L.A. Reid and Demi Lovato on stage during their Q&A with Billboard editorial director Bill Werde (right). (Photo: Arnold Turner)
Billboard Editorial Director Bill Werde opened today's Q&A with "X Factor" judges L.A. Reid and Demi Lovato by asking which of their co-judges they'd prefer to be stranded with on a desert island -- Simon Cowell or Britney Spears.
Lovato responded immediately -- "Britney," she said, because "Simon would be the biggest diva on the frickin' island and he'd die in a couple of days because he's so old."
Reid -- who serves as Epic Records chairman and CEO when not appearing on TV - laughed and declined to answer. "I can't top that," he said.
Billboard publisher Tommy Page (left) and editorial director Bill Werde (right) flank Reid and Lovato. (Photo: Arnold Turner)
The chat -- part of Billboard's 11th annual Film and TV Music Conference, which concludes Thursday -- found Reid and Lovato sharing plenty of laughs, but also some serious and thoughtful insights into the music industry and its relationship with other media.
Concerning contestants on his reality-competition series, Reid observed that when it comes to music, "The platforms don't bring the magic. The artist brings the magic. If you're going to be there, you'd better be great. If [you're] great, [you'd] better be great in the first 30 seconds. If it takes two minutes to get to great, maybe it's not great. I always say, 'Get to the chorus before you bore us.'"
Lovato agreed, then upped the ante. "They have to catch you in the first 30 seconds. In the auditions for 'X Factor,' it's even shorter than 30 seconds for me. If they don't grab me in 10 seconds, I think, 'Done.'"
On the current season of "X Factor," Reid is mentoring an older group of contestants. "Adults tend to have given more time to getting to this point," he observed. "Kids give an audition and they're new at it.
Red and Lovato embrace before the Q&A. (Photo: Arnold Turner)
"Adults have a bag of tricks they can turn to -- they've seen more and they can give it their best shot. Kids are more pure and not so thought-out. Adults tend to be more theatrical. It's going to be a hard season for me -- I don't have a lot of advice for them."
Speaking about the recording industry, Reid asserted, "In a strange way, the decline in sales was a blessing in disguise. It forced a complacent industry to become creative and explore other platforms. We were the first to be hit with a decline in sales due to piracy, so we had to respond first. Other industries that made fun of us are now suffering the same fate."
Lovato contemplated her multimedia career, which includes singing, acting and appearing on "X Factor." "The TV show can help album sales," she said, "but I keep my careers separate. Acting, 'X Factor,' music -- I focus on one thing at a time and hope for the best."
Asked how he balances creativity with his celebrity, Reid replied, "I don't feel like I'm a celebrity. No one's a celebrity when [they're] alone, and that's when you focus on your creativity. That's when it really all happens -- anyone who brings their celebrity into the studio with them is really going to crash. Many people make the mistake of putting themselves on a pedestal. But Bootsy Collins told me at a very early age, 'Don't read your own press because you'll start to believe it.'" He added with a laugh, "Look at the pictures -- just don't read it."
Billboard's Tommy Page shares a photo with L.A. Reid. (Photo: Arnold Turner)
Lovato agreed: "You become a robot when you do that." She admitted her transition from Disney tyke to what Reid deemed a "superstar" puzzled even her: "I don't know how I did it, honestly. I'm open with issues, which makes me relatable. I didn't do the sexy route because I'm not comfortable with that."
Reid also said that he wished the music industry had an even closer relationship with the film and TV industries. "In film, music tends to be an afterthought," he said. "You come in after the film is shot and deal with licensing fees. I'd love for music to be considered earlier in the process. I hate watching movies where people are fake-dancing because they didn't have the music [secured] at the time. They're not dancing to the beat because there was no beat."
He continued, "In any creative field -- music, film and TV -- the song, the story is the lifeblood. People think it's the connection -- getting to me [or another high-profile executive] -- but it's first coming up with great material. There's no greater joy than finding what I believe to be a great song."
When an attendee told Reid he had a great song and wanted to get it to him, Reid responded, "There are two ways to respond to that. I can give you the kind, politically correct answer -- please send it to me -- or I can give you the truth: You have to be really resourceful and make sure it gets on my desk. It's not as simple as putting it in the mail or linking it to me in a Tweet. It's how much you want to make music, a measure of whether your business aptitude is as strong as your creativity. So I'm gonna leave that up to you."