R. Kelly Dropped by Sony Music

Amid mounting pressure surrounding the controversy around R. Kelly in the wake of the sexual assault accusations against him, Sony Music has decided to drop the R&B singer as a client.

Variety reports that Sony will not make an announcement to the general public of its latest move, and that Kelly's presence will remain on the RCA website and his black catalog will remain with RCA/Sony.

Representatives for RCA Records and its parent company, Sony Music, declined to comment to Variety.

Kelly's latest release with the label was a Christmas-themed album in 2016. He has released several songs independently since then, most likely with Sony's consent; he tweeted earlier this month that he has a new album on the way. It's unclear if the record company will have to pay Kelly for dropping him without paying to produce and release the new album. Previously, Sony reportedly put Kelly's new music on hold.

The move came after years of allegations against Kelly, as well as a mounting movement to "mute" the singer. Calls for the company to part ways with Kelly intensified in the wake of the release of Lifetime's documentary series Surviving R. Kelly, in which dozens of women accuse him of sexual misconduct.

The advocacy group UltraViolet has been periodically flying a banner over RCA's offices in Culver City, California over the past few weeks asking the label to ditch the "Fly Like an Eagle" singer.

"RCA/SONY: DROP SEXUAL PREDATOR R KELLY," the banner read.

"It is long past time for RCA to dump R. Kelly and take a stand against abuse," the group said in a previous statement.

Accusations of sexual misconduct against the singer date back more than 20 years. He was charged with child pornography in 2000 after a video surfaced showing him having sex with an underage woman. He was cleared of the charge in 2008 after the woman refused to testify.

When he was 27 years old in 1995, he briefly married the late singer Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time.

Last year, reports of Kelly holding women captive in a "sex cult" were published.

Jeff Rabhan, the chairman of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University, explained to The New York Times earlier this week why Sony might decide to part ways with Kelly.

"The risks for RCA/Sony are glaringly obvious — subjecting themselves to public pressure, being viewed as condoning bad behavior, lacking sensitivity, and choosing money over integrity," he said.

Entertainment attorney Leslie Frank told Variety that some major-label contracts have provisions stating that if an artist is "convicted of a felony or a crime of moral turpitude, generally speaking it is the label's right to terminate the contract." However, Kelly has not been convicted of either.

Frank said that whether or not such a phrase appears in Kelly's contract, "Any record company — or, really, any party to any contract — can decide they no longer want to begin the contract. The question is what can happen as a result of them asserting their desire to terminate the term of the agreement."

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For example, she continued, "R. Kelly could sue for damages. If R. Kelly does not want to terminate the agreement and instigates a dispute saying that it's a breach of contract by RCA, if RCA is concerned about the cost of litigation and how a court might decide, they could try to come to a settlement with R. Kelly."

Kelly has vehemently denied the accusations against him, with his lawyer Steven Greenberg calling those who appeared on the Lifetime documentary "a bunch of disgruntled people who are looking for their 15 minutes of TMZ fame."