NEW YORK (AP) — When Antonio "LA" Reid was named head of Arista Records two years ago, it marked the pinnacle of more than two decades in the music business — first as a performer, then a producer, and later as a founder of his own music label.
But Reid didn't have long to savor his achievement. Criticism began even before he had set up his office, due to the circumstances of his ascension. Reid, 45, was selected by BMG, Arista's parent company, to replace Arista founder Clive Davis partly because BMG wanted someone younger, despite the success of the now 70-year-old music legend.
"He was basically asked to do the impossible," said Grammy-winning producer James "Jimmy Jam" Harris III. "He's been asked to come and take over from a legend — and not a legend whose who's retired by the way, but a legend who's still very much alive and involved in making great music."
There were some in the industry who quietly questioned whether Reid would be able to live up to Davis' lofty achievements, and there were constant whispers that his tenure at Arista would be brief.
But with the growing number of Arista successes under Reid's helm, the doubts are proving to be unfounded.
Last year, Arista's multiplatinum acts included OutKast and Usher. In February, its artists were up for five Grammys; four of them won. In addition, this year's surprising success of singer Pink, and promising first-week debuts from newcomer Avril Lavigne and old-timer Barry Manilow have only further solidified Reid's reputation.
And BMG says that Arista, which lost money after the Davis transition, is on pace this year to make a profit.
But Reid, an admitted workaholic, feels he still has more work to do.
"I don't know that I can take a breath yet," he said in a recent interview in his midtown Manhattan office.
Reid grew up in Cincinnati with a love of music, and started playing in bands when he was 14. He first gained prominence in the early '80s as a founding member of the R&B group The Deele, which featured then unknown Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds.
Though the group scored hits with "Two Occasions" and "Love Saw It," the production projects of both Edmonds and Reid led to the group's demise in 1987. But the pairing with Edmonds would not end — they would continue a successful production and songwriting partnership that created hits for artists such as Whitney Houston and later, for the group's own label, LaFace Records, whose artists included platinum acts such as Toni Braxton, TLC and Usher.
BMG noticed LaFace's success and began wooing Reid to fill Davis' position, especially since LaFace already was a subsidiary label of Arista's. The company even sent Reid to Harvard Business School.
The idea of heading Arista appealed to Reid because "I had worked closely with the artists at LaFace, and some of the artists at Arista, like Whitney Houston, like Kenny G."
"It was important to me to continue working with people that I feel like I had an interest in their success," he said.
But Davis had yet to leave Arista, and was reluctant to do so. After he departed in July 2000, he negotiated a deal with BMG to create his own label imprint, J Records, which became an immediate success with acts such as Alicia Keys, O-Town and Luther Vandross.
When Davis left, however, he took key executives with him, and left Reid with very few records set for release.
"We had to really play catch-up," he said.
Arista sustained itself with holdovers such as Dido and Brooks & Dunn; later in 2000, OutKast's Grammy-winning disc "Stankonia" began its platinum run. However, Reid had to work hard to keep Arista on the charts.
"We signed a lot of artists, and we got into production on many of them, and we've now started to release some of the records," Reid said. Among the recent signings that have paid off: Lavigne, a teenage singer-songwriter whose style is reminiscent of fellow Canadian Alanis Morissette.
Reid also helped guided his established artists to multiplatinum success; he helped choose producers for Usher's "8701," and also gave the green light, although a bit reluctantly, for Pink, whose first platinum album was steeped in R&B rhythms, to change her sound and move more toward pop and rock. The album has sold nearly 3 million.
Braxton says Reid's success as a label president comes in part because he's a former artist, and he has a strong relationship with his acts.
"I think a lot of times, record company people and producers have to be therapists," she said. "He's always been very very good at that."
Reid also re-signed Houston, the label's biggest artist and one of the most successful artists in recording history, to a much hyped $100 million, multiyear contract.
Allegations of drug use and erratic behavior on Houston's part have some questioning whether the deal was a smart move.
But Reid brushed aside concerns, saying Houston was in great shape.
