"I think that all labels reflect the taste of the chief, and my taste is pretty broad… I intend to build a company based on my taste."
—Antonio "L.A." Reid
Reid Writes A New Chapter At Arista
In a story that has played out dramatically during the last year, Antonio "L.A." Reid was officially named to the post of President and Chief Executive Officer at Arista Records last week, replacing the only leader the label has known since its inception in 1975, clive davis',390,400);">clive davis',390,400);">Clive Davis.

The announcement was made by BMG Entertainment President/CEO strauss zelnick',390,400);">strauss zelnick',390,400);">Strauss Zelnick, whose publicly stated desire to establish an orderly succession at the label caused a firestorm of media attention. In making the announcement, Zelnick paid tribute to the career of Davis.

"Clive has not only had a profound impact on the music industry, inspiring and nurturing many of today's top artists, he has also become an influential force in the entertainment industry as a whole," Zelnick said.

Reid was most recently Co-President of LaFace Records, the label he co-founded in 1989 with partner Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds as a joint venture with Arista. The LaFace roster includes such top artists as TLC, Toni Braxton, Usher, Tony Rich, Pink and Outkast, among others, who cumulatively have sold more than 50 million albums worldwide. LaFace will be consolidated with Arista but will maintain its own imprint and continue to be based in Atlanta.

In the following conversation, which took place Friday, May 5, Reid spoke with unmistakable enthusiasm about the challenges he'll face when he assumes the Arista throne on July 1, although he chose his words carefully when addressing certain issues, particularly those that aren't yet resolved.

How big an undertaking is this new job for you? Do you have any trepidation? Are you worried?

I'm excited. Am I worried? No. I don't have any real worries. It's a tall order to fill, for many reasons, the #1 reason being the obvious succession of clive davis',390,400);">clive davis',390,400);">Clive Davis. Clive is arguably the most successful record man of our time. Because there's so much attention surrounding Clive's next move and things like that, there's a lot of attention and scrutiny put on me and what I'm about to do. I understand what my role is, and I'll stay in my lane and do what I need to do to continue to grow this already wonderful company.

Coming in after Davis, a music industry legend, do you feel the added pressure?

I learned a lot from Clive, and I have tremendous love, admiration and respect for clive davis',390,400);">clive davis',390,400);">Clive Davis. And yeah, I feel the pressure, but not necessarily in the sense of what I'll do with this company from a musical perspective or from growing the business. It's more from the focus from outside and the fact that I'm the new guy, and the new guy always has a little tougher role. While I don't consider myself an arrogant or cocky personality, I will say that, from a musical perspective, it's a huge, huge challenge but it's something that I'm absolutely comfortable with and excited about.

When do you plan to have your executive team in place? You officially start July 1. Are you hoping to have everyone on board by then?

I would absolutely love to have it all done by July 1. As a matter of fact, it's obviously one of my goals. In the event that we don't totally have it figured out by then, we have a really strong transition team, and as far as I can tell at this early stage, the records that are in play right now we will continue to work, as well as prepare for future releases.

Will your focus at the new Arista be similar to that of the focus at old Arista or are you going to try new things? Do you have a game plan?

The exciting thing about the challenge is that there's so much room for growth in various genres, particularly in rock music and Latin music. But will we be moving away from our core business at Arista? Absolutely not. One of the things that has really humored me throughout the time that I've considered this position was the fact that many people speculated about whether or not Arista would become an R&B label. Arista has largely been successful due to R&B music, a lot of which I've had a hand in working. Whether it be LaFace Records or Bad Boy Entertainment or Whitney Houston or Monica or Faith Evans and all the R&B artists that make up Arista Records. I have either had direct or indirect associations with all of them through the years.

Are you going to grow from the R&B co. into the other genres?

We absolutely will.

Clive tried but never really got there in terms of the rock music. He hit with Santana and Sarah McLachlan, but there were parts of the business that he did not make happen.

I think that all labels reflect the taste of the chief, and my taste is very eclectic. I intend to build a company based on my taste.

When LaFace is fully incorporated into Arista, will the 70 or so LaFace employees be joining you?

