Jump to content

Syco Music

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Syco Music
Parent companySony Music UK
FounderSimon Cowell
Distributor(s)Sony Music
Country of originUnited Kingdom

Syco Music, originally and formerly S Records, was a division of Syco Entertainment which operated from 2002 until 2020. The label was founded by British entrepreneur, record executive and media personality Simon Cowell, who was formerly employed at Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG).

Early-on, the label oversaw music releases by such acts as Robson & Jerome, Five, Westlife and Teletubbies. Eventually, BMG (renamed to Sony BMG) bought Cowell's share in both Syco Music and Syco Television. In 2010, Cowell and Sony Music entered a joint venture agreement that would see Cowell and Sony each own 50% of the new Syco Entertainment company, which encompassed both the previous Syco TV and Syco Music divisions.

Over its 18-year run, Syco had multiple, globally-known acts signed, such as the girl groups Fifth Harmony and Little Mix (as well as the solo efforts of former Fifth Harmony member Camila Cabello), British boyband One Direction, and the Latin American boyband CNCO. In July 2020, Sony sold the rights to the television formats and assets back to Cowell, effectively divesting all of Syco's non-music divisions. As part of the venture, Syco Music, its current roster, and back catalogs remain with Sony Music as a wholly-owned subsidiary. However, as of September 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and according to industry magazine Music Week, the label is now defunct—staff either left or were redeployed elsewhere within Sony Music Group.


Syco Music had offices in London and Los Angeles and was home to several artists. As S Records, the company oversaw music releases by Robson & Jerome, Five, Westlife and Teletubbies.[1][2][3]

Later following television franchises, Syco had the exclusive right to sign winners and finalists of The X Factor and Got Talent. Susan Boyle's debut album, I Dreamed a Dream, has sold over 9 million copies, making it one of the best selling releases of the last decade and Syco's most successful release to date.[4] Between 2004 and 2009, Il Divo achieved four multi-million selling albums[citation needed] and in 2007, Leona Lewis became one of the most successful talent show winners when her second single, "Bleeding Love", propelled the album Spirit to 9 million global sales.[5]

In 2010, Syco began diversifying by adding producer/singer-songwriter Labrinth.[6] Savan Kotecha, who had been writing for Syco acts for several years, also became an A&R Director and set up a joint venture, Kanani Songs.[7] Syco also began forming closer partnerships with other Sony Music Entertainment UK labels. For the first time, Syco entered into an agreement with Columbia Records that would see them work together to launch the career of a The X Factor winner - Matt Cardle.[8] That same year, Sony Music bought Cowell's share of Syco, for around £27 million.[9][10]

On 15 July 2020, it was announced that Cowell would buy Sony's stake in Syco Entertainment; Sony Music will retain Syco Music's artists and back catalogue.[11][12] By September 2020, managing director Tyler Brown and head of digital Tom Hoare had left. Music Week reported that label is no longer operational and is now defunct; artist staff have been redeployed elsewhere within Sony Music, including at sister label RCA Records, or have left completely.[13]



Some of the artists signed by Cowell, such as band Westlife, released their music through S Records, another company formed by Cowell whose share he then sold to BMG in 2003.[14] Syco Music started releasing music as a label in 2004.[15]

Artists at time of closure[edit]

Former artists[edit]

Theft and copyright[edit]

Syco Music and its artists have been the targets of illegal hacking on several separate occasions; in 2009, ahead of the release of her sophomore album, Echo, a number of Leona Lewis' unfinished demos and leftover songs from the recording process were leaked online. An investigation was launched by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), in-tandem with the record label and police, to identify those responsible.[32][33] Alexandra Burke was also targeted, having two demo versions of songs from her debut album, Overcome, leaked before the album's release.[34] At the end of March 2010, it was reported that Syco had suffered, once again, from hackers who had managed to obtain 14 of Burke's previously-unheard studio recordings, as well as 26 more from Lewis.[35]

Following the second incident of leaks, Cowell contacted the FBI to track down those responsible. Included amongst the leaked music was a newly-recorded version of Burke's "All Night Long", featuring Cuban-American rapper Pitbull, which was tipped-off to be the singer's third single in March 2010.[36] According to Burke, the songs were leaked by "Two little boys in Germany on work experience" whom had been interning for Syco.[37] It was later revealed, in 2011, that songs recorded for Echo were targeted by German hacker "Deniz A." (also known as "DJ Stolen"); in July 2010, the Rasch law firm logged a criminal complaint against DJ Stolen for "constantly placing hacked songs on the internet". Within the songs listed in the complaint was one titled "Pulse", described at the time as a new recording by Leona Lewis.[38] In June 2011, DJ Stolen was caught and subsequently jailed for 18 months.[39]

