Now that Epic Records chairman/CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid has quit as a judge on Fox's "The X Factor" U.S., insiders say his departure from the show will affect the relationship between "The X Factor" U.S. and Sony Music, which has a partnership with "The X Factor" to sign the show's winners from around the world. Sony Music and "The X Factor" executive producer Simon Cowell co-own the record company Syco Music.
Sony Music is the parent company to several record labels, including:
- Syco Music
- Epic Records
- Columbia Records
- RCA Records
- Sony Classical
- Sony Music Nashville
Sony also used to be the parent company for Jive Records, Arista Records and J Records, but those labels were shut down in October 2011, and most of the artists on those three labels were relocated to RCA Records.
Syco partners with Epic Records or Columbia Records to market and promote almost all "X Factor" alumni. But with Reid's departure from "The X Factor" U.S., Columbia Records may end up being favored as the label that will get more new acts from Syco.
Reid quit "The X Factor" U.S. in December 2012, because he said he wanted to spend more time focusing on his job at Epic Records. But his "X Factor" exit apparently wasn't that amicable, since representatives from the show refused to comment for four days after Reid announced that he was quitting. He also didn't get a big farewell in the show's Season 2 finale, which Fox televised in two parts on December 19 and 20, 2012.
Cowell and Reid were on the original "X Factor" U.S. judging panel when the show launched in 2011. Reid ended his "X Factor" stint in 2012 by mentoring the Season 2 winner, 37-year-old country singer Tate Stevens, who is signed to Syco/Sony Music Nashville. Country music is not Reid's area of expertise, so he will not be that involved in Stevens' career moving forward.
Cowell is guaranteed to return to "The X Factor" U.S. for the show's third season in 2013. In 2012, Britney Spears and Demi Lovato replaced fired judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger, but Cowell and "X Factor" representative aren't commenting on whether or not Spears and Lovato are returning to the judges' panel in 2013. They also aren't commenting on who might replace Reid, who has publicly stated that he would like Jon Bon Jovi to be his replacement. "The X Factor" U.S. judging panel for the show's third season should be officially announced by May 2013.
Sources told me that Cowell really didn't want Reid to leave "The X Factor" but there has been some tension between Cowell and Reid because Epic Records has failed to have a Billboard Hot 100 hit with any of the songs released by "X Factor" U.S. alumni who are signed to Epic. Reid also hinted at some dissatisfaction with the "X Factor" U.S. acts that are signed to Epic, when he said in a "Jimmy Kimmel Live" interview in November 2012: "I sign everybody. I sign all the losers. I negotiated that before I started doing the show. That was a prerequisite to sitting on the panel."
Epic Records vs. Columbia Records
There could be a battle brewing between Epic and Columbia for "The X Factor" U.S. Season 2 runner-up contestants that are going to be signed to Syco: Carly Rose Sonenclar (second place), Fifth Harmony (third place), and Emblem3 (fourth place). Sources say that Reid really wants to sign Sonenclar and Emblem3 to Epic, but given Reid's departure from "The X Factor" and the fact that Epic hasn't had any big hits with "X factor" U.S. alumni, Columbia could put up a fight for any of these artists too.
Complicating matters is the change in regime at Columbia Records. In October 2012, reports surfaced that chairman/COO Steve Barnett is leaving Columbia in 2013. It has been widely reported (but not officially announced yet) that Barnett is going to Universal Music Group (a Sony Music rival), where he will be the head of the Capitol Label Group. (Capitol was previously owned by EMI until Universal bought a majority stake in EMI in 2012.) Barnett's contract with Sony Music ends in March 2013. There is no word yet on who's replacing Barnett at Columbia, but Columbia co-chairman/CEO Rob Stringer is expected to stay with the company in 2013.
The "X Factor" alumni signed to Epic Records in the U.S. so far are:
- Melanie Amaro, winner of "The X Factor" U.S. in 2011 (signed to Syco/Epic)
- Chris Rene, third place on "The X Factor" U.S. in 2011 (signed to Syco/Epic)
- Marcus Canty, fourth place on "The X Factor" U.S. in 2011 (signed to Epic)
- Astro, seventh place on "The X Factor" U.S. in 2011 (signed to Epic)
- Cher Lloyd, fourth place on "The X Factor" U.K. in 2010 (signed to Syco/Epic)
Of these acts, only Lloyd had a big hit in the U.S. in 2012: Her first U.S. single, "Want U Back," reached No. 12 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart and sold 2 million copies in the United States. Her first album, "Stick & Stones," was released in the U.S. in October 2012, and the album debuted in the U.S. at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 chart. However, Lloyd's second U.S. single, "Oath" (featuring Becky G.), was a flop. It peaked at No. 99 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Insiders are speculating that Lloyd would have been better off having "With Ur Love" (featuring Mike Posner) as her second U.S. single, which was the original plan, but Epic changed those plans and released "Oath" instead. "With Ur Love" was a No. 4 hit in the U.K.
While Epic's relationship with Syco hasn't been as successful as expected, Columbia Records' relationship with Syco was strengthened in 2012, thanks to the massive worldwide sales of One Direction, the boy band that came in third place on "The X Factor" U.K. in 2010. One Direction has become the biggest global act to emerge from "The X Factor," since the group has had No. 1 hits and sold-out tours in several countries. With Columbia's help, One Direction has had the record-breaking accomplishment of being the first British group to have its first two albums debut at No. 1 in the U.S., which was a feat that happened within one year (2012).
The "X Factor" alumni signed to Columbia Records in the U.S. so far are:
- Rachel Crow, fifth place "The X Factor" U.S. in 2011 (signed to Syco/Columbia)
- Olly Murs, second place on "The X Factor" U.K. in 2009 (signed to Syco/Columbia)
- Rebecca Ferguson, second place on "The X Factor" U.K. in 2010 (signed to Syco/Columbia)
- One Direction, third place on "The X Factor" U.K. in 2010 (signed to Syco/Columbia)
Crow's self-titled EP (released in June 2012) was a flop, but Crow has had more success as an actress, with guest-starring roles on Nickelodeon shows "Fred: The Show," "Big Time Rush" and "Figure It Out."
Murs' first two U.S. singles ("Heart Skips a Beat" and "Troublemaker") also bombed in the United States. Murs is signed to Syco/Epic in the U.K., where he has had several No. 1 hit singles and albums. The release of his first U.S. album, "Right Place Right Time," was postponed. The album was supposed to be out on December 4, 2012, but the release date was delayed to April 2013 and then postponed again to a date that will be announced.
Ferguson's first album, "Heaven," was a modest hit in the U.S., having debuted at No. 23 when it was released in May 2012, but it dropped off the U.S. charts after a few months. The album's biggest sales boost came from her performances on NBC's "Today" and ABC's "The View" during the week of the album's release. But without substantial U.S. radio airplay and without Ferguson doing a U.S. concert tour in 2012, "Heaven" did not sell as much as it could have in the U.S. if there had been more promotion for it in the U.S.
It should be announced in early 2013 which "X Factor" U.S. runner-up contestants from the show's second season will be signed to Sony Music. It remains to be seen how well these acts will do on the U.S. charts after they release music on Sony.