Despite record industry perils, Simon Cowell is ready to offer ‘X Factor’ winner $5-million record deal


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Simon Cowell’s stateside edition of “The X Factor” is already giving its future winner something to sing about.

The competition, which premieres this fall on Fox, will award the winner a staggering $5-million record deal -- the largest guaranteed prize in television history -- the network announced Monday morning.


The record deal will be through Syco, which is a joint venture between Sony Music and Cowell.

With the record industry in a state of peril -- especially as album sales continue to plummet and with even digital sales hitting lows -- Cowell said there was some initial hesitation about handing out the record-breaking deal, one that greatly dwarfs the $1 million that winners on Cowell’s previous hit Fox competition, “American Idol,” earn.

“I think you should be nervous. The reason we decided [on the major deal] is to show the people who are auditioning that sometimes you have to put your money where your mouth is,” Cowell said in a conference call to reporters Monday. “Putting up that amount is a massive risk. It puts everyone under an enormous amount of pressure. But with that pressure, you have to find a star. I’m nervous, but I’m also confident. It’s a life-changing prize.”

Cowell also wanted to make certain it was understood that the contract was a guaranteed $5 million paid to the winner over five years. “The recording costs, marketing costs [that go into the winner’s album] is all separate.” The mogul also promised that his team would offer the winner separate financial support so the contestant wouldn’t be forced into investing his or her own money into the debut project.

Cowell also added that the winner wouldn’t be bound to a specific label under the Sony umbrella up-front.

“I don’t think we should be guaranteeing them to anyone at the moment. There are a range of labels at Sony,” he said. “To be fair to the artist, we have to approach this as whichever division at Sony is going to support them based on the type of music they will perform.”


“The X Factor” won’t have an upper age limit for auditions and the minimum age is 12; the show also allows both solo artists and vocal groups to compete.

Auditions for the inaugural season begin March 27 in Los Angeles at the L.A. Sports Arena. Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York/New Jersey and Seattle will all host auditions, with specific dates and venues to be announced.

“I like the idea that a 12-year-old on this show can compete with an older singer and a singing group,” Cowell said in an earlier statement. “I’ve never believed there should be a cut-off age for talent, and we are going to put our money where our mouths are with the $5-million recording contract. I’m doing this show in America because I genuinely believe we can find a superstar.”

Cowell knows all eyes are on him post-“Idol,” but the man who gave the world Leona Lewis, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood is certain he can deliver yet again.

“I put my trust in the audience. I trust my gut feeling. I work with talented people. I make shows I’d like to watch,” he said. “It’s going to be something different. The stakes are higher.”

For more details on the X-Factor announcement, check The Times’ sister blog Show Tracker.

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy