published on the date above. This writer and this website recognize that the tragic acts reportedly committed by Dr. Luke are allegations and not proven facts. Any statements otherwise are a matter of opinion. Thank you for reading, and thank you for helping to Free Kesha.

As I scroll through Pride.com’s 17 Reasons We Need to “Free Kesha Now,”  I have to wonder why this story died so soon after it started and only became big news when the world saw Kesha crying in court.

Maybe it’s because Kesha doesn’t have as large a fanbase as her pop competitors. Maybe it’s because Sony Music has connections with mainstream media corporations. Or, maybe it’s because the world only sees Kesha Rose Sebert as a party girl, the type of girl most likely to experience scrutiny or victim blaming.

Considering the possibilities, it makes sense that some people still don’t care about Kesha’s story. Here’s the new story: a woman was raped by her boss, and corporate forced her to choose between continuing work with him or quitting. She tried to fight corporate back and to protect other women, and now she’s losing the case and is broke from attorney fees.

Dr. Luke and Miley Cyrus

I hope that’s a story that everyone wants to talk about. Otherwise, rape in the entertainment industry will be as common in ten years as it is today. It’s more common than you think, but few people are as quick to admit it as Kesha.

It took nearly 10 years for Lady Gaga to reveal that she’d been raped by a producer. Actress Ashley Judd kept quiet for over 15 years that a prominent entertainment mogul sexually harassed her. Lance Bass took 20 years to admit that he and other members of *NSYNC had been occasionally molested by someone in connection with the band. Jackie Fox, former Runaways bassist, didn’t come forward about being raped by producer Kim Fowley until 40 years after the incident. The list goes on. Child stars are frequent victims of sexual abuse by industry executives, too, according to a recent exposé by The Hollywood Reporter.

Dr. Luke and a young Avril Lavigne
Dr. Luke and a young Avril Lavigne

Before continuing, here’s the detailed situation with Kesha: In October 2014, Kesha sued producer Dr. Luke a.k.a. Lukasz Gottwald, owner of Kemosabe Records, the Sony label that Kesha is signed with. The lawsuit claimed Gottwald “sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally abused” Kesha over the past decade, including an instance where he drugged her with GHB and she woke up naked in his bed with no memory of what had happened.

Kesha also targetted Sony, claiming that the label knew of Dr. Luke’s treatment and swept it under the rug. In response,Gottwald filed a countersuit claiming Kesha was lying to get out of working with him. Rather than thoroughly investigate each party’s claims in an effort to keep other artists out of potential danger, the higher-ups at Sony decided Kesha could quit working altogether or continue working with her accused abuser. Dr. Luke continues working with anyone he chooses, and Kesha can release no music at all unless she does so under Dr. Luke’s label. Editor’s note: Leave a comment if any of this information is incomplete or skewed, and we will update the article accordingly.

Dr. Luke and a young Katy Perry
Dr. Luke and a young Katy Perry

On February 18, in a preliminary trial, a judge ruled that Kesha could not get out of her contract with Dr. Luke and suggested her rape case isn’t strong enough for her to win the final battle on May 19. Considering one-in-five women are raped and one-in-five men are sexually abused, it makes sense that photos of Kesha sobbing in court have struck a nerve with people around the world and helped “Free Kesha” become a trending topic.

But trends end. Rape doesn’t. Dr. Luke is not the only rapist in the industry, and Kesha is not the only victim.

I believe with complete confidence that Kesha Rose Sebert is not Dr. Luke’s first or last victim.

1) You do not carry the date rape drug with you just to get in one girl’s pants.

2) Dr. Luke allegedly drugged Kesha in 2005, the year she signed with Sony. He had nine years to get away with more incidents, affecting more young girls with dreams of being a pop star — not to mention the eight years before that when he first entered the industry in 1997. The chances that Kesha was his first or only victim and the first to speak out are slim. Just think of how long Bill Cosby had gotten away with rape before a victim came forward. Decades.

3) Charli XCX and Becky G, two young pop girls who have worked with Dr. Luke, have both admitted on Twitter that he has body-shamed them and told them to eat less. That supports Kesha’s initial accusation against Dr. Luke: he bullied her into bulimia, which she received medical treatment for in 2014, just before opening up about the sexual abuse.

4) Many pop stars have come forward with support for Kesha in these difficult times, and some of their comments suggest they, too, have had bad encounters with Dr. Luke. For example, Kelly Clarkson tweeted that she can’t say one nice word about him, so she won’t say anything at all. Kelly is known for being down-to-earth and compassionate. Personally, I have never read a hateful word from Kelly Clarkson towards anyone. Her debut album after American Idol put Dr. Luke on the industry’s radar with “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “Behind These Hazel Eyes.” Despite the commercial success of their collaborations, Kelly would not go on to work with Dr. Luke again until 2008, when her label demanded she release a track he produced to make up for the commercial failure of her My December album. A video of Clive Davis and Dr. Luke discussing why Kelly had to sing the track (“My Life Would Suck Without You”) was released to YouTube to promote the single in 2009 but has since been locked. Sketchy.

Dr. Luke with a young Kelly Clarkson, fresh off his career-heightening work on "Since You've Been Gone."
Dr. Luke with a young Kelly Clarkson, fresh off his career-heightening work on “Since You’ve Been Gone.”

