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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Breaking The Horse: Controlling Miley Cyrus

While Syria is ready to explode in civil war, most of America cannot get enough of an endless loop of former child star Miley Cyrus gyrating on stage, on camera in a sexually suggestive way. (Full disclosure: I haven't even watched the video. Manhattan is full of stupid young women acting stupid -- or worse -- to get attention, and if I choose I can see that...for free! Only a moron pays to see this!)

Conservative commentators have been full of disapproval for the antics. No attention is paid, however, to a solution to stopping this and other former child stars from becoming the latest train wreck, another Britney Spears, another Lindsay Lohan, another Drew Barrymore.

Miley Cyrus shot to fame initially as the daughter of country singing star Billy Ray Cyrus.  That is how she got her main claim to fame among the teenybopper girl set as the star of Disney's "Hannah Montana." But since turning 18 and leaving Disney, Miley has progressively gotten more adult.  

Let's focus on the damage, not to Miley, but to Disney. This entertainment behemoth markets its amusement parks and media channels as family-friendly entertainment.  There is tremendous value in this; indeed, Disney's Florida amusement parks just posted record attendance this year.

While Miley is free to act as she pleases, to destroy her reputation as she pleases, or simply to pretend to do so in order to trade reputation for fame (my theory: this is all an act to get attention), let's focus on the damage she has done to Disney's brand (never mind her own) and how this can be prevented.

If I'm Disney, I'm going to the agents for all its child talent and revising contracts to include both a 10-year morals clause "tail" (that is, starting on the day after the contract expires so the tail governs conduct going forward and penalizes intentionally bad brand-damaging behavior) and deferred money.  These measures protect the brand of both company and performer, and lest you fret, the star keeps his or her freedom -- but is incentivized to keep it very discreet.  

This lack of contractual control and foresight is costing Disney millions as Miley destroys the syndication value of its Hannah Montana franchise with every narcissistic display.  The solution: Creative, foresighted and innovative legal advice that is by no means cookie-cutter.  But you won't get this from the Park Avenue don't-rock-the-boat legal establishment.

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