Roger Waters ‘dropped by publishing company’ over Israel remarks

Roger Waters has reportedly been dropped by music rights company BMG over his inflammatory remarks about Israel, Ukraine and the United States.

The Pink Floyd rocker, 80, had signed a publishing deal with the German-based company in 2016. However, he has been the subject of multiple controversies in recent years, and was recently accused by former co-workers of making repeated, derogatory comments about Jewish people.

Waters was scheduled to release a newly recorded version of the band’s 1973 classic Dark Side of the Moon last year, but the project was shelved then eventually released by UK-based record label Cooking Vinyl.

Variety reports that Waters himself referred to being “fired” by BMG in a video interview with Glenn Greenwald last November. However, the comment was buried almost half an hour into the conversation; Waters claimed the split was due to pressure from pro-Israeli interests towards BMG’s parent company, Bertelsmann.

A source told the publication that BMG did not agree with Waters’ version for events.

The Independent has contacted BMG and Waters’ representatives for comment.

The rumoured split is the latest fallout from Waters’ controversial remarks about Israel, some of which have been met with allegations of antisemitism.

Waters, who has vehemently and consistently denied these accusations, caused uproar last year after wearing a uniform onstage in Berlin that was compared to those worn by the Nazis.

He won a legal battle in April 2023 after magistrates of Frankfurt instructed a venue to cancel his concert, accusing him of being “one of the most widely known antisemites in the world”.

Roger Waters performing at Madison Square Garden in 2022 (Getty Images)
Roger Waters performing at Madison Square Garden in 2022 (Getty Images)

In September, an investigative documentary produced by London-based charity Campaign Against Antisemitism shared a number of disturbing allegations against Waters.

Bob Ezrin, the acclaimed co-producer behind Pink Floyd’s 1979 album The Wall, alleged that he heard Waters use antisemitic slurs and that he composed a ditty about the band’s agent, Bryan Agent, that included a line about him being “a f***ing Jew”.

Earlier that same year, the Biden administration weighed in on the controversy, saying his recent performances in Germany were antisemitic.

The State Department that Waters had “a long track record of using antisemitic tropes“ and that his concert in Germany “contained imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimised the Holocaust”.

In February 2023, Polly Samson, an acclaimed author and the wife of Waters’ estranged bandmate David Gilmour, accused him of being “antisemitic to [his] rotten core”.

Polly Samson and David Gilmour pictured at the Costa Book Awards in 2020 (Tim P Whitby/Getty Images for Costa Book Awards)
Polly Samson and David Gilmour pictured at the Costa Book Awards in 2020 (Tim P Whitby/Getty Images for Costa Book Awards)

In an interview with the Berliner Zeitung newspaper, Waters hit out at what he deemed an “outrageous and despicable smear campaign to denounce me as an antisemite, which I am not, never have been and never will be”.

Waters claimed he was being targeted “because I lend my voice to the 75-year-old fight for equal human rights for all my brothers and sisters in Palestine/Israel”, and added that he “of course” stood by a past comparison of the Israeli state to Nazi Germany because “the Israelis are committing genocide”.

While artists are often “dropped” from their recording deals or otherwise choose to split from their labels, it is less common for a company to axe a publishing deal, Variety noted.

Recent prominent examples include R&B singer R Kelly, who is currently serving a decades-long prison term for sexual abuse-related felonies, while Kanye West’s deals with Universal and Sony Music Publishing were left to expire without renewal after the rapper made a number of antisemitic comments in 2022.