[From Fox 411]
N.Y. Times Arista Piece: Puff Daddy of All Time
I have to say it was with some amusement that record industry insiders read yesterday's
New York Times feature on Arista Records head L.A. Reid. I like Reid and admire his
Now I admire his spin control.
To read the Times, his life has been a fairy tale. Buried toward the end of the long,
puffy article was the concession that some recent records hadn't sold.
Right: There was no mention of Whitney Houston walking off with $20 million cash and
subsequently selling a paltry 540,000 copies of her album. There was also no indication
that recent disasters by TLC and Toni Braxton had anything to do with the nasty legal
battles they had had with Reid at La Face Records in Atlanta before he took over Arista.
The Times article also failed to mention the chaos surrounding Usher's album 8701. An
early single called "Pop Ya Collar" was released only to radio and never made it
out as a record at all.
A $2 million video was made for the single but never shown because Reid "hated the
song so much he wouldn't watch the video," says a source. The entire first version of
8701 was scrapped and the album was re-recorded. Arista, critics tell me, has been
spending money like crazy under Reid, millions and millions more than necessary.
Also missing from the Times story is the recent brouhaha between Reid and British manager
Simon Fuller, who created American Idol and manages Annie Lennox. Fuller took his business
to Reid's rival Clive Davis after Reid yelled at Fuller for being late to a meeting. Now
Davis has Lennox on J Records and Idol sensation Tamyra Gray on RCA.
The Times also got the impression that Reid was newly well-groomed and natty. They
obviously missed our story about him shopping in Gucci on afternoons when he had just
taken over the running of Arista. (Now he wears Brioni.) Clips from the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution would suggest that he has always been the well-turned-out exec, and
that moving to New York didn't start him down that path.
I did like the skipping over of his divorce from Perri "Pebbles" Reid, now Perri
Nixon, the former pop singer who accused L.A. of snatching TLC from her (she was their
manager) after she'd built them into superstars from nothing. Perri has since left the
music business to become a preacher in Atlanta.
As for the TLC and Braxton lawsuits, each of them would have been good references to the
pre-New York L.A. Reid. The Times story is called "And They Said He Couldn't Run a
Major Record Label." But quite the contrary: Reid, who patterned himself on Motown's
Berry Gordy, knew better than most how to run a label when he took over in 2001. Like
Gordy, he underpaid his artists on their original contracts, then resisted giving them
more of a share of profits when their careers took off.
Then, of course, the Times could have looked into Reid's conflicts of interest at Arista
with publishing and management. He still owns HitCo South Music Publishing, which signs
and administers the rights of songwriters and producers. Many of those songs, including
three that were on Houston's album, kick money back to Reid.
Still, the label has had success with Avril Lavigne and Pink, the former giving them a
shield to hide behind. But last week, as this column reported, the losses forced the
ouster of Lionel Ridenour, the head of black music at Arista, after a decade of service
and loyalty to Reid when he first arrived.
There was no mention in the article of other acts, however, that Arista trumpeted when
Reid took over. A female singer named Lennon and a rock act called Adema have both
disappeared. And Blu Cantrell, who had a novelty hit just as Reid came in, has still not
released her follow-up album. It was due last winter, and is now scheduled for the end of
The new Santana album, Shaman, has been a disappointment compared to the prior hit,
Supernatural. Arista has not been able to translate the radio success of Santana's single
"Game of Love" into album sales.
Also unmentioned is the comeback album by former Motown act Boyz II Men, which came and
went without a peep. As well, Arista recently lost a hot new act called Thicke, which was
signed to Babyface's NuAmerica label, to Interscope Records.
Babyface, whose real name is Kenneth Edmonds, was at one point Reid's close associate and
business partner. When Reid took over Arista he bailed Edmonds out of his long-term deal
at Epic Records and set him up with NuAmerica at Arista. Edmond's own solo album at Arista
was a bust, and NuAmerica has moved to Interscope, which is part of Universal Music Group.
And there's still no sign of a new album by Dido, the folky British songstress whose album
was released on the Clive Davis-run Arista. After Davis left the Dido album took off, and
the Reid regime took credit for making it a sensation. "Reid didn't even know who
Dido was when he came in," said one former Arista staffer. "He used to call her
NEWSFILE: 3 MARCH 2003