On December 13, 2012, “Access Hollywood” televised an interview with Antonio “L.A.” Reid announcing that he’s quitting “The X Factor” U.S.,” where he has been a judge since the show’s debut in 2011. He says he wants to go back to focusing on his work as chairman/CEO of Epic Records.
In his “Access Hollywood” interview, Reid said: “I have decided that I will not return to ‘The X Factor’ next year. I have to go back and I have a company to run that I’ve kind of neglected and it saddens me a little bit, but only a little bit. It was a nice break, it was a nice departure from what I’ve done for the past 20 years, but now I gotta go back to work. I have a huge responsibility to a roster of artists and it’s kind of time for me to stop doing the ‘me’ show.”
However, there are several suspicious things about this announcement. It may all just be a negotiating tactic for Reid to get a salary raise from “The X Factor.” After all, it worked for “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson, who announced in August 2012 that he was quitting “American Idol,” just a few weeks before the show’s next auditions began (and he got a lot of publicity out of his “I’m quitting” announcement), but then Jackson “changed his mind” about quitting after he got a hefty pay raise from “American Idol.”
Reid’s “I’m quitting” announcement could also be a calculated publicity stunt for “The X Factor” U.S. Season 2 finale, which will be on December 20, 2012.
Here are some signs that all may not be what it seems with Reid’s “I’m quitting” announcement.
- When stars really quit a TV show (when there is already legal paperwork signed), they give the courtesy of timing the announcement so that the TV network can have press releases and statements ready for the media. That didn’t happen with Reid in this case.
- It’s considered rude and unprofessional for anyone to announce that they are quitting a TV show before giving any of the executives involved a chance to say something to the media about the departure. (The only exception is if there is a major crisis or controversy that happened and the departure was truly abrupt and unforeseen.) Reid is no novice in the entertainment business, so the strange timing of his announcement wasn’t made by someone who is inexperienced and doesn’t know better.
- The “X Factor” U.S.’s TV network (Fox) and production companies (Syco and FremantleMedia North America) aren’t commenting yet. I contacted all of the publicists for “The X Factor” U.S. and they are suspiciously silent about Reid saying that he’s quitting the show. A spokesperson for FremantleMedia North America would only say, “No comment.”
- “The X Factor” U.S.’s official website, Facebook page or Twitter page has no official statement about Reid quitting. Reid’s Twitter page also doesn’t mention he’s quitting “The X Factor.” Ditto for the always outspoken Simon Cowell, who is not only an executive producer of “The X Factor” U.S. but also a judge on the show and one of Reid’s “X Factor” bosses.
- In fact, nowhere is there any official announcement in writing about Reid quitting “The X Factor.” The media reports are just based on what Reid told a tabloid-ish celebrity gossip show that’s owned by NBC Universal, a rival of Fox. All of this looks very strange indeed.
“The X Factor” U.S. has been renewed for a third season in 2013. Cowell, of course, is expected to return to the judges’ panel, which won’t leave him time to go back to being a judge on “The X Factor” U.K. — at least not as long as “The X Factor” U.S. is still on the air in the same months as the U.K. show.
I’ve covered “The X Factor” long enough to know that things can take unpredictable turns with the show (Cheryl Cole’s abrupt firing is just one of many examples), and sometimes the things that high-ranking “X Factor” executives tell the media could turn out to be the opposite of what ends up happening.
Even “X Factor” creator Cowell gets it wrong with this show. Here a few things he told the media in October 2012 about “The X Factor” U.S. that turned out to be false:
- Cowell said that there probably wouldn’t be a “wild card” contestant on “The X Factor” U.S. this year. In fact, there was: Diamond White. Cowell later told the media it was his idea to bring White back on the show as a “wild card” contestant after she was eliminated by judge/mentor Britney Spears.
- Cowell said that co-host Khloe Kardashian would be a hit with viewers. She isn’t. In fact, most viewers want her fired, and ratings have gone down considerably since she’s been on the show.
- Cowell said there was “no chance” that contestant over the age of 25 will win this year. Wrong again: Tate Stevens, 37, the oldest contestant in this year’s Top 5, has been No. 1 in getting votes from the public for most of the weeks that voting has been open to the public. Those are all pretty good chances of winning, and Stevens is considered by many to be the frontrunner to win.
