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Why an Ellen DeGeneres record label? And why now? Allow Ellen to explain

May 28, 2010 |  8:50 am


For several days and a few scant hours, the rumors swirled online and in the corridors of music industry power brokers. Which major record label would be the one to sign Greyson Chance? You know, the 12-year-old viral video sensation who set YouTube aflame with his sixth-grade talent show rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” earlier this month. The tween singer with adorably shaggy hair dubbed "the new Justin Bieber.”

Then on Wednesday, “American Idol” judge and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres – who takes claim for discovering Chance – announced she had been “inspired” to create a new record label, eleveneleven, to release the preteen’s music. The news caught many industry veteranos – and more than a few critics who derided DeGeneres’ ascension to the “Idol” panel – by surprise. Why Ellen? Why a record label? Why now?

The Associated Press was first past the post with an article titled “Can Ellen do for music what Winfrey did for books?” It illustrates DeGeneres’ tastemaker status for her core constituency (i.e., homemakers between the ages of 25 and 54) as well as her clout within the industry, quoting authorities no less influential than Jimmy Iovine, the chairman of Interscope, Geffen and A&M Records; and  Island Def Jam chief Antonio “L.A.” Reid. “She can break artists on the show,” Reid explained.

DeGeneres herself did not comment for that article (and was not available to be interviewed by P&H Thursday). An “Ellen” insider who declined to be identified, however, said that contrary to rumors of an imminent deal with Interscope, DeGeneres and eleveneleven have still not signed a distribution deal.

“We don’t know the distribution plans yet,” the insider said Thursday. “A partnership with a major label is in the works. It will happen in the next couple of weeks.”

But the boogie-tastic chat show doyenne directly addressed the “Why now?” part on an “Ellen” segment taped Thursday (for a show that will air Friday but which was made available early to Pop & Hiss) .

“I just started a record label and it is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while,” DeGeneres told the studio audience.

She joked that eleveneleven was her ATM pin number before revealing the name, in fact, refers to a time on a digital clock that holds special significance for her -- peppering the explanation with a few freely associative jokes.

“Whenever I’m anywhere, I see 11:11 all the time and I think about it and I found [Greyson Chance] on the 11th and his number happens to be 11 on his soccer team,” said DeGeneres. “I’ve got to fix my clocks that way. I want to say just because I’m a music mogul, it won’t change me. It won’t change my show. I mean, I have a gold tooth, but it’s way in the back. I am packing heat! It’s an icy hot patch…

“But I’m excited about having a label. I’m looking forward to working with Greyson on his first album and I’m looking forward to discovering more new artists,” she said.

-- Chris Lee

Photo of Ellen DeGeneres and Greyson Chance AP Photo/Warner Bros, Michael Rozman