David Massey Talks Plans for Arista Records Revival as New CEO

Its been 7 years since the closing of the renowned record label, Arista Records. Now, through its new CEO, David Massey, the label will see a comeback.

From 1994 to 2007, Massey held a notable run in the music industry. He worked at Sony Music as executive vice president/general manager of Epic Records and vice president/A&R of Sony Music Label Group U.S. By 2007, Massey was at Universal Music Group running Mercury records and became the president & CEO of Island Records in 2013. During his time at Island records, Massey as shaped the careers of Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato, Shawn Mendes, and more.

Now, Massey has gone back to his roots as he’s named CEO of Arista Records. Massey is collaborating with Sony Music through a joint venture with his artist management and music publishing companies. The industry vet spoke to Billboard about his latest move and why he decided to make it:

I made up my mind that I wanted to branch out into something entrepreneurial that involved management and publishing, as well as a label, so I wanted to talk to investors and different people about options. I shared that desire with Universal openly. I think they responded very fairly because it was a conversation that was many months before the end of my contract and the relationship with everyone was strong. I promised that no matter what I would dedicate all my remaining months to the benefit of Island, which is exactly what happened. I wanted to make sure that Shawn Mendes had a third No. 1 album and that Demi had a big hit. The things that I wanted to achieve in my last months they all came to pass.”

I didn’t get into it with [UMG] because from my 11 years there I did not feel that they would be open to the kind of ideas that I had because they were somewhat unconventional. I thought that it might not be a fit for Universal.

Arista has been one of the absolute dream labels creatively and when we started having conversations, it just occurred to me one weekend [to ask if] there would ever be a possibility of reforming that amazing label. For me, from a music standpoint and from the point of Clive Davis and the history of that label, it felt like an iconic label that could be completely reinvented. To my amazement, it turned out we could actually do it. 

With a history of shaping pop artists, Massey plans on keeping his efforts the same. He hope to sign artists like Skip Marley, Jessie Reyez, and Bishop Briggs, though expanding culturally. Ultimately, Massey wants to turn Arista into a “fresh label focused on the new way of doing business [with] artists that want to be career artists and that we can really help develop.” He mentions that hip-hop’s nationwide reign doesn’t worry his methods because he’s thinking from a global standpoint, though, will sign an urban artist that they understand and can attribute to their goals when the moment comes. “My strength is not following trends,” he says.

Massey also touched on what Arista Records founder, Clive Davis, thought about the revival:

Clive was amazing about it and I think we all just felt like it was a very natural, great opportunity to bring back a label that so many people respect and love and, certainly for me, embodies so many of the artists that I would love to discover today, whether it be Whitney [Houston] or TLC or OutKast. The list is endless. It felt like a real long-term plan for Sony and for myself. 

I hope we can reflect some of the culture and history of the label, but the essence of this is really discovery of amazing talent and building something. The fact that it has this history and that it has a brand identity just enhances it for me, not only from a U.S. perspective, but from a global one. 

Massey is currently spending time calling connections, surfing the web, and more to find new talent all over the globe. He hopes to announce his newest signee by the beginning of September.