"I'm trying to think of which artist hasn't had drug rumors in their careers," he said.
How Reid dismissed criticisms of Houston is similar to how he handled talk of his own demise at Arista. He virtually ignored them — except for one notable incident. A Billboard magazine writer referred to those rumors in an album review of an Arista artist, drawing a scathing rebuke from Reid himself.
"Many people are capable of putting a spin on things, and I really kind of felt that it was really a shame that people accepted that kind of negative spin," he says. "While I continue to have success, people continue to question my stay at Arista, I thought it was fairly foolish, to be quite honest, because it was never anything further from the truth."
But it's clear that such talk — and Davis' shadow — still haunt him, to some extent.
For example, when Reid is asked whether Davis, who discovered Houston and had input in all her albums, would continue to have a role in her new disc, Reid said simply: "I don't want to talk about Clive Davis. He's been in the industry so many years. He's had his moment, let me have mine."
Yet Reid doesn't have a disparaging word to say about his predecessor; and when Davis threw his annual pre-Grammy bash, Reid was there.
Longtime friend Edmonds believes all the negative talk surrounding Reid only helped to make him stronger.
"Ultimately, it's a question of whether you believe in yourself," Edmonds said.
And there's no question that Reid, the married father of four, is confident in his own abilities to lead Arista to new successes.
"I make more records and better records than anybody," he says, before breaking out into a laugh, letting you know that he was joking — in part.
Listen.com Licenses Universal Music Group Catalog
Listen.com, a San Francisco-based online music company that develops and distributes Rhapsody, a digital music subscription service, and Universal Music, a division of Vivendi Universal have entered into a non-exclusive licensing agreement that will add U.S. UMG titles to Rhapsody. Under terms of the agreement, UMG will make its digital catalog of titles available to U.S. subscribers of the Rhapsody service.
Rhapsody becomes the only online music service with licenses to offer the digital catalogs of all five major record
labels: BMG, EMI Recorded Music, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Universal Music.
"The UMG catalog includes many of the world's best loved and top-selling artists, and we're thrilled to be able to offer its
music through Rhapsody," said Sean Ryan, chief executive officer, Listen.com.
"With the addition of music from Universal, consumers finally have a single, easy-to-use service where they can explore a
vast library of music from artists on all of the major labels." Universal Music Group is committed to making our music available to a variety of legitimate online services, giving consumers broad access to our roster of talented artists," said Larry Kenswil, president, Universal Music Group eLabs. "Rhapsody is a great outlet for our music as the service balances consumers' passion for digital music while respecting the rights of artists."
Rhapsody gives music lovers unlimited access to the world's largest library of legally available digital
music, spanning more than 175,000 tracks — more than 13,000 albums' worth of material — from many of the world's best known recording artists.
Univision Music Group Forms Joint Venture To Create Latin Record Label
Univision Music Group (UMG) has formed a joint venture with international music industry veteran, Rudy Perez, to create a new record label, Rudy Perez Enterprises (RPE). RPE will feature today's top talent from the Miami music movement and will be Univision's fourth music label, complementing its Univision, Fonovisa and Disa labels.
Perez's work has been nominated for and won numerous awards in many countries, including Dove Awards, Univision's Premio Lo Nuestro awards, Grammy and Latin Grammy awards. During the past 25 years, he has composed more than 600 songs and has written and produced numerous top ten hits in English and Spanish for artists such as Julio Iglesias, Christina Aguilera, Michael Bolton, Luis Miguel and Marc Anthony, among many others.
"Univision Music Group is delighted to partner with Rudy Perez, whose unparalleled talents as a producer and songwriter of Latin and international hits have made him one of the most celebrated and sought-after creative minds in the industry," said Jose Behar, president/CEO, UMG. "Not only is Rudy an extraordinary musician, he is a trusted, long-time personal friend. With Univision Communication's extensive promotional network, the strength of our global distribution agreement with Universal Music and Video Distribution, and now with Univision's potential merger with Hispanic Broadcasting, the nation's leading Spanish-language radio broadcasting company, RPE is positioned to explode onto the Latin and international music scene with the hottest sounds from the Miami music movement."