Some of them will. I'm not really prepared to discuss the staffing issues yet, because I'm in the middle of many negotiations and it just isn't the appropriate time.

Is (LaFace President) Mark Shimmel going to take a significant role in the new Arista?

I can't answer that right now.

How are your relationships with current Arista employees and the current roster of artists there?

Many of the artists are people I've known for years, and some of them are people I've been friendly with for years. I think it's going to be a relatively smooth transition.

You've met with most of them already?

They're all my friends. I haven't had any official business meetings with any of them.

Have you got their blessing?

I would hope so.

Did the high-profile coverage the Zelnick-Davis battle received make it awkward for you?

No, it didn't at all. And to be totally honest, it wasn't my business, and I didn't get into it.

When you walk into your office on July 1, what do you do?

My first order of business is to turn the music up really loud and let people know that this is truly a music home. I'm a music person, and the most important thing about my responsibilities is the music. So my focus will be on the music first, and the artist, obviously, is part of the music.

There's been a lot of talk that you might be hiring from the outside. We've also heard you might be upping people from inside. Are you opposed to hiring from other companies, or would you prefer bumping people up from within?

My first order of business in terms of that is to look inside Arista and to make sure that the people who have been a part of this great musical team and family for so many years continue to feel a part of it and, to the extent that we can offer it, that they spread their wings and grow within the Arista family.

What's the status of your relationship with the other BMG executives Bob Jamieson, Jack Rovner, Puffy Combs?

I consider them friends. I consider Bob Jamieson a friend. And Jack Rovner is a friend. I've known both of them for many years, and we've all spent time together, and I'm very close to all of them.

Well, you've been a part of BMG for a long time.

I've been a part of this family for 12 years.

Having worked with these people in the past, will it make for a smoother transition?

That's correct.

Some say the Santana success was a bit of a fluke. Could he do it again?

Well, let me answer a couple of ways. First of all, my opinion is that Santana was not a fluke. My opinion is that Santana was a highly respected musician who has been making records for the last three decades. And, if you tell me that someone who has spent three decades honing their craft and then finally hit the big one, that that's a fluke, I beg to differ.

You take over Arista after its most successful year ever. Does that add pressure?

I really don't focus on the fact that this has been a record year. I focus on how many people didn't buy Arista records, and my goal is to figure out how to reach them.

Compared to Arista, LaFace was relatively small. How do you adjust to this new world, with its much larger staff and roster?

By surrounding myself with the smartest, the brightest and most talented executives that I can get my hands on.

What are the specifics of your new relationship with Babyface?

It's a label deal with Kenny. We will continue to work together to build Kenny's new imprint [tentatively named Joe Lies], as well as to work on the artists that are on the Arista and LaFace rosters. So it's really just a continuation of what has already been a very successful and wonderful relationship and friendship.

Are all the artists staying at Arista, or is Clive going to take some of them with him?

I would not have taken the position at Arista Records to watch the important artists walk out. I came to Arista largely because of what clive davis',390,400);">clive davis',390,400);">Clive Davis has built, the kind of artists that he's been able to attract, nurture and develop. I'm a huge fan of all the artists that are on the roster that was what was attractive about the position. Do I want to go in and start the company from scratch? No. I started LaFace from scratch, and I don't intend to start a label from scratch because everybody's leaving. It's quite the opposite, actually. I intend to go in and, to the extent that I don't already have relationships with some artists, to really build relationships with them. And to make sure that they know Arista is and always will be a true musical home.

Is there anyone that you're really looking forward to working with again or that you haven't worked with before?

There are several that really get me excited. Sarah McLachlan gets me really excited she gets my blood rushing. I must tell you that I'm a huge fan of Sarah's. Whitney Houston is my sister. We have been friends for so many years, so it will be a joy to work with Whitney. I believe that Monica is a future superstar, and I really look forward to the relationship with her as well. And there are several other acts. [Matchbox Twenty producer] Matt Serletic and his label represent the future of Arista in many respects, and it really is in keeping with the vision that I have for the company going forward. So, I'm really excited about working with Matt.

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