Betty Who, the Australian-born, New York-based pop singer, who released her debut EP "The Movement" last April (and which premiered on Billboard.com), has signed a U.S. label deal with RCA Records days after a YouTube video of a flash mob marriage proposal that incorporated her single "Somebody Loves You" went viral. Billboard has exclusively learned that the 21-year-old singer/songwriter's deal is with RCA in the U.S. and Columbia in the U.K.
Who (real name: Jessica Newham) tells Billboard that she and longtime manager Ethan Schiff had been discussing a deal with RCA for "several months" before Spencer Stout uploaded a video that depicted him proposing to his boyfriend, Dustin Reeser, in the middle of a Home Depot in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the help of a choreographed group of friends and her bubbly pop single "Somebody Loves You." After posting to YouTube on Wednesday (Sept. 11), the video was featured on Buzzfeed, E! and the Los Angeles Times, and has earned 9.1 million views to date.
"I've had easily the craziest 72 hours of my life," says the singer, who first watched the romantic video at her local salon last week and burst into tears while getting her hair colored. "Somebody Loves You" and the rest of the four-song "Movement" EP was posted on Who's website for free last April, but once they saw Stout's viral clip, the singer and Schiff immediately decided to upload the full EP to iTunes. A deal with RCA was finalized soon after.
"Once the video came out, it became apparent that I needed to move quickly and link up with a team that would help me get the music to as many places as possible, as quickly as possible," Who says.
Schiff addd that RCA was the obvious choice for a U.S. label partner, after months of building a following for Betty Who without the backing of a major label (the singer performed a sold-out headlining show at the 200-capacity Knitting Factory in Brooklyn last Friday night). "The viral video had nothing to do with us signing the deal that we did," says Schiff. "RCA was the very first label we met with, nearly five months ago. Jess and I spent several months building true relationships with many members of their team, and could not feel more comfortable there. The beautiful part of this is that since the video took off the discussions we are having have not really changed."
With the video taking off, "Somebody Loves You" should see a major sales gain this week following its official iTunes release. And Schiff confirms that the label deal should not affect Who's previously announced plans to release a new single, the vibrant anthem "Heartbreak Dream." Who debuted "Heartbreak Dream" at her Knitting Factory show as the first single from her second EP, due out in early 2014.
"When I first came across Betty Who, I was so excited to find an artist with her blend of catchy pop hooks and refreshingly honest lyrics," says Lindsey Cook, A&R Manager at RCA. "Whether someone is hearing her song for the first time in a viral video or dancing their heart out alongside her at a show, Betty Who spreads an overwhelming feeling of happiness wherever she goes."
The singer told Billboard last month that her still-untitled follow-up EP to "The Movement" was being created in Los Angeles with producer/songwriter Peter Thomas, who has worked with artists like Selena Gomez and Victoria Justice. Who has yet to sign a publishing deal but Schiff says that the singer is "talking to many excellent publishers right now," in hopes of finalizing a deal soon.
Betty Who is "incredibly excited" to officially join an RCA roster that includes pop heavyweights like Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson, among others. Next up: getting in touch with the creators of the Home Depot-set viral video. "I haven't but I've been dying to!" she says of talking to Stout and Reeser. "Their video inspired love in millions of people, and that's really all I've ever wanted to do."