Although it hasn't been officially announced yet, sources say that Fifth Harmony has signed to Syco Music, as previously reported in this blog. [January 17, 2013 update: Sony Music has now officially announced Fifth Harmony is signed to Syco Music/Epic Records. See details at the end of this article.]
Fifth Harmony came in third place on "The X Factor" U.S. in 2012. Syco Music is co-owned by "The X Factor" executive producer Simon Cowell and Sony Music. Syco Music partners with Epic Records and Columbia Records (which are also owned by Sony Music) to market and promote "X Factor" alumni signed to Syco.
Sony Music is the record-company partner for "The X Factor," whose winners around the world receive a grand prize of a record deal with Sony Music. Numerous runner-up "X Factor" contestants are also signed to Sony.
The other "X Factor" alumni signed to Epic Records in the U.S. 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)
The "X Factor" alumni who are signed to Syco/Columbia in the U.S. are:
- Little Mix, winner of "The X Factor" U.K. in 2011 (signed to Syco/Columbia)
- One Direction, third place on "The X Factor" U.K. in 2010 (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)
- Rachel Crow, fifth place on "The X Factor" U.S. in 2011 (signed to Syco/Columbia)
- Emblem3, fourth place on "The X Factor" U.S. in 2012 (signed to Mr. Kanani/Syco/Columbia)
The U.S. release dates for Little Mix's and Fifth Harmony's respective first albums are to be announced, but both albums are being planned for release in 2013.
Little Mix's first album, "DNA," was released in 2012 in the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, and was a hit in all four countries. In the U.K. and Ireland, Little Mix's first three singles have also been big hits: "Cannonball" (a remake of the Damien Rice song) and "Wings" both debuted at No.1, while the "DNA" single debuted at No. 3 in the U.K. and No. 8 in Ireland.
"Wings" will be Little Mix's first U.S. single and will be released in the U.S. on a date to be announced. The title and release date for Fifth Harmony's first single are to be announced.
Columbia Records has had massive success with boy band One Direction, but the record company has a major challenge ahead to get a breakthrough in the U.S. with an all-female group that is new to U.S. audiences. There hasn't been a new all-female group that has hit it big in the U.S. since Destiny's Child amicably broke up in 2006. As previously reported, Destiny's Child has temporarily reunited for the new song "Nuclear" on the Destiny's Child compilation "Love Songs," and the group will do a reunion performance at Super Bowl XLVII on February 3, 2013. Columbia is the record company for Destiny's Child, as well as for Beyoncé Knowles, one of the original members of Destiny's Child.
While girl groups have been practically non-existent on the U.S. charts in the post-Destiny's Child years, girl groups have continued to thrive in the U.K., as proven by U.K. hits from Little Mix, The Saturdays and Girls Aloud.
Little Mix and Fifth Harmony were both formed on "The X Factor." Their respective members originally auditioned for "The X Factor" as solo singers but were rejected as solo singers and then put into a group by "X Factor" decision makers.
Fifth Harmony's "X Factor" mentor was Cowell, while Little Mix was mentored by "The X Factor" U.K. judge Tulisa Contostavlos.
Little Mix's members are Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall, ages 19 to 21.
Fifth Harmony's members are Ally Brooke, Camila Cabello, Normani Hamilton, Dinah-Jane Hansen and Lauren Jauregui, ages 15 to 19.
Sources say that Little Mix is a frontrunner to be the opening act on One Direction's 2013 North American tour that will take place from June to August. Little Mix and One Direction are both represented by Modest! Management. Little Mix's Edwards and One Direction's Zayn Malik have been dating since April 2012. Opening acts for One Direction's 2013 world tour have not been officially announced yet.
One Direction has become the biggest act to emerge from "The X Factor." The group has had No. 1 hits in several countries, including with One Direction's two albums so far: "Up All Night" and "Take Me Home." One Direction is the first British group to have its first two albums debut at No. 1 in the United States on the Billboard 200 chart. The group's world tours have sold out within minutes, with many of the concerts put on sale a year in advance. By the end of 2012, One Direction had sold more than 15 million singles, albums and DVDs worldwide, according to Sony Music.
Columbia Records has now become the go-to record company for Syco to partner with for "X Factor" alumni's U.S. record deals.
As previously reported, Syco's relationship with Epic (another Sony Music label) has no doubt been affected by Epic's failure to get any big hits for the "X Factor" U.S. alumni who are signed to Epic.
Of these Epic Records "X Factor" 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.
Although Amaro, Rene and Canty have released singles in the U.S., none of those singles made it onto Billboard's Hot 100 chart. Astro (a teen rapper whose name is Brian Bradley) has not yet released any of his own music on Epic Records, although he was a featured artist on a remix of Lloyd's "Want U Back."
