Another Perspective...

[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 tenacity.

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 June.

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 'Diddo.'"



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