In 2011, in a change of course, Syco found itself being taken to court for plagiarism when it was reported that a new Lewis song, "Collide", significantly used elements of "Fade Into Darkness", a 2010 song by Swedish house music DJ Avicii. The DJ took both Lewis and Syco to the British High Court[40] just prior to the track's release. However, the case was resolved out-of-court, by agreeing to release the song as a joint effort between both artists; the single was released on 4 September 2011.[41][42] In February 2013, it was announced that One Direction would be releasing a mashup cover version of "One Way or Another" (1978 song by Blondie) and "Teenage Kicks" (1977 song by the Undertones) as the 2013 Comic Relief single; an unfinished version of the track was leaked online and, on 7 February 2013, Syco launched an investigation. A spokesperson told the press, "It is very disappointing that the song has been leaked and we are currently investigating the matter".[43]

Controversies and criticism[edit]

Syco was the label that all X Factor winners were signed to as part of their contract for winning the show, along with other acts hand-picked by Cowell. Most of the artists who were once signed to the record label had complained about their deals with the music mogul, which often saw them making little to no money from their contracts; they were also overworked, while many had also complained about creative differences concerning the music they wanted to release.[44]

In 2021, musical twins Jedward claimed the record label Syco was 'toxic' and 'abusive'.[45] It came after news broke that The X Factor would not be returning to television, prompting the duo to reflect on their time on the show, which they appeared on back in 2009. The duo took to social media and said "Every contestant on the X Factor was a slave to the show and got paid zero while they made millions! The fact every contestant has to act like their judge mentors them! When in reality all they care about is their paycheck!."[46] Jedward also alleged that artists on the show and under Cowell's record label, Syco Music, were unable to speak freely and were blacklisted if they did. They were isolated from their families and were watched and reported on by security. They claimed that the judges on The X Factor did not actually mentor the contestants as the show made it appear.[47]

Their comments came after former X Factor contestants spoke out about the conditions they were expected to work under while signed to the label, including Rebecca Ferguson and Cher Lloyd. Lloyd took to TikTok to take a sly dig at the label, which she appeared to accuse of ‘exploiting’ her and taking all the money made by her music. Meanwhile, Ferguson met with Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden earlier that year, calling for better protection for artists in the music industry.[48]

Number-one singles[edit]

