By Shannon Carlin
American Idol say they help make dreams come true, but according to Phillip Phillips, winning the show can be a logistical and creative nightmare leading to the loss of millions of dollars.
In the last 12 months, several American Idol winners and contestants have taken legal action against the show, claiming that it does not put the interest of their clients (aka the beautiful pop star contestants) before its own. The lawsuits claim they are given questionable recording contracts that force naive newcomers to sign away their rights.
These suits bring to light the already known seamy underbelly of reality TV. American Idol is one such show that takes full control and complete advantage of its talent, but Phillips is looking to change all that with a little help from a California court.
The season 11 singer filed suit in California against the show’s producers, 19 Entertainment—a management, publishing and recording company founded by American Idol creator Simon Fuller and controlled by the show’s owner, Core Media Group— for “manipulating” him into taking jobs where he was forced to perform “without compensation” for sponsors of American Idol.
Philips claims 19 Entertainment left him out of the decision-making process, including announcing the name of his last album without his knowledge.
Worse may be Phillips’ claims that the management company hired a producer for his last two albums—2012’s The World From the Side of the Moon and 2014’s Behind the Light—that made more money on royalties then he did.
19 Entertainment denies Phillips allegations, explaining in a statement that they are “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.”
Last year, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Clay Aiken and Chris Daughtry filed a lawsuit citing breach of contract against Sony, the parent company to RCA, the then label that was responsible for American Idol‘s recording contracts, claiming they were owed $10 million in damages for unpaid royalties.
What may be surprising though is that it was 19 Recordings—the label under 19 Entertainment that has partnered with Universal Music Group for the exclusive rights to sign Idol contestants—that spearheaded this suit, claiming Sony had taken advantage of the four artists, underpaying them royalties and pocketing the dollars for themselves.
Now it seems 19 will be involved in two very similar cases, but on opposite sides of the law, which may be why the company was very quick to speak out against Phillips’ claims, saying in a statement, “We will vigorously defend ourselves from any baseless claims to the contrary and from any attempt to interfere with our rights and relationships.”
Unlike the Sony suit, which is still ongoing, Phillips is not seeking damages. He is instead looking to end his management, recording and merchandising contracts with the company, who he claims is stealing money right out of his pocket. He is looking to take back control of his career.