Representatives for “The X Factor” U.S. are not commenting on which judges are returning for Season 3 in 2013, but when one of the judges announces he’s quitting before the second season is even over, it doesn’t look good when the network and production companies have no comment. It reeks of either a publicity stunt/negotiating tactic or an ill-timed announcement from Reid if he really is quitting the show.
There are rumors that Spears and Demi Lovato (who both joined “The X Factor” U.S. in May 2012) will not be returning to the show in 2013. They have both gotten a lot of criticism from viewers: Spears for being empty-headed, dull and robotic; Lovato for being too inexperienced to be a credible mentor and too bratty when she argues with Cowell.
Cowell needs Reid and vice versa, because Epic partners with Cowell’s Syco Music to sign artists from “The X Factor.” So far, “X Factor” U.K. alum Cher Lloyd is the only “X Factor” artist who’s been a hit for Epic in the U.S. (Syco and Epic are both Sony Music labels.)
The other “X Factor” alumni who are on Epic are contestants from the “The X Factor” U.S. in 2011: R&B/pop singer Melanie Amaro (first place), hip-hop artist Chris Rene (third place), R&B singer Marcus Canty (fourth place) and teen rapper Astro (seventh place). Amaro, Rene and Canty have all released singles that failed make it on to Billboard’s Hot 100.
Amaro has been a $5 million flop for Syco Music/Epic Records. In the wake of dismal sales for her singles, Syco/Epic postponed the release of her first album, “Truly,” which had been scheduled for release on December 4, 2012, but will now be released on a date that is to be announced.
Rene’s “I’m Right Here” EP (released on October 2, 2012) has had lackluster sales in the United States: It debuted at No. 55 on the Billboard 200 chart, but then quickly dropped off the chart after just a few weeks.
Canty’s EP “This Is … Marcus Canty” was set for release on October 30, 2012, but that release date has also been postponed until further notice.
Astro has not released any solo music on Epic Records since he’s been signed to the label. He was featured on a remix of Lloyd’s “Want U Back” in 2012, but that’s it. There have been no Epic releases from Astro as the main artist.
In 2012, the last contestant standing in Reid’s “X Factor” mentor category (Over 25s, for solo singers ages 25 and over) is 37-year-old country singer Stevens, who is going to be signed by Sony Nashville, not Reid’s Epic Records. Reid openly admits that he doesn’t sign country artists or new artists over the age of 30, so even if Stevens hadn’t been one of the show’s frontrunners (many people predict he will win), Reid wasn’t going to sign Stevens anyway.
Cowell’s Syco Music will still likely sign Emblem3, the young male trio mentored by Cowell this year. (Emblem3 came in fourth place.) Reid wants to sign Emblem3 too. I’ll believe that Reid is quitting when I see an official statement from “The X Factor.”
So what will all of this mean if Reid is really quitting the show?
Cowell championed overpaid bimbos like Spears and Kardashian and deluded himself into thinking that they would bring more viewers, but the fact of the matter is that “The X Factor” U.S. has lost millions of viewers since Spears and Kardashian have been on the show. “The X Factor” needs credible talent from the music business to be on the judges’ panel. That’s what viewers want, and it’s time the “X Factor” decision makers pay more attention to what the viewers want. Regardless of how viewers personally feel about Reid (he has his share of fans and critics), there’s no arguing with the fact that he’s one of the most successful producers/executives in the music business. If he really is leaving “The X Factor,” then it would be difficult to find a producer or executive who can match or surpass his track record at finding stars and making hits.
And on a side note, Spears’ contract with Sony Music ends with her next studio album. (She is currently signed to Sony’s RCA Records after Jive Records went out of business in 2011.) Reid has been trying to sign Spears to Epic, but he has stiff competition from the man who replaced Reid as the head of Island Def Jam Music Group: Barry Weiss, who worked with Spears for most of her career when he was a chief executive at Jive/Zomba, which is now owned by Sony. Island Def Jam is owned by Universal Music, Sony Music’s biggest rival.
Reid’s and Spears’ employment status with “X Factor” are affected by the power plays behind the scenes for which record company she will sign with after her Sony contract expires.
December 17, 2012 update: At an “X Factor” U.S. press conference in Los Angeles, Cowell finally confirmed Reid’s departure, four days after Reid announced that he’s quitting the show. Click here for more details.