Phillips, who won the popular Fox singing competition in 2011 has now lodged a formal complaint with the California Labor Commissioner claiming that producer 19 Entertainment (and its various partners) “manipulated” him in to accepting jobs and taken an unreasonably large chunk of his earnings.
He is essentially asking to regain control of his career — and be released from the obligations he signed before appearing on the show.
The petition to determine controversy is grounded on the Talent Agencies Act, the California law that says only licensed talent agents can procure employment for clients. In the past, the law has been used as a cudgel by Hollywood artists from Arsenio Hall to Kesha who wished to escape paying commissions to their managers. Phillips now hopes to have the TAA applied to an entertainment company that has had its hand in his pocket even since he won Idol‘s 11th season on May 23, 2012.
Before Idol viewers voted him the winner that year, Phillips signed a series of contracts governing his management, merchandising, recording and publishing. The deals are quite favorable to 19 Entertainment, a company founded by Simon Fuller that also produces other shows such as So You Think You Can Dance. For example, according to the complaint, when Phillips does endorsements, 19 gets as much as a 40 percent cut.
Nevertheless, Phillips tells the California Labor Commissioner that 19 has a fiduciary duty to him, and that the company has breached such duty by compelling him to take jobs that are of benefit to the company and its affiliates rather than to him.
In a statement the singer said: “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.”
AMERICAN IDOL airs Wednesdays and Thursdays on Fox.