Family ties

Still a sophomore in college and already promoters and A&R reps are reporting back to her. Weinberg sophomore Dominique Bell, along with her boyfriend Valentino Burney, started Lex Recs, a local record label with high hopes for international recognition. Preparing for a March artist’s party and for an artist’s showcase in April, Bell took time to discuss her dual life as a CEO and a college student.

PLAY: How did you start your own label?

Dominique Bell: Like with any business the idea came to me and I went after it. My boyfriend — he’s actually the co-CEO — and I started it together. We had an idea and it grew.

PLAY: What type of music do you specialize in?

DB: Three different types: gospel, hip-hop and R&B. We definitely want to expand in the future but those are the main ones we have right now.

PLAY: How is your label different from other independent record companies?

DB: We’re black owned. We’re young — both of us are college students. We’re breaking all of the rules. You’re not supposed to mix business with pleasure, and we’re a couple. We have 23 employees and they’re mostly our family, so we’re mixing family and business. And we haven’t graduated yet so we don’t have that education you’re supposed to have when you start a business. But we’re doing it anyway. There’s a family feel that we bring to the music, and we’re young and energetic and it comes through in our music.

PLAY: What positions do your 23 employees have?

DB: They are in eight different departments: art, legal, marketing, label liaison, artist development, A&R or promotions.

PLAY: Do you hope to take your label mainstream or to keep it on a smaller level?

DB: We are going to take our label mainstream. It’s not even a hope — it’s definitely going to happen. Our promotions team and marketing department are really working on getting us known. We start locally within Chicago, then move out to all of Illinois, then the Midwest, then the U.S. and hopefully we’ll be known internationally. So we definitely want to market it toward the majors.

PLAY: Do you have any other business ventures in mind?

DB: Actually we do. We want to start a publishing company. We have so many talented writers. Valentino (was a finalist) for Pegasus Playwrights so we want to get into writing. We also have two sister companies. One is called the Block and it’s a clothing company; they work really closely with us and one of the ways we promote ourselves is by promoting them. The other one is called Black Dojo, which is a production company.

PLAY: Who are your role models in the music industry?

DB: As a business person I definitely have so much respect for Russell Simmons (Def Jam Records founder). I really admire how he pushes the black community out there, and how he stresses that as a community we need to come together. And I try to emulate that in my record label. It’s about what we can do to aid the community.

PLAY: How has running the company changed your life as far as academics are concerned?

DB: Academically, surprisingly, it’s made me step up my game. And that’s mainly because my parents are my main source of support, and I know that if I start slipping at Northwestern they’re going to be like, ‘No, the record company is not happening.’ It motivates me to have their support that I need to produce good grades.

PLAY: Socially?

DB: Well, it’s a family-oriented business, and I’m always around my family so I guess that’s where my social activity time comes in. A lot of times my friends here will want to go out and I’m like, ‘No, I have to do something for the record label, I can’t go.’ So sometimes that’s kind of a negative but overall I feel so fulfilled by the record label that anything that is negative gets canceled out.

PLAY: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

DB: I’ll probably be touring somewhere. We’ll be continually growing. Our artists should be internationally known. Oh, and I better have a law degree by then.

–Niema Jordan