01 Dec 2016
LA Reid’s Song
An excerpt from a life in musicTopics:
Illustration by Brian Stauffer
Edited by April White
Record producer LA Reid’s (AMP 154, 1998) first book, Sing to Me, is a memoir of his 25 years in the ever-changing music business. In the book, written with music journalist Joel Selvin, Reid recounts the path of his life and his career, from his first gigs as a teenaged drummer in Cincinnati through the rise and fall of influential LaFace Records to his current role as chairman and CEO of Epic Records. Reid has helped launch the careers of superstars such as Usher, Toni Braxton, Pink, and Justin Bieber and found his own voice along the way.
From Sing to Me:
When I go back to the very beginning, listening to jazz fusion bands and loving Miles Davis, or digging what James Brown represented, or even in my rock days worshipping at the shrine of Led Zeppelin, I always loved the things that were a cut above the rest. And while I always liked having hits, my hits were never based on making music that I thought fit urban radio or alternative rock radio or Top Forty radio.…I don’t want only hit records—I did that. I always wanted more.
I want to be involved with the artists who make the music that will shape the culture, whatever it might be, and I can tell if that’s happened—like seeing little kids going trick-or-treating dressed up as Avril Lavigne. I want to work with a John Lennon or a Bob Marley.
I think that music is only more powerful and more popular than it’s ever been. It’s the most widely pervasive element of the entertainment business, a thread running through all of society. People in music today can sell any brand. I don’t care what it is. If you want social media to be successful, if it doesn’t include superstar music artists, it won’t be successful. Or if you’re launching a fashion line and you don’t have some superstar associated with it, it won’t have the success. We’re seeing the power of music in a different way today. Where we don’t necessarily see it in record sales, we see it in influence. Ticket sales haven’t suffered while record sales have declined, so people still spend money on music. It is how they are listening to recordings that is changing.
With CD sales stalled and downloads slowing, streaming music over computers looks like the future of the music business. Rather than focus on the negatives, I see the current landscape as possessing more opportunity, not less....
I always wanted to be known as that guy who was pure music, because that’s what I am, pure music.… I could make movies, I tried television, but I’m music. At the beginning of the day, when I wake up, I always remember to be music. I never forget. It’s second nature. I wake up, I listen to a song, and then I brush my teeth. Music enriches my day. I always notice that my mood changes if there’s no music. When there’s music, I come alive. All my friends know that about me. The other night, Jay Z came up to me at a party and threw his arm around my shoulder. “Want to drink some champagne, Record Man?” he said. That’s me—I’m a Record Man.
Return to The Year in Books 2016
Class of AMP 154