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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Record company into music and community
Independent BNR on a music mission
 
Published Thursday, October 25, 2012 10:27 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

 

When Diondre Lewis launched BNR Records in 2008, his mission was simple: Put out good music with positive lyrics.

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PHOTO/PAUL WILLIAMS III
BNR Records founder Diondre Lewis has one goal: Put out good music with positive lyrics.


“People underestimate the influence that music has,” says Lewis, 34. “Especially in the black community, we have such an intimate relationship with our music. [BNR] is all about showing people that there is an alternative. You don’t need to be out there cursing and doing all this badness in your music. It’s not even an accurate form of expression.”


The first artist signed to BNR was a 19-year-old gospel rapper named Young Jules. His first release sold about 7,500 units (a combination of downloads and in-store sales). Lewis says those figures are relatively good for an independent label, especially considering Young Jules’ album was available in only 19 stores.


BNR has since added five other acts in a variety of genres ranging from inspirational hip-hop to electro dance.
Lewis said his ultimate goal is to build an empire like Def Jam, but in the immediate future he is mainly focused on saturating the local market within a 100-mile radius of Charlotte.


“You need to own where you sit,” he says. “Our strategy is to operate as a major label in a small market.”


BNR has a distribution deal through Select-O-Hits, one of the nation’s largest independent distributors, which Lewis says separates him from other independent labels. Distribution deals make the difference between artists being able to place their products in stores versus selling them outside in parking lots from the trunk of a car.


 “It was the result of literally knocking down doors,” Lewis said. “I probably got 250-300 ‘no’s,’ but I just kept pushing and pushing at it.”
So, what does BNR stand for? Surprisingly, Lewis says it stands for nothing.


“I just picked some random letters,” he says. “I started with a ‘B’ because a lot of big elements in music (BMC, BMI) start with a ‘B.’”


Lewis explains that when selecting the label’s name, he wanted to choose something that was general enough to encompass the broad range of music he wants to produce. His vision for the future is to release music in all genres, including country, pop, urban, R&B and gospel.


The current roster includes Young Jules, J da Realest, Pradigy GT, Humble Nation and Future KiD. He is working on bringing on his first country music artist.


In addition to producing good music, Lewis says he also instills in his artists the importance of giving back to the community. Each of his acts works with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and community organizations that focus on youth outreach. They perform concerts for students and talk to them about pursuing music careers.


“We are very much into the community,” Lewis says. “There are so many negative influences out there. We want the younger folks to see that there is a positive way of doing this while still being hot and still being respected by your peers.”

 

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