Times Square has little to no redeeming qualities. New York’s tourist hotspot is congested and chaotic — but it’s also an advertising magnet of bright lights and giant visual displays. When Spotify plasters LED billboards across the area promoting new music releases, fans and artists alike flock to the area to catch a glimpse and snap pictures to share on social media. Sky Ferreira fans would love to partake in this kind of fandom activity, but her album releases have been seemingly deadlocked with Capitol Records since her debut record arrived a decade ago.
“I can’t think of a time in the last 7 years where I’ve been able to just focus on what I’m supposed to do & my work being presented the way I want it to,” Ferreira wrote on Instagram in January, explaining that she has been pushing to release her second album for years but keeps hitting roadblocks. “If I’m not allowed to say something without consequence & the people who are supposed to do their job refuse to look out for me… How am I not going to be ‘difficult’?!?”
If no one else is going to look out for Ferreira, her fans are devoted to doing it themselves. For 15 seconds on Monday evening, at around 5:30 p.m., an 18,000-square-foot billboard in Times Square lit up with an image of the 31-year-old singer that read in bold text: “FREE SKY FERREIRA.” The display was created and organized by a handful of fans on Instagram who pooled together $40 to pay for the brief time slot through TSX Entertainment. “Thank you for your support & trying to help get what happened across,” Ferreira wrote in the comments of a post from the Free Sky Ferreira account on Instagram.
“I wanted to impact fans first because they’re hard to reach since there isn’t any big fan page where they would be gathered, like for other artists. Many of them have moved on and believe Sky may have retired,” Alex, the 24-year-old behind the Free Sky Ferreira account, tells Rolling Stone. “Then, [I wanted to reach] everyone else because then everyone can be curious about who Sky Ferreira is and why we want her to be free, and from what.”
Though Ferreira’s once hyper-active fanbase has grown dormant in recent years, people like Alex have continued to share resources for supporting the singer. A pinned statement on the account reads: “Capitol Records is sabotaging Sky Ferreira’s career and blocking new music releases … Sky has spoken up various times about the situation over the years but she barely gets any support from the public.” A petition calling for the label to allow Ferreira to release music or be released from her contract has received 6,000 signatures over the past two years. Representatives for Capitol Records and Ferreira did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
“The Free Sky Ferreira Movement had to get inventive, creating posters, flyers, and scannable cards to spotlight the issue,” 28-year-old Codi Talarico, one of the fans who helped fund the billboard, tells Rolling Stone. “This escalating attention might compel the label to take decisive steps, potentially involving offering her further assistance or releasing her from her contractual obligations.”
Taking a page from the Free Britney Spears and Free Fiona Apple movements, Free Sky Ferreira organizers have created a communal system to maximize their reach. Their Instagram accounts offer templates of letters addressed to Capitol Records for fans to copy and paste, add their signature, and mail off to the label. They also have location-based group chats, including one for New York that tasked two members with capturing videos of the billboard when it popped up.
Via Perkins, 32, rushed to the top of the red stairs in Times Square minutes before the Free Sky Ferriera billboard was scheduled to appear to capture it from a high vantage point. Annecy Kenny, 25, arrived shortly after to make sure neither of them missed it. They were too wrapped up in capturing the moment to clock whether anyone else noticed, but the videos they shared have led to the Free Sky Ferriera Instagram account gaining hundreds of new followers.
“A lot of the things that are happening are things that obviously we’re not privy to, so it’s possible that what we’re doing is getting heard by people who could help, but that could take a long time,” Perkins says. “One of the things that’s really inspired me about this fan movement, in particular, is that even if we don’t have all the information, we’re just there to support Sky no matter what.”
Kenny hasn’t been active in online fanbases in years, but their fandom dates back more than a decade. They still have a Capitol Records poster promoting “Obsession,” a single Ferriera released in 2010. “New album out early 2011,” the poster reads. That album never arrived. Instead, she released the EPs As If! and Ghost in 2011 and 2012 before her debut album, Night Time, My Time, arrived in October 2013. Seeing Ferriera’s face on a massive digital screen was surreal for Kenny, but it was also a reminder of the cycle the singer has been stuck in for years — one in which singles, music videos, and albums are constantly announced and teased but never released.
“I’ve heard so many stories about artists not getting to have the freedom to have control over their own artwork so often, and it’s really sad. It really needs to change,” Kenny says. “It’s like these artists are puppets, but they’re human beings with ideas and stories that they want to share.” Ferriera’s long-awaited sophomore album Masochism was first announced in 2015. The first single, “Downhill Lullaby,” arrived in 2019 and was followed by “Don’t Forget” in 2022. The album still does not have a release date. Earlier this Sumer, Ferreira performed in five cities as part of a mini tour.
“Obviously, she’s going to be the one who’s the most frustrated about it because it’s her life and her work, but we as fans, at least I can speak for myself, I’m definitely frustrated for her,” Perkins adds. “Artists, at the end of the day, they don’t owe us anything. But I feel like the best way that I can show up as a fan is to share support and to not assume that for Sky to be a legitimate artist — or for me to support her — she has to be releasing things. That’s just not really how I see it. If she never released anything ever again, I’d be really sad about that, but I would always be championing her and hoping that she’ll get released and get to do the things that she wants.”