Artist Single Year Countries
Westlife Unbreakable 2002 UK, IRE, SCO
Westlife Tonight/Miss You Nights 2002 IRE
Westlife Mandy 2003 UK, IRE, SCO
Steve Brookstein Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now) 2004 UK, IRE
Westlife You Raise Me Up 2005 UK, IRE, SCO
Shayne Ward That's My Goal 2005 UK, IRE
Westlife The Rose 2006 UK, IRE, SCO
Shayne Ward No Promises 2006 IRE
Leona Lewis A Moment Like This UK, IRE
Leona Lewis Bleeding Love 2007 UK, AUS, AUT, CAN, GER, IRE, NZ, SWI, US
Shayne Ward If That's OK with You IRE
Leon Jackson When You Believe UK, IRE, SCO
Leona Lewis Run 2008 UK, AUT, IRE
Leon Jackson Don't Call This Love SCO
Alexandra Burke Hallelujah UK, IRE, SCO
Alexandra Burke Bad Boys 2009 UK, IRE, SCO
The X Factor Finalists 2009 You Are Not Alone UK, IRE, SCO
Joe McElderry The Climb UK, IRE, SCO
Helping Haiti Everybody Hurts 2010 UK, IRE
Olly Murs Please Don't Let Me Go UK
Alexandra Burke All Night Long IRE
The X Factor Finalists 2010 Heroes UK, IRE, SCO
Alexandra Burke Start Without You UK, SCO
Matt Cardle When We Collide UK, IRE, SCO
Cher Lloyd Swagger Jagger 2011 UK, SCO
Jackie Evancho featuring Barbra Streisand Somewhere US Class
Olly Murs featuring Rizzle Kicks Heart Skips a Beat UK, GER, POL, SWI
One Direction What Makes You Beautiful UK, IRE, MEX, SCO
Olly Murs Dance with Me Tonight UK, SCO
The X Factor Finalists 2011 featuring JLS and One Direction Wishing on a Star UK, IRE, SCO
Little Mix Cannonball UK, IRE, SCO
Chris Rene Young Homie 2012 NZ
Little Mix Wings UK, IRE, SCO
One Direction Live While We're Young IRE, NZ
Olly Murs featuring Flo Rida Troublemaker UK, HUN, SCO
One Direction Little Things UK, SCO
Labrinth featuring Emeli Sandé Beneath Your Beautiful UK, IRE, SCO
James Arthur Impossible UK, IRE, POL, SCO, SPA, GRE, LUX, SLO
One Direction One Way or Another (Teenage Kicks) 2013 UK, DEN, IRE, POL, NL, SCO
Olly Murs Dear Darlin' AUT
One Direction Story of My Life DEN, FIN, IRE, NZ
Sam Bailey Skyscraper UK, IRE, SCO
Ella Henderson Ghost 2014 UK, IRE, SCO
Ben Haenow Something I Need UK, SCO
Fifth Harmony featuring Kid Ink Worth It 2015 ISR, LBN, MEX
Little Mix Black Magic UK, SCO, EUR
One Direction Drag Me Down UK, SCO, HUN, IRE, NZ, AUT, AUS
One Direction Perfect IRE, SCO, SLOV
Fleur East Sax 2016 CRO, HUN
Fifth Harmony featuring Ty Dolla $ign Work from Home NZ, NL, CRO
James Arthur Say You Won't Let Go UK, SCO, IRE, AUS, EUR, SWE, NZ, NL, PHI
Little Mix Shout Out to My Ex UK, SCO, IRE, EUR, PHI
Artists for Grenfell Bridge over Troubled Water 2017 UK, SCO
Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug Havana AUS, SCO, UK, IRL, CAN, ISR, SLO, LTV, CZ R, EUR (digital), HUN, US, ECU, FRA, GRE, MEX, PAR, PHI, POL,
Camila Cabello Never Be the Same 2018 BEL, CRO
Little Mix feat. Nicki Minaj Woman Like Me 2018 ISR
Dalton Harris feat. James Arthur The Power of Love 2018 SCO


