Avril Lavigne. Mariah Carey. Outkast. Usher. Rihanna. You've heard these names and many others made famous by music mega-mogul L.A. Reid.
Meghan Trainor, who recently won the Grammy for best new artist, was also discovered by Reid and he was the first person she thanked in her acceptance speech.
“That was really sweet of her, but what I loved is she thanked me and then the people put the camera on her father and people didn’t know that was her father—they just thought L.A. looks different. It was funny,” Reid said. “I was really proud. I had to run back stage immediately because I was tearing up because I was so happy for her and at the same time happy for me and my company.”
The current CEO and chairman of Epic Records has not only scouted star talent, but also penned quite a few top 10 hits himself.
“It’s like a love affair. I liken it to meeting someone for the first time and you just think in an instant, ‘Oh my God,’ you feel something for people. It’s just a feeling and I can’t describe it any other way except you get excited. You get a feeling that you just want that person in your life and you want to be in that person’s life,” Reid explained of how he feels when he’s found an artist that impresses him. “In this sense it’s musical and it’s business, but it’s the same principle as romance and love.”
Most recently, he's written his memoir: "Sing to Me: My Story of Making Music, Finding Magic and Searching for Who's Next."
The book took Reid and co-writer Joel Selvin about two years to write and it spans Reid’s career from his early days in a band to the industry titan he is today.
“Being in the band was fun to me and it’s what I do naturally. I’m a drummer but the drummers are like the backbeat and the backbone of the band, so my job from the very beginning of my career was to decide who those other four guys would be out front. So that was like casting and it was like picking talent,” Reid said. “And I always wanted to have a great band, so over the years it got better and better and better. Ultimately, my final leader singer when I was in the band was Babyface.”
“So it was kind of what I did and it’s what I do now. I still cast talent, I still try to find a great lead singer, and the only difference that I had to learn was what marketing really was,” he added. “I understood what commerciality was after bumping my head, but learning how to market and then learning how to run the business from a pure business perspective those are the only things that are different.”
Play the video above to see our full interview.
Read an excerpt of "Sing to Me," below.
I’d never auditioned a child before. My partner Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and I had written and produced records with a couple of boy groups, but working with kids wasn’t something I’d envisioned doing when we started our own record company. I vaguely figured I would listen to a song or two and tell the kid to come back in a few years, but the minute this fourteen-year-old boy walked into my office that afternoon in 1993, I could tell that there was nothing that felt remotely child-like about Usher Raymond IV.
These were high times at LaFace Records, the label I had started with Babyface in Atlanta four years earlier. The company was beginning to make a name for itself. We had an album about to be released by an unknown singer named Toni Braxton that would become a multiplatinum smash. The label had its first multimillion-seller, the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy movie Boomerang, and we had sold millions of records with another previously unknown group called TLC. Babyface had become a star in his own right after releasing two stellar solo albums and writing dozens of big hit songs with me as his regular producing partner.
On the heels of all this, we had recently relocated the LaFace office from Norcross to a bright, beautiful space we’d built out on the fifteenth floor of the Capital City Plaza building in Buckhead. We built the conference room in the ten-thousand-square- foot office to be shaped like a piano, which made a curved wall in the lobby. Nobody ever mentioned that particular design feature, so we probably spent a lot of money for something that went largely unnoticed. The staff was growing, as our operation expanded behind our two multimillion-sellers. The sleek, modern office lent the label an air of prosperity that I hoped would define us in the years to come.
But with all the success had come some serious adversity.
Excerpt from Sing To Me by LA Reid. Copyright © 2016 by LaCoCo, LLC. A Harper book, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.