Is J Records, the joint venture between BMG and dethroned Arista chief Clive Davis, an ”instant major” or overfunded boutique label? Industry insiders are split on the answer following the anticlimactic Aug. 24 announcement of the deal. Davis originally sought $300 million in funding for a new record company, but reportedly settled on $150 million, though some sources say it’s closer to $130 mil. In addition, he was allowed to take a number of Arista’s top execs with him but none of its top artists; J’s starting lineup includes LFO, Shannon Curfman, Deborah Cox, and one multiplatinum act, Monica.
The label’s best bet is thought to be its superstar CEO’s ability to attract embittered major artists whose contracts elsewhere are expiring – like Mariah Carey, who Davis keeps denying he’s talked with. You might expect an old-fashioned signing war now between Arista and its new spin-off sister label, but don’t look for Arista, now led by R&B veteran L.A. Reid, to compete for big names the way J likely will. ”Reid’s mandate is to do production deals,” says one A&R exec; indeed, he announced a deal with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis the day after published reports said Davis would be inking Luther Vandross.