RCA’s A Cappella Phenoms Bust Out Their First Full-Length Set of Originals

With their self-titled new album, RCA’s Pentatonix have brought their intricately arranged, high-energy a cappella vocals to a new frontier—original pop music—and a strong #1, 82k debut on the HITS Album Sales Chart. The set has surged to #1 at iTunes.

It’s been an eventful period even for the relentlessly busy, Grammy-winning quintet, who performed on Fallon the night before the 10/16 release (driving the second-most Tweeted-about episode of the season, behind only the premiere) and just announced a publishing deal with Marty Bandier and Danny Strick at Sony/ATV.

Lead single “Can’t Sleep Love” is now breaking at Pop and Hot AC under the aegis of Joe Riccitelli and team, with major support from SiriusXM, Z100 and others. A fan- and celeb-filled new video, for the kinetic “Sing,” coincided with the album drop. Pre-orders for a deluxe edition of the group’s platinum 2014 monster, That’s Christmas to Me (the fourth top-selling album of last year), also began. The original That’s Christmas, as well as That’s Christmas to Me: Deluxe Tracks and prior releases PTX Vol. I, Vol. II and Vol. III, are all selling briskly at iTunes.

"Our ambition is to break what is essentially new ground by putting an a cappella song into the smash-hit category for the first time in decades,” says RCA Prexy/COO Tom Corson, who spearheaded the deal with the band following their viral explosion and sales success on indie label Madison Gate. “With this extraordinary group and our brilliant A&R team, headed by Keith Naftaly, we’re perfectly positioned to optimize this opportunity. We’re pulling out all the stops and breaking down any doubters. The great news is that we have so many supporters after the unprecedented success of last year’s Christmas album, and our expectations are for not just a domestic giant but a global breakthrough. The feedback we’re getting is that’s exactly what’s likely to happen.”

“From our very first EP, we’ve included original songs to complement the covers, and they’ve always been part of the live show,” notes manager Jonathan Kalter. “But with this album, which is, at its core, an original album, it wasn’t a matter of ‘can we?’ so much as ‘How amazing can we make this?’ The group always sets the bar impossibly high, works insanely hard and consistently exceeds even their own expectations. Their talent—alongside an amazing legion of Pentaholics—sets us up to try anything and everything, and get creative with the music and video and album releases. All of which makes my job incredibly rewarding.”

A media onslaught is also underway, with SiriusXM, iHeart, Z100 and Saturday Night Online performances leading the release-day radio charge, a Spotify turn and TV visits coming at The Today Show, Fox and Friends, ABC’s rebooted Muppets, MTV, VH1 and even the PBS News Hour.

The retail campaign includes multiple instant-grat tracks at iTunes and other digital retailers, standard and deluxe editions of the album (the latter featuring three new covers), Amazon Front row and Spotify “album playbacks” with each band member, as well as the aforementioned Christmas pre-order. A partnership with Cracker Barrel will put the album in stores across the giant food franchise.

As Pentatonix have always been an online force—their YouTube channel now has 9.1m subscribers and they’ve surpassed 1 billion total video views—a robust digital campaign is also key to the album push. Things first kicked into gear over the summer, with the 8/18 vid of their take on OMI’s smash “Cheerleader”; the official “Can’t Sleep Love” clip dropped on 9/4 and subsequently exploded on YouTube; various alternate versions followed. PTX worked up a killer rendition of the Justin Bieber/Skrillex/Diplo hit “Where Are U Now” that hit the Net on 9/25. A Dubsmash fan campaign got underway on 10/9, and online initiatives will include websites for major media like Time and People.

The group will bolster the Christmas reissue with holiday-season concerts and TBA media surprises from coast to coast.

The quintet, consisting of Avi Kaplan, Scott Hoying, Kirstin Maldonado, Kevin Olusola and Mitch Grassi, formed in 2011 in Arlington, Texas, and broke into the public eye as winners of the third season of NBC’s Joel Gallen-produced The Sing-Off. Their victory on the series netted them a cash prize and a deal with Epic, but they were dropped by the label. Undaunted, PTX launched their YouTube channel and began distributing their music through Madison Gate.

"Our ambition is to break what is essentially new ground by putting an a cappella song into the smash-hit category for the first time in decades."
—RCA President/ COO Tom Corson

Their viral success was profound by any measure, as their inventively arranged covers of pop hits attracted a massive following. Their Daft Punk medley, for example, has earned 150m views; this vocal take on the EDM robots’ work nabbed them a Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella Grammy this year.

They dropped their debut EP, PTX, Volume 1, in 2012; before PTXmas came out that same year, the group was on a 30-city sold-out tour. Volume II appeared the following year, with Volume III appearing in 2014. RCA jumped in and signed the band, bringing out That’s Christmas to Me in the fall; though it was only out in Q4, the holiday set was, again, the #4 album of 2014 with 1.1m—and the highest-charting holiday album by a group since 1962.

Now, the fivesome who achieved fame making music with their mouths are ready to take it to the next level—with their own songs.

Are you free Wednesday afternoon? (11/12a)
How's that for a tease, Bieber Nation? (11/12a)
Not the same as the old bosses (11/12a)
This sure feels like her moment. (11/12a)
It's down to two bidders. (11/12a)
They'll soon be here, and then we can start obsessing about who'll win.
Forget Brexit--it's our yearly survey of doings in Blighty. And if you still can't forget Brexit, try drinking.
Who's going to land the hottest unsigned property in music?
That's what Hollywood smells like. Seriously. 24/7.

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