In what is perhaps the music industry’s worst kept secret, THR has learned definitively that “X Factor” judge and former Island Def Jam chairman Antonio “L.A.” Reid is headed to Sony Music. He will take on the chairman title at the soon-to-be restructured Epic Label Group, which will encompass Jive Records and reunite Reid with two artists he discovered and developed: Usher and Pink.
Sources tells THR the 55-year-old executive is expected to arrive at 550 Madison just after the fourth of July holiday (Sony Entertainment’s new chief executive Doug Morris officially takes the reigns on July 1). In his new position, Reid will inherit the label last helmed by songwriter Amanda Ghost, whose controversial one-year stint nearly destroyed the company. Since her exit in late 2010, things have quieted some, but hits are still hard to come by, despite some significant strides, namely breaking The Script and, on a smaller scale, Denmark’s Oh Land.
In terms of new signings, the Reid era has already begun. According to an insider, Epic recently signed the girl-guy duo Karmin, who gained instant notoriety with their Youtube hit cover of Chris Brown and Lil Wayne‘s “Look at Me Now,” which is currently at 21 million views and counting.
It’s also anticipated that Reid will steer the company towards more urban releases, which may not bode well for the label’s rock acts, including Incubus, whose first album since 2006, “If Not Now, When?,” is due out July 12, and Augustana, whose Epic debut was released in April after Ghost’s tenure sidetracked the record.
As for the Jive Records roster, Epic will absorb some of those artists, including Pink and Usher, both originally signed through Reid’s LaFace Records, which entered into a joint venture partnership with BMG-owned Arista Records in 1989. Other marquee Jive acts, like Britney Spears, will likely stay with the RCA half of the former RCA/Jive Label Group. Another name staffers are curious about? Outkast, and whether the duo will reunite with Reid, who ran Arista Records from 2000 to 2004 (during which they won six Grammys), and at long last release new music.
It’s only one of many unanswered questions currently facing the music business as it readies for a massive executive shuffle. Still up in the air is the leadership structure at RCA, with names like Tom Corson and Peter Edge bandied about, plus there’s Sylvia Rhone, whose future at Universal has yet to be determined, though many continue to speculate that Universal Motown will be no more by the end of this week. Might she land at Sony with her mentor and longtime supporter Morris?
And how about the Sony Music recording contract awarded by “X Factor”? Could the winner end up at Epic under the watchful eye of the person who knows their talent best — the judge offering feedback, however harsh, week in, week out? The show and creator Simon Cowell have yet to announce which label will issue the record deal and astronomical $5 million prize that comes with it — perhaps the latter can come out of Cowell’s petty cash fund.
For now, what we do know is that Reid has beautifully executed a career arc that brings him back to the place where he first made a name for himself and launched two of his most successful and resilient acts. The irony: that after wooing Jennifer Lopez to Island Def Jam, where she’s seen more music buzz with her latest single “On the Floor” than anything she’s put out in the last decade, he’ll now be running the label that essentially dropped her.
A spokesperson for Sony Music declined to comment.