Perez commented, "Partnering with Jose Behar and the Univision Music Group is a tremendous opportunity. Jose has long been at the forefront of the Latin music crossover movement, and clearly, his expertise, coupled with the superior resources of the Univision Music Group — including Univision Communication's three television networks, new cable and satellite networks, Univision.com and Univision's proposed merger with Hispanic Broadcasting — will provide an unmatched creative and promotional network for RPE's artists to become global stars. RPE will be the first label to focus on the largely untapped Miami music scene, which is ripe with sophisticated artists and its own unique sounds. This exciting musical niche, combined with UMG's support and Jose's guidance, will propel RPE to the forefront of the popular Latin and international music industries."
RPE's first signed artist is Area 305, a four-piece group whose self-titled debut album will be in stores this August.
Virgin Records To Release Party At The Palace
The Queen's Golden Jubilee — an event honoring the 50th Anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Accession to the Throne — was commemorated by an all-star concert, "Party at the Palace" held in the gardens of Buckingham Palace on June 3. On July 2, Virgin Records America will release the 21-trqck CD. A portion of the proceeds received by Virgin Records America from the sale of the CD will be paid to a fund which, after deducting expenses, will be donated to the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Trust.
The track listing:
*God Save The Queen — Brian May featuring Roger Taylor & Ray Cooper
*You Can't Hurry Love — Phil Collins
*Dancing in The Street — Atomic Kitten
*Goldfinger — Shirley Bassey
*Everything I Do (I Do It For You) — Bryan Adams
*You Can Leave Your Hat On — Tom Jones feat Blue & Keith Airley
*Radio Ga Ga — Queen
*We Will Rock You — Queen, The London Cast Of The Musical We Will Rock
*We Are The Champions — Queen & Will Young, The London Cast Of The
Musical We Will Rock You
*Why — Annie Lennox
*Move It — Cliff Richard featuring S Club 7 & Brian May
*Paranoid — Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi
*I Want Love — Elton John
*God Only Knows — Brian Wilson featuring The Corrs
*Good Vibrations — Brian Wilson featuring Emma Bunton & Atomic Kitten
*Layla — Eric Clapton
*Gimme Some Lovin' — Steve Winwood
*With a Little Help From My Friends — Joe Cocker feat Steve Winwood &
*Handbags & Gladrags — Rod Stewart feat J'anna Jacoby
*All You Need Is Love — Various Artists
*Hey Jude — Paul McCartney featuring Various Artists
Shock Records And Koch Renew Licensing Deal
Shock Records has renewed its exclusive licensing deal with KOCH Entertainment for Australia and New Zealand, which is a continuation of a previous successful arrangement that has existed for the past three years.
The deal is a collaboration between two of the world's more aggressive independent companies. Shock Records is Australia's #1 independent music company, representing the cream of the world's independent labels in the Australian and New Zealand markets. From product marketed to niche markets to mainstream chart success (Shock recently had 5 of the top 40 singles in Australia in one week). Shock has established itself as a true force in the Australian and New Zealand markets while maintaining 100% independence and its original Australian ownership.
Bob Frank, President of KOCH Entertainment says, "Shock is a perfect partner for KOCH. We look forward to continuing the success we have had with them over the past 3 years."
Charles Caldas, President of Shock says, "All of us at Shock are very pleased that we will be working with KOCH in the long term. Koch have quickly emerged as the USA's #1 independent music company and we are sure that the combination of Shock's expertise in our markets with KOCH'S aggressive A&R will see the success we have already enjoyed continue to develop. We look forward to making KOCH a key label in the Australian market."
Columbia House Sold To Blackstone Capital III
Blackstone Capital Partners III, a private equity fund, has completed its acquisition of most of Columbia House. Terms were not disclosed, but the fund, an affiliate of New York-based Blackstone Group, is believed to have paid about $420 million for an 85% stake in the record and movie club. Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, the former owners, will retain a minority interest.