Singer McKay Leaves Sony in Album Dispute

Times Staff Writer

Several months after resolving a high-profile dispute with artist Fiona Apple over an album release, Sony Music ended a conflict with another singer-songwriter in a less harmonious manner.

Nellie McKay, who signed with the company’s Columbia label in 2003 after a bidding war, said Monday that she had split with the label after a long dispute over the length of her upcoming second album.

McKay had publicly campaigned for her 65-minute, 23-song version of the album, “Pretty Little Head,” even giving concert audiences the e-mail address of label head Will Botwin and urging them to complain about the company’s plan to release a 48-minute, 16-song version.

Botwin was replaced as Columbia’s chairman in an executive shake-up this month, and McKay said the turnover hastened the split.


McKay drew accolades when her debut, “Get Away From Me,” came out early last year. It sold more than 100,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and anticipation is high for the follow-up, which was scheduled to be released Jan. 3. McKay will make her Broadway debut in April in a production of “The Threepenny Opera.”

“To be on our own now, it does make things a lot easier,” she said. “We’re thinking ... we’ll probably put it on the Internet first sometime in January and then coordinate the [conventional] release around ‘Threepenny,’ maybe in February.”

A Columbia spokeswoman said Monday that the label had no comment.

This year Sony’s Epic label risked losing Apple for what she considered unreasonable intrusion into the process of recording her third album. After halting work on it for a time, she ultimately completed the record and released “Extraordinary Machine,” which has been widely acclaimed as one of the year’s best albums.