5) Dr. Luke filed a lawsuit against Kesha for accusing him of rape and abuse, against Kesha’s mom Pebe Sebert for related allegations, and against Kesha’s attorney for a tweet that suggested he also raped Lady Gaga, who has admitted she was raped by a producer, but later denied it was Dr. Luke. He’s attempted blackmailing Pebe into taking her writing credits off of the Kesha and Pitbull track “Timber,” to stop her from earning royalties. Maybe he’s just money-hungry. Maybe he felt the accusation could win Kesha the case. Or maybe he’s a guilty rapist afraid of other victims coming forward and using lawsuits to set an example and scare past victims into silence. (Take note of the word “maybe.” I’d hate to be the Doctor’s next legal target.)


Kesha’s bravery and the fact that she came forward while still under Dr. Luke’s abuse is the reason her story has had a larger impact than others. Kesha isn’t one-in-a-million for admitting she was raped; she’s one-in-a-billion for speaking out when she did.

Whether Dr. Luke is guilty or not, rape in the music industry needs an enemy. Artists won’t risk their contracts (or their millions) to fight for themselves or each other, especially not after Kesha loses her trial in May. Judges won’t risk their reputations to side with a victim if there is reasonable doubt, and there will always be plenty. It is up to music fans to do something, not just to support Kesha but to prove that we have a say in the careers of our favorite musicians.

Following last week’s hearing, music fans took to the internet in outrage at Kesha’s defeat, many of them vowing to boycott Sony for supporting rape culture. The thought counts, but there’s no room for action. Adele, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, and countless other artists generate revenue every month for Sony, from new music and old. A few thousand people won’t put a dent in that revenue.

Even if Sony could be brought down, the company is a lot larger than the few people in power. More than 130,000 people are employed by Sony, but only a handful are responsible for the label’s unfortunate treatment towards the (supposed) rape victim in this case. I don’t want to be responsible for 130,000 people being out of a job; do you? Most of those people aren’t even associated with the music side of Sony’s operations. The company does do a lot more than music. They own a good percentage of every corner of the entertainment industry: music, movies, television, games, and more.

Ignoring everything else I’ve said about Sony, here’s the reason I won’t waste one second directing my anger at the Sony Corporation: they didn’t rape Kesha. Dr. Luke did (allegedly).

Boycott Dr. Luke.

Based on the judge’s ruling, it is likely too late to punish Dr. Luke for the alleged rape and abuse. But it’s not too late to help Kesha release new music. If pop music fans will unite for this cause, there’s a way we can decrease Dr. Luke’s value for Sony and show the label how serious we are about Kesha being able to continue her career unharmed. Here’s how.

1. Do not buy, stream, or download tracks that Dr. Luke is credited on. Read through Dr. Luke’s discography (here).

2. Check that list for new material each week to avoid falling for new Dr. Luke music. He’s a money maker for a reason: his beats are inescapable and easily consumed.

3. Stream Kesha daily. Keep a tab open in the background with YouTube or Spotify playing only Kesha. Mute your computer so you can keep helping even when you don’t feel like listening to music. Sony doesn’t think she has monetary value. Let’s prove them wrong. (Note: Mute your computer, not the application you use to stream music. Plays on Spotify do not count if the Spotify player volume is turned all the way down).

4. Go the extra mile by streaming only Kesha tracks that are untouched by Dr. Luke. Kesha and more responsible producers will earn more from these plays than Dr. Luke. Stream these songs, and Dr. Luke won’t benefit from our efforts to support Kesha. A fan named Brendin has already created a Spotify playlist with these tracks. Stream it here.

5. Share this post and help this movement move!

Stay up-to-date on what current and upcoming songs he’s tied to so you can educate others and really help this movement. Bring down his value to Sony and just maybe they’ll push forward on a new Kesha album, without Dr. Luke, to make up for the money they lose.

You have to be serious about this for it to work. This is not a petition or a Facebook status. This is the difference between calling yourself an activist and actually being one. We have to take action. It’s likely too late to punish Dr. Luke for the alleged rape and abuse. But it’s not too late to help Kesha release new music. In the words of David Bowie, “we can be heroes,” and Kesha Rose Sebert could use a hero right now.

See the potential for change and recognize that fandoms have power if only we will unite together like one society rather than countries at war. In the end, we are all equal, every artist “slays” in their own way, and we should be celebrating that we have strong role models like Kesha to look up to and support. There is strength in numbers. Whether you’re an Animal, Monster, Katy Cat, Arianator, or any other label you prefer, let’s forget all these labels this time and see how strong we are when we unite under one label: fans.

Continue the conversation with POPULOVE readers in the comments section below, or add me on Facebook so we can share our efforts and encourage each other to do right by Kesha.

Some helpful resources for boycotting Dr. Luke:

A long list of every artist you’d have to boycott to successfully boycott Sony.

A list of every song that Dr. Luke has production credits on (you’ll be surprised).

Kesha’s Animal album tracklist with writer and producer credits, so you know which songs not to stream.

The same as above, but for Kesha’s Cannibal.

The same as above, but for Kesha’s Warrior.

A Spotify playlist of Kesha songs that Dr. Luke did not produce. 


Note: Populove is currently undergoing site maintenance following a hiatus. Some post images and comments from previous months may not appear as we work on the issue.

One Comment

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