Phillip Phillips Petitions To Escape “Oppressive” American Idol Contract (UPDATED)


Bombshell news via The Hollywood Reporter. American Idol season 11 winner, Phillip Phillips is petitioning the the California Labor Commission to get out of a contract with 19 Entertainment contract he deems onerous.

On January 22, Phillips lodged a bombshell petition with the California Labor Commissioner that asserts that Idol producer 19 Entertainment and its affiliated companies have “manipulated” him into accepting jobs since he hit it big. In a filing that reveals some of Phillips’ post-show tribulations including being forced to perform for free for one of Idol sponsors and not even knowing the title of his last album before it was announced publicly, the star singer is seeking to void his various agreements with 19, said by the star’s lawyer to be “oppressive, fatally conflicted.”

“I am very grateful for the opportunities provided to me through appearing on American Idol,” says Phillip. “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.”

The petition is based on the Talent Agencies Act, the California law that says only licensed talent agents can procure employment for clients. According to the complaint, 19 gets as much as 40 percent cut.

Phillip tells the California Labor Commissioner that 19 failed their fiduciary duty to him by getting him to take jobs that benefit 19 and their affiliates, like American Idol, rather than himself.

Appearances such as spots on talk shows, singing at sporting events, and more were “procured” by 19, despite not being licensed as an agent. This, the petition argues, amounts to a “pattern and practice of flagrant violations of the [TAA].”

While some of these appearances benefited Phillip’s career, others like a live show he did for fore for Jet Blue in 2013, benefited 19.

“In response to Petitioner’s questions about why this deal would make sense, 19 admitted the deal was being entered into in exchange for JetBlue’s support for the 2013 American Idol Live Appearance Tour,” says the petition. “Since Petitioner was not performing on the 2013 Idol Tour, the only conceivable purpose for Respondent booking the performance was to help the struggling finances of Respondent’s Idol Tour.”

Another example, is a corporate event for an insurance company that was labeled as a merchandising deal, therefore entitling 19 to take a 40 percent cut. Phillip argues, “If Respondent was truly putting Petitioner’s best interest above their interests, Respondent should have taken the position that the performances should be commissioned at the 20% commission rate provided for in the Management Agreement.”

More of Phillip’s complaints:

  • 19 lined up a producer for his first two albums that compromised his interests. (That would be Gregg Wattenberg, who also co-wrote his singles)
  • 19 lied to him that the producer wouldn’t receive greater mechanical royalty rates than he would.
  • 19 has repeatedly withheld information regarding his career including the title of his Behind the Light album released last year.
  • A clear conflict of interest between the same company acting as both his record label and management company.  A manager would typically seek improvement in the recording contract terms on behalf of their client.

Let’s face it. Nearly EVERY successful American Idol alum has ditched 19 entertainment management as soon as humanly possible.  Discussion about the conflicts of interest inherent in the contracts the reality show alums sign has been ongoing since season 1. Phillip is the first alum to outright sue 19 to get out from under the contracts signed, however.

UPDATE: 19 Entertainment releases a statement to THR: “We’re 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. We will vigorously defend ourselves from any baseless claims to the contrary and from any attempt to interfere with our rights and relationships.”

About mj santilli 34841 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!