Epic Records Chairman & CEO Antonio ‘L.A.’ Reid Exits

Antonio 'L.A.' Reid judges on 'X Factor,' around the start of his Epic tenure (photo: RCR)
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Antonio 'L.A.' Reid judges on 'X Factor,' around the start of his Epic tenure (photo: RCR)
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Antonio ‘L.A.’ Reid judges on ‘X Factor’ (photo: RCR)

Epic Records Chairman & CEO Antonio ‘L.A.’ Reid is abruptly departing Sony Music Entertainment, according to reports circulating Thursday.

Longtime major label executive Antonio ‘L.A.’ Reid is now exiting Epic Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment.  Variety first reported the departure, though reasons for the abrupt exit are unknown.

At present, Sony Music Entertainment has not released a statement on the matter.  Reid helmed Epic Records for roughly six years, starting in July of 2011.

The move is happening just one month after the arrival of Rob Stringer, who replaces longtime Sony Music Entertainment CEO Doug Morris.  The departure of Reid represents the first executive shift following Stringer’s arrival, and perhaps the beginning of broader changes.

The dapper Reid cut a high-profile during his Epic Records term.  A household name in the major label word for decades, Reid gained added notoriety as a judge on Simon Cowell’s ‘X Factor’.  That led to the signing of Fifth Harmony, though Reid may have curtailed his television career to better focus on label duties.

Separately, Reid is currently executive producer of the drama ‘Cotton Club’.  He’ll keep busy in that role after Epic, though TV may have ultimately been a distraction.

Reid’s notoriously heavy-spending habits may also be to blame, with habits rooted in 90s-era excess.

Actually, big spending often yielded even bigger gains during the CD-dominated, major label heyday.  But it’s mostly frowned upon in the slimmed-down, digital-heavy 2010s (streaming comebacks aside).

Fifth Harmony Just Signed the Biggest Music Industry Deal of 2017 — Without Camila Cabello

Indeed, major labels have been in decline for nearly two decades straight, with executives adapting (or dying) accordingly.  That stated, superstars (and their hits) are still worth a lot, and Reid certainly has a sharp instinct for winners.  During his tenure, Reid brought on superstars like Meghan Trainor, Future, Travi$ Scott, Fifth Harmony, and DJ Khaled.

He’s also adept at artist relationships, with Mariah Carey a longtime ally despite some rumors of recent rockiness.

In early 2016, Reid released his autobiography, Sing to Me: My Story of Making Music, Finding Magic, and Searching for Who’s Next.  Despite an extremely rough Reddit AMA, the book went on to become a New York Times bestseller.


3 Responses

  1. Jim

    “superstars like Meghan Trainor, Future, Travi$ Scott, Fifth Harmony, and DJ Khaled.”

    Digital Music News has a different meaning of the word “superstars” than I do. Yeah that Sold-Out Stadium Tour with Meghan Trainor.

    I guess if you spend Millions to get top 40 listeners to hear Meghan Trainor a Billion times, you can pretend that Meghan Trainor is a “Superstar”. But those acts – despite the fact that those acts are being listened to on the radio by quite a few people, over and over – do not sell the number of concert tickets that rock bands do, or just bands in general do. Put bands on top 40, and those bands will tour often, sell tickets and make money for people in the music business. The so called “superstars” are not bands and don’t sell concert tickets.

    The next time you’re thinking about calling Meghan Trainor a superstar (and she’s one of the ones I knew certainly wasn’t a superstar) you might consider the phrase “hit maker”. The history of popular music going back 40-50 years, and probably longer, has a ton of top 40 hitmakers who no one really cares at all about.

    Look at who was making the hits. And what are they doing now. And who the big bands were way back then, and what they’re doing now.

    I just looked. Those top 40 hitmakers from back in the day aren’t really much in demand these days.

    here are the number 1 songs. Some superstars are there, but most are not.

