H.E.R. Is Suing MBK Entertainment, Seeking Release From Contract

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H.E.R. is seeking to be released from her contract with MBK Entertainment. In a motion filed in California Superior Court on Thursday (June 16), the singer—birth name Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson—claims that MBK has been dictating her career decisions beyond the allowed seven-year period under California Labor Code Section 2855 also known as the “Seven Year Statute.”

“Wilson has not been free to provide her recording services except as permitted or dictated by MBK,” the complaint from her attorney Allen Grodsky reads. Wilson signed with MBK on May 19, 2011, at the age of 14. She simultaneously signed with MBK owner Jeff Robinson who served as her manager.

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In documents obtained by The Blast, the contract lists H.E.R. as an “exclusive employee” for an “initial period” which “ended the later of 15 months after May 19, 2011, or 12 months after the commercial release in the United States of Wilson’s first album under the contract, and up to five additional Option Periods of more than one year each.” The documents state “each Option Period is keyed to a commercial release by MBK of a record album.”

Thus far, H.E.R. has released one studio album, Back Of My Mind, and two compilation EPs. The complaint doesn’t explicitly detail how MBK defines a commercial album release.

Though her former manager, Robinson, was not individually named in the lawsuit, the Oscar-winning artist alleged that Robinson fired the law firm that first represented her due to him wanting “his own lawyers to represent Wilson in the negotiation of subsequent contracts, including publishing and touring agreements.” Robinson’s legal team “took 5% of the deals they negotiated, but did not have a written fee agreement or a conflict waiver signed by Wilson, and said that they performed the services ‘as a favor’ to their client Robinson who was paid 20% commission for each of those deals.”

H.E.R. is seeking a “judicial declaration that the Agreement is voidable and may not be enforced against Plaintiff under California law to the extent it purports to require Plaintiff’s services after May 18, 2019,” along with “restitution and disgorgement of funds according to proof; for costs of suit,” and “further relief as the Court deems just and proper.”

The seven-year statute allows record labels to sue artists for damages and potential lost revenue if the artist chooses to leave after seven years but prior to delivering the contractually required number of albums. It stems from the previously introduced Free Artists from Industry Restrictions (FAIR) Act, which faces a vote from the senate’s Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee on Wednesday.

The FAIR Act seeks to repeal a 1987 amendment to the Seven-Year Statute.

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