  1. ^ David Nolan (2 September 2010). Simon Cowell - The Man Who Changed the World. John Blake. ISBN 978-1844549870.
  2. ^ Chas Newkey-Burden (10 October 2009). Simon Cowell: The Unauthorized Biography. Michael O' Mara Books. ISBN 9781843174455.
  3. ^ Shaina C. Indovino (2014). Simon Cowell: From the Mailroom to Idol Fame. Mason Crest. ISBN 9781422293577.
  4. ^ "CNY singer lends voice to Susan Boyle's hit holiday album - News Channel 9 WSYR". 9wsyr.com. Archived from the original on 8 July 2022. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  5. ^ "BMG - Comprehensive Management of Music Rights for Songwriters and Recording Artists". bmg.com. 9 March 2010. Archived from the original on 26 December 2010.
  6. ^ a b "Labrinth Signs To Simon Cowell " RWD: The UK's biggest and best youth lifestyle title; fashion, games, events, gadgets, music and more". Rwdmag.com. 15 June 2010. Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  7. ^ "Savan Kotecha". Kanani Songs. Archived from the original on 14 January 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  8. ^ "Double deal for Matt Cardle". Heart. Archived from the original on 7 April 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  9. ^ Patrick Foster (23 December 2011). "Simon Cowell picks up £27m in Sony Music deal". The Guardian.
  10. ^ "Sony Music Entertainment and Simon Cowell Launch New Global Venture: 'Syco'". PR Newswire. 19 January 2010.
  11. ^ White, Peter (15 July 2020). "Simon Cowell To Take Full Control Of 'Got Talent' Producer Syco Entertainment, Buys Out Sony Music's Stake". Deadline. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  12. ^ Ingham, Tim (15 July 2020). "SONY SELLS SYCO TV Formats to Simon Cowell – But Keeps Music Catalog". Music Business Worldwide. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  13. ^ Sutherland, Mark (28 September 2020). "Syco analysis: The low-key demise of Simon Cowell's former label". Music Week. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  14. ^ "S Records". Discogs. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  15. ^ "Syco Music". Discogs. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  16. ^ "James Arthur signs with Simon Cowell's Label Again". Digital Spy. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  17. ^ Walsh, Collette (13 June 2014). "Britain's Got Talent winners Collabro land Syco deal and Simon Cowell is delighted". The Mirror. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  18. ^ Griffin, Louise (30 November 2019). "X Factor: Celebrity crowns Megan McKenna winner after epic final show". Metro. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  19. ^ "X Factor: Can The Band winners Real Like You be successful?". BBC News. 16 December 2019. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
  20. ^ "Simon Cowell drops 'BGT' stars Loveable Rogues from Syco label". Digital Spy. 18 October 2013.
  21. ^ Corner, Lewis (3 June 2014). "Leona Lewis leaves Simon Cowell label, joins Island Records". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  22. ^ Guardian music (16 February 2015). "Sam Bailey dropped by Syco 14 months after X Factor win". the Guardian. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  23. ^ "Fourth-place finishers to play Las Vegas first". Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  24. ^ Harp, Justin (28 January 2016). "The X Factor winner Ben Haenow exits Simon Cowell's Syco Music record label: 'It's the right time to move on'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  25. ^ James, Sarah (25 February 2018). "X Factor star Ella Henderson has parted ways with Syco four years after 'Ghost' went to No. 1". Digital Spy. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  26. ^ "Kurrent Music. A Collaborative Music Blog". www.kurrentmusic.com.
  27. ^ Peters, Mitchell (11 July 2020). "Louis Tomlinson and Syco Part Ways: 'I'm Really Excited for the Future'". Billboard. United States: Eldridge Industries. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  28. ^ "One Direction's Louis Tomlinson Signs With Simon Cowell's Syco Label". Variety. 7 June 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  29. ^ "Dalton Harris on Twitter:"Oh and yes I lost the contract.""/Twitter". Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  30. ^ "'He's a true artist': Syco's Guy Langley on Tokio Myers' breakthrough success".
  31. ^ "Has Simon Cowell's Syco Music Folded?". 28 August 2020.
  32. ^ "Piracy officers probe Leona leak". BBC News Online. 19 August 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  33. ^ Otto, Sasjkia (19 August 2009). "Unreleased Leona Lewis tracks leaked online". The Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group Limited. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 24 August 2009.
  34. ^ Nissim, Mayer (14 July 2009). "Music - News - Label 'upset by Burke demo leaks'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 16 September 2009.
  35. ^ Catriona, Whiteman (27 March 2010). "40 more lewis and burke tracks leak online". Digital Spy. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
  36. ^ Lu, Anne (22 March 2010). "Simon Cowell Asks FBI's Help In Tracking Down Music Hackers". All Headline News. Archived from the original on 10 July 2020. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
  37. ^ Love, Ryan (15 June 2010). "Alexandra Burke reveals leak source". London: Digital Spy. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
  38. ^ Dahlkamp, Jürgen (27 January 2011). "Lady Gaga, Ke$ha and the German Hacker Heist". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  39. ^ Corner, Lewis (20 June 2011). "Lady GaGa, Leona Lewis hacker jailed for 18 months". Digital Spy. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  40. ^ "Leona Lewis Accused of Plagiarism on 'Collide'". PopCrush. 19 July 2011. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  41. ^ Sabbagh, Dan (8 August 2011). "X Factor winner faces high court battle to release new single". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  42. ^ "Global Singing Superstar Leona Lewis Is Back Record-breaking Songstress Showcases Brand New Sound". Syco Music, RCA Records & Sony Music via DawBell.com. 15 July 2011. Archived from the original on 17 June 2013. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  43. ^ "One Direction single leak to be investigated by Simon Cowell's Syco". Digital Spy. 7 February 2013.
  44. ^ "Here's Why Anyone Who Signed With Simon Cowell's Record Label Ended Up Despising Him". TheThings. 7 October 2020. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  45. ^ "Simon Cowell's Record Label Syco Outed For Being 'Toxic' And 'Abusive' As Jedward Expose Secrets". www.unilad.co.uk. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  46. ^ "Simon Cowell's Record Label Syco Outed For Being 'Toxic' And 'Abusive' As Jedward Expose Secrets". www.unilad.co.uk. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  47. ^ Coleman, Kali (6 April 2021). "These "X Factor" Alums Just Slammed Simon Cowell on Twitter". Best Life. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  48. ^ "Simon Cowell's Record Label Syco Outed For Being 'Toxic' And 'Abusive' As Jedward Expose Secrets". www.unilad.co.uk. Retrieved 4 August 2021.