L.A. Reid’s 4 Tips for Being a Successful Executive in Music

The music mogul and 'X Factor' judge shares personal trade secrets for success in the music business

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It took one phone call to get Antonio “L.A.” Reid on board as a judge for The X Factor. “I always liked the idea of music platforms to discover and identify talent,” says the longtime music executive. “In the music industry, we have often struggled with those platforms. Simon [Cowell] talked to me about it, and I loved the idea and signed on.”

The 55-year-old, who, in July, was officially named chairman and CEO of Epic Records, says The X Factor, which premieres Wednesday night on Fox, is not a retread of American Idol and The Voice. “What really separates it are the people,” says Reid. “So many shows have a similar format.” Jay Leno’s format is not so different from David Letterman’s, he points out. “The format is a talk show. The difference is the personalities on those shows.”

Whether you want to be a recording artist or a music executive, or if you’re a music lover, here are some things Reid wants viewers to keep in mind while watching:

There is no “x-factor” when L.A. Reid is considering an artist.

“I think when you go into it looking for something, I think that in many ways that may resemble copying. Cookie cutter, and I don’t really do it that way,” Reid says. Voice, presence, personality and songwriting could come into play, but there is not specific piece. “When I met OutKast, as an example, I wasn’t looking for anything, and they blew me away.”

Immerse yourself in music.

Reid began his career as a drummer more than 25 years ago, but he had the executive suite in mind early. He notes that there are opportunities in music outside the studio, such as lawyers, marketing executives, and finance executives. But to be a music-specific executive, he says, one must learn music, work around music, work in a recording studio, or be a DJ.

Don’t forget it’s the music business.

“While what we sell and what your passion may be is music, the executives have to have a great general education and a great general knowledge of the industry,” says Reid. Although he didn’t attend college, he went through the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School, even though he already ran LaFace Records. The program required him to devote 60 to 70 hours a week to his studies, so during that time, he stopped running his business. “It really prepared me to speak the language of corporate America,” he says.

Character is key in the professional world.

If you’re a liar, cheater, or stealer, you won’t advance, says Reid. You will get ahead, however, “if you have great character, you have integrity, and you have great commitment. Honesty rules.”

Find out why Reid’s next move might be biopics in the October 2011 issue of Black Enterprise.

  • lisa cannon

    hello mr.reid my name is lisa cannon from st.louis im kindda knew on the internet i wanted to ask you a favor my son does music sweety and he dont know im written you if fine it in your heart can you go to his youtube page its called (Samarcoc) please sir and listen to his music and tell me what you think i will love that he’s 25 never been in any trouble i have cryed sir watching him stay up nite after nite working on his music im a single parent and its hard trying to get in the big places so someone could take a listen to his music ok we’re
    watching the xxx factor now smile god bless you dear do listen when you find the time thanks!

  • Mixican

    Interesting! Like I said on Twitter, if you have a good instinct for quality music and can assess character of performers and happen to be in the right place at the right time, you’ve cracked it!
    Speaking from a bank of years of experience and wisdom doesn’t give anyone dominion over selecting or discovering artists. Like Mr Simon Cowell, he too has a great instinct and got lucky with Sinitta early in his career.
    It’s kind of you to share your thoughts and experiences and, esp. the last paragraph. You obviously don’t suffer fools gladly or, so the saying goes!
    I’m a self taught musician and I give much of my time to helping people by sharing what I have learned over the years. It makes me happy to know people are entering back into the field of music at a mature age because my videos have shown them that music theory wasn’t the complex subject they experienced. I come across many great singers who’ll never get anywhere because they don’t want media spotlight. They just wanna sing. They wanna be on the radio, not judged by aesthetics and drooled over by sexual perverts.
    The music industry is fickle and, lower sales stand testament to lack of variety and ballad by older singers and bands. The ’70s were a great era and a good example of variety.
    I’m pleased to say I have nearly gained 1,500 subscribers to my channel by word of mouth:
    I also help out on Sinitta’s Attinis website so, if you know some UK wanna-bes, send ’em over!
    Best wishes from over the pond.

  • Rhonda

    I rarely watch TV, but I did enjoy watch him and Simon argue that one time. That cracked me up. I’m laughing now at the memory.