American Idol Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips has filed a petition with the California Labor Commissioner, arguing that 19 Entertainment, Inc. (the producer of the hit talent show) unlawfully acted as a “talent agency” in contravention of the California Talent Agencies Act (CTAA).
Under the CTAA, only licensed talent agencies may procure jobs — such as media appearances — for its clients, a restriction that 19 Entertainment allegedly flouted when it engaged Phillips for — or, according to Phillips, in many instances forced him to accept — a number of high-profile media appearances, including those onThe Tonight Show and The Today Show. According to the petition, American Idolcontestants must enter into a number of agreements with 19 Entertainment to appear on the program, including a recording agreement, a management agreement, and a merchandising agreement.
Phillips’ petition seeks to void his agreements with the Idol producer on a number of grounds, including that 19 Entertainment allegedly withheld material information from Phillips (including the name of his most recent album, which he allegedly did not discover until it was announced to the public). But, the crux of the petition involves concerns regarding a “fatally conflicted 19 Entertainment, Inc.” that serves as both Phillips’ management company and record company. Thus, Phillips stated in his petition, 19 Entertainment failed to re-negotiate a favorable record deal for him following a successful recording career.
In addition, Phillips also alleged that 19 Entertainment breached its fiduciary duty to him by forcing him to accept jobs that benefited the company but not Phillips, including an unpaid performance in 2013 for JetBlue allegedly procured in exchange for JetBlue’s support for the 2013 American Idol tour.
The petition may have important ramifications not only for other Idol contestants seeking a way out of what Phillips termed an “oppressive” contract with the producer, but also for the entertainment companies behind other hit talent shows like The Voice, who may be forced to reevaluate their contracts with contestants in light of the CTAA.