    1967 – “To Sir With Love” Lulu
    “Hey Jude” The Beatles
    “Sugar, Sugar” The Archies
    “Bridge over Troubled Water” Simon & Garfunkel
    “Joy to the World” Three Dog Night
    “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” Roberta Flack
    “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” Tony Orlando and Dawn
    “The Way We Were” Barbra Streisand
    “Love Will Keep Us Together” Captain & Tennille
    “Silly Love Songs” Wings
    “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” Rod Stewart
    “Shadow Dancing” Andy Gibb
    “My Sharona” The Knack
    “Call Me” Blondie
    “Bette Davis Eyes” Kim Carnes
    “Physical” Olivia Newton-John
    “Every Breath You Take” The Police
    “When Doves Cry” Prince
    “Careless Whisper” Wham! featuring George Michael
    “That’s What Friends Are For” Dionne and Friends (Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Elton John and Stevie Wonder)
    “Walk Like an Egyptian” The Bangles
    “Faith” George Michael
    “Look Away” Chicago
    “Hold On” Wilson Phillips
    “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” Bryan Adams
    “End of the Road” Boyz II Men
    “I Will Always Love You” Whitney Houston
    “The Sign” Ace of Base
    “Gangsta’s Paradise” Coolio featuring L.V.
    “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)” Los del Río
    “Something About the Way You Look Tonight” / “Candle in the Wind 1997” Elton John
    “Too Close” Next
    “Believe” Cher
    “Breathe” Faith Hill
    “Hanging by a Moment” Lifehouse
    “How You Remind Me” Nickelback
    “In da Club” 50 Cent
    “Yeah!” Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris
    “We Belong Together” Mariah Carey
    “Bad Day” Daniel Powter
    “Irreplaceable” Beyoncé
    “Low” Flo Rida featuring T-Pain
    “Boom Boom Pow” The Black Eyed Peas
    “Tik Tok” Kesha
    “Rolling in the Deep” Adele
    “Somebody That I Used to Know” Gotye featuring Kimbra
    “Thrift Shop” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz
    “Happy” Pharrell Williams
    “Uptown Funk” Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
    “Love Yourself” Justin Bieber

    What, often, concertgoers really like to see if they’re paying money to see a show, is real people playing music. If you look at that list, you see that if there aren’t real guitars or real instrumentation taking place on the stage, there aren’t a lot of people at the show, if there is a show in the first place. The more an act relies on dancing and choreography, the less likely people will be there when the hits stop coming. Those are the number 1 songs for the last 50 years. The Beatles are there, Rod Stewart, Elton John, The Police, Blondie, Three Dog Night (currently touring 46 years after their #1 hit), Prince, Bryan Adams, Nickelback, Chicago. That’s 10 acts there that have had sustained careers with #1 hits, who do the rock band with guitars thing on stage. There were a few other rock bands who didn’t have the same kind of sustained careers – The Knack, The Bangles, Wilson Phillips, Lifehouse. Wings was on there, didn’t want to include McCartney twice, and Simon and Garfunkel is real music. Faith Hill, im not sure which category. That’s 17 of 50, what’s on the other side, 4 were less than successful of the 17 with the guitars.

    There are some big name on the broadway / variety show type. Barbra Streisand, Beyonce, Adele, Dionne Warwick had a long career. Cher has a long career, but much of what’s on there is really minor stuff. Streisand, Cher and Warwick had long, multi decade careers. It’s hard to say exactly how many years of touring Beyonce and Adele will do after there are no more hits. Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey were popular, but when the hits stopped coming, they weren’t out there touring if they even toured much. Justin Bieber is on this list, I’d expect that the hits will stopping pretty soon, and demand for him would fall. Usher is still popular? I don’t think 50 Cent is. If there was a huge demand here, the demand would be filled. People prefer live instruments to singing to a track or lip synching.

    Are these acts drawing large numbers to shows today? Did they really ever? These are the non guitar, non live music type,

    Lulu, The Archies, Roberta Flack, Tony Orlando & Dawn, Captain & Tennille, Andy Gibb, Kim Carnes, Olivia Newton John, Wham/George Michael, Boyz II Men, Ace of Base, Coolio, Los del Rio, Next, 50 Cent, Daniel Powder, Flo Rida, The Black Eyed Peas, Kesha, Gotye, Macklemore and Lewis, Pharell Williams, Mark Ronson, Justin Bieber.

    The first 25 years have far more of the rock, live music. From 67-91

    From 92-16 – you had Nickelback and Lifehouse, classified as rock bands. That’s it, 2 of 25. The last 25 years have been pretty rough. Most of the attempts made in the last 25 years have not been long term successes.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      “What, often, concertgoers really like to see if they’re paying money to see a show, is real people playing music. If you look at that list, you see that if there aren’t real guitars or real instrumentation taking place on the stage, there aren’t a lot of people at the show, if there is a show in the first place.”

      Are you sure about that?

      I don’t think I saw one guitar at EDC. There wasn’t a real instrument in sight at the packed EXO show at the Forum. And Justin Bieber’s packed arena show in Mumbai was just dancing and lip-synching the whole time (but… sold out).

  2. chris

    Hearing enormous Epic debt forced him out. Gotta make money in the end.