Producer-songwriter Antonio “L.A.” Reid doing well as head of Arista:
- When Mr. Reid succeeded Arista’s founder, Clive Davis, in July 2000, becoming one of the most powerful blacks in the music industry, questions almost immediately began swirling about him in the press. Though he had had success with his own boutique label, LaFace, discovering acts like Toni Braxton and TLC, could Mr. Reid handle the responsibility of running a major label? Would an executive with a background in R & B and hip-hop be able to work with Arista’s rock and pop artists? Could Mr. Reid spot talent like Mr. Davis, the man who helped shape the careers of Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen and Whitney Houston?
Today, just over two years later, Mr. Reid has not only managed to stay in the picture; he has also silenced his critics with a string of multimillion-selling albums, even in a period when sales are down sharply. The R &B heartthrob Usher’s album “8701” has sold seven million copies worldwide; the pop-and-roll singer Pink’s sophomore effort, “Missundaztood,” more than 10 million; and the rap duo Outkast’s “Stankonia” sold more than five million copies and won a Grammy last year. Mr. Reid’s biggest coup has been “Let Go,” the debut album by the pint-size Canadian rocker Avril Lavigne; the record has spawned three No. 1 hits and sold more than 10 million copies. And last Sunday, Mr. Reid capped off the year when three Arista artists – Santana, Usher and Outkast – won Grammy Awards.
“He gets an A+,” said Doug Morris, chairman of the Universal Music Group, the world’s largest record company. “I really wish we could lure him to our company.” [NY Times]
Reid rose to prominence with Babyface (whatever happened to him?):
- He started playing drums in bands when he was 14 and rose to prominence in the early 80’s as a drummer with the R & B group the Deele, which featured the lead singer Kenneth (Babyface) Edmonds. Mr. Reid’s penchant for flashy dress prompted friends to call him L.A.
He and Mr. Edmonds eventually started their own production team in Los Angeles, creating hits for Paula Abdul, Bobby Brown and others. Seeing a wealth of untapped music talent in Atlanta, the duo opened LaFace there in 1989. While Mr. Edmonds’s successful singing career made him the label’s public face, Mr. Reid toiled in the background, gradually turning LaFace into a $100 million company.
During this period, Mr. Reid also introduced a brash young entrepreneur named Sean Combs, a k a Puff Daddy, to Clive Davis. Soon, Mr. Combs’s hip-hop label, Bad Boy Records, was added to the Arista fold. “I structured his deal,” said Mr. Reid, who is godfather to one of Mr. Combs’s sons.
We won’t hold that against you, L.A.