Rene's EP "I'm Right Here" was released on Syco/Epic in October 2012 and had lackluster sales in the U.S., where the EP debuted at No. 55 on the Billboard 200 chart and then dropped off of the chart after a few weeks. However, Rene is a hit artist in New Zealand, where his first three Sony Music singles so far have been in the Top 40: "Young Homie" was No. 1, "Trouble" was No. 10, and "Rockin' With You" was No. 26, while Rene's "I'm Right Here" EP hit No. 8.
Amaro is Epic's biggest flop from "The X Factor," since she won $5 million and starred in a Pepsi commercial as part of her grand prize. But even with all that exposure to millions of people, her music sales have been dismal, and she will likely be dropped from Sony Music after her debut album, "Truly," album is released. The album was originally scheduled to be out on December 4, 2012, but the release has been postponed to an undetermined date.
As previously reported, Epic's ties to "The X Factor" became even more strained in December 2012, when Epic Records chairman/CEO Antonio "L.A." 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. 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.
And Reid apparently wasn't happy with how Epic has been doing in its struggles to get big hits for "X Factor" U.S. alumni, because in January 2013, Epic fired Mark Shimmel (who was Epic's COO) and Erik Olesen (who was Epic's senior VP of promotion).
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/RCA Nashville. Country music is not Reid's area of expertise, so he will not be involved in Stevens' career.
A previously reported, 13-year-old Carly Rose Sonenclar (second place on "The X Factor" U.S. in 2012), is signed to Syco, which is partnering with another Sony Music label for Sonenclar's music. The record deal has not been announced yet.
One Direction has been Sony Music's biggest "X Factor" success, but Columbia has had disappointing results in the U.S. from other "X Factor" alumni signed to the label.
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 such as "Big Time Rush," Fred: The Show" and "Figure It Out."
Murs' first two U.S. singles ("Heart Skips a Beat" and "Troublemaker") also bombed in the U.S. when they were released in 2012. 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," has been postponed. The album was supposed to be out on December 4, 2012, but the release was changed to April 2013, and then delayed again to a date to 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.
Columbia Records is also expected to go through a change in management that will affect the company's artists and employees. 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, 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.
January 17, 2013 update: The day after this article was published, Sony issued a press release officially announcing its record deal with Fifth Harmony. Here are excerpts from the press release:
The X Factor girl group Fifth Harmony have signed a recording deal with Syco Music and Epic Records.
Ally Brooke said, “OMG!! I'm so looking forward to working with the great Mr. LA Reid and of course my uncle Simon!! Rudolph (Simon calls me Rudolph) is ready to go!! I am going to have a BLAST recording with my girls and working with L.A. and Simon. I promise we’re gonna bring it for our FLAWESOME Harmonizers!”
Camila Cabello said, “Being introduced to the Syco and Epic family means the world to us. We get to learn from and work with the best in the business, people who have built the careers of artists we look up to. The fact that we're being given the opportunity to make music that we want feels like a dream we never want to wake up from, and I literally just have to pinch myself. Simon Cowell is freaking awesome. On the show, we grew very close to him. He genuinely cared about us, not only as contestants, but as people, and we're so grateful to have people like him and L.A. Reid as part of our lives.”
Normani Hamilton said, “The X Factor and Simon have given me and my Fifth Harmony sisters this wonderful opportunity to pursue our dreams. Becoming apart of one of the largest record labels in the industry plays a major role in making our dreams a reality. I am extremely excited to be signed to Syco and Epic Records.”
Syco Music’s Simon Cowell, who was Fifth Harmony’s mentor during The X Factor, said, “I knew from the girls’ first performance at judges’ homes in Miami that we’d done the right thing. The chemistry between the Fifth Harmony girls both on and off stage is fantastic. They are really great girls, who have become best friends. They’re great fun to be around and most importantly, they are all incredibly talented.”
Fifth Harmony’s debut album will be A&R’d by Syco Music and executive produced by multi platinum selling producer/songwriter Julian Bunetta (One Direction, Boyz II Men, Flo Rida, Natasha Bedingfield, Leona Lewis), who first worked with the girl group as a music producer on The X Factor. The album will also feature collaborations with songwriters Autumn Rowe (Cher Lloyd, Alexandra Burke, Leona Lewis) and Lil’ Eddie (Usher, Pink, Jessie J, Cody Simpson).
Bunetta said, “I had the pleasure of working with the girls of Fifth Harmony on The X Factor, and I am very excited to continue to work together on their debut album with Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid. It was remarkable to watch these five young women from across America go from being strangers to becoming a true group of friends who all care for each other and believe in each other. I believe pop music is overdue for a girl group that can represent the young ladies of this new generation. Fifth Harmony is that group.”