Andre Mullen has covered the gambit of the recording industry wearing a multitude of hats and filling various roles through out his career. Over the span of more than two decades, he has seen the evolution of the music industry in ways that many people take for granted. With humble beginnings as co-lead vocalist of a neighborhood boy band – with a seven figure recording contract -to more than a decade later running his own independent label on to working for VIBE and SPIN Magazines; Andre’s career is one of diversity.
He launched his independent record label, E3 Music -which would go on to garner world wide attention – and by the beginning of 2008, Andre was approached by United Kingdom’s New Visions Limited – a mobile music marketing company that was developing mobile music websites for top record labels such as EMI, Island Records, and Def Jam Records. New Visions and Andre would develop a platform called The Christian Mobile Channel, the first ever totally Christian, totally mobile hub for Christian music and news. Despite the project’s inability to gain traction here in the United States, the venture further fueled Andre’s desire to fuse his passions for music and new media.
By 2010, Andre partnered with Manuel “Jblaze” Garcia from Miami to form FNF Media Group, a music media company that encompassed radio, Internet and television platforms. Catering toward the Christian demographic, FNF Media Group was comprised of Garcia’s radio show, FNFLive – which aired in South Florida-, FNFLive.com -the show’s website- and Fuego Television – a cable network channel that was part of the UnoRED/HGN-TV digital cable service based in Orlando. For three years, the pair would run the brand from two locations – New York and Miami. FNFLive the radio show was syndicated in six markets on 17 stations as well as stations in Honduras and in Dominican Republic.
Garcia’s growing health concerns however, caused the two to step away from FNF Media Group. In the span of his recovery from a kidney transplant, Andre stepped away from music and new media. It would not be long however, before Andre realized that his passion was never going to be extinguished. In early 2014, he formed The Inaxxs Group, a brand development and management company dedicated to giving music creatives, content creators, and music professionals platforms to grow, learn, and expand their brands. The company’s premiere brand, The Inaxxs Music Business Conference, is a yearly music business conference for the Christian music industry. I recently caught up with Andre.
Andre, thanks for sitting down with DeFY. New York.
DeFY: Where did you grow up and what is your earliest memories of discovering music?
Dre: I grew up in Roosevelt, Long Island – home to Julius Erving and Eddie Murphy. My mom was a public school teacher in Brooklyn, so my younger brother and I went to school down the block from my mom’s school. The long commutes by car into Brooklyn had me listening to the car radio for at least 2-3 hours a day.
DeFY: Tell me a little bit about the boy band days. What was the name of the band you were part of and how did you wind up joining?
Dre: The name of the group was called IMAGE. There were four us. I was just turning 14 years old and it was the summer before I entered high school. One of my friends in the neighborhood told me about this guy who was putting together a singing group. He was thinking about joining and knew that I sang and told me to audition. I went to the audition, sang a little bit of Bobby Brown’s “Girlfriend” and I was accepted in the group right on the spot.
DeFY: What happened with that 7 figure contract, what was it like receiving an offer like that at such a young age?
Dre: Well, I don’t think we thought about the 7 figure contract as much as we thought about the fact that we would be traveling the world doing what we loved to do which was perform. As a teenager, and definitely back then, the mindset wasn’t about the money. That’s why I understand what a lot of the groups from the 90’s went through when they turned around and realized that they didn’t have a penny to show for anything.
DeFY: Any old music video’s up on YouTube?
Dre: No old videos of me on YouTube other than interviewing Christian hip hop artists and other notables (look up “Drebooge”)
DeFY: What was the outcome of the group and what did you learn from that experience that you continue to carry with you?
Dre: The group ultimately broke up because we started getting involved in other things with school and extracurricular activities. However, I still stayed close to music and the business side of things. I was making sure I was constantly learning and around those that could teach me.
I learned that in order to be successful, you have to be consistent and don’t quit. Quitters never win and winners never quit.
DeFY: How did you wind up at Vibe and Spin?
Dre: Working for Vibe and Spin magazine was a real experience. Shortly after 9/11, my childhood friend hit me up about asking me if I knew anyone looking for a job. At the time, my brother had just lost his job at a credit card company because of 9/11. So I told my friend about my brother and sent him his resume. He told me that it wasn’t what he was looking for and told me to send him mine. I sent him mine and he offered me the position as a junior finance analyst for both VIBE and Spin.
I was responsible for maintaining financial communication with all parts of both magazines – from production to sales. Ultimately, my position began to evolve into all aspects of finance and production – from handling invoicing to advertisers to putting together the layout of the magazine. My position enabled me to learn many different facets of the publishing industry with the publishing industry’s best urban magazine.
DeFY: Any special memories you can share working with these companies?
Dre: One of the things that was really special about working at VIBE and SPIN is when artists would come thru to preview new music to the staff. You see people on TV and they look larger than life but when you see them in person, it’s a whole other thing. One day, we had Anthony Hamilton come to the office. At that point, he had just released his first album and I had never heard of him. So, while on my way to the bathroom, I bumped into this short guy wearing a trucker’s hat, plaid shirt, jeans, and some boots. I thought he was a delivery guy so I asked him if he was lost, he said, “No, I’m just looking for the conference room.” I asked, “You’re here with Anthony Hamilton?” He laughed: “I am Anthony Hamilton, sir.” He laughed and so did I.
DeFY: Haha! Well, you came up at a special time in the music industry, there was legendary talent walking around. Who are some of the individuals that you’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the years?
Dre: I totally agree with you. I did come up at a special time in the music industry. Throughout my tenure at VIBE, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Anthony Hamilton, Jill Scott, Dave Hollister, Avante, Keke Wyatt, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest and a host of others. Outside of VIBE, and by virtue of living in Long Island, I’ve had the privilege of meeting De La Soul, Public Enemy, and Rakim. Additionally, there are a lot of well known artists that I have dealt with in Christian Hip Hop such as Eshon Burgundy, Andy Mineo, Christian battle rapper Th3 Saga, and a slew of others.
DeFY: Can you name me some of your favorite artists of all time?
Dre: This one is tough because I’ve come across and dealt with so many throughout the years and my musical tastes are quite broad. Off the top of my head, in Hip-Hop it would have to be old school heads De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest to new school Christian hip hop Eshon Burgundy, Derek Minor, Gil Gatsby, and Social Club Misfits. On the R&B/Urban Gospel side it would have to be Musiq Soulchild and Usher to up and comer Chris Jackson.
DeFY: Ok, So you eventually launched your own label E3 what was that like? I understand it never took off in the United States but did garner a following internationally?
Dre: E3 Music was a labor of love for me. I wanted to work with artists and see them really grow – especially in the indie space. In retrospect, I had the “know how”, but I didn’t have two key ingredients – finances and more importantly, consistency. Labels need to have money and resources to push artists and then artists have to be consistent. Without these two things, nothing moves and nothing works. The label didn’t really have legs domestically and internationally because of this.
DeFY: Has there ever been a time in your career that you’ve been discouraged? If so how did you over come that?
Dre: For me, when I feel discouragement setting in, I go back to the foundations. I recall “the Why”: Why am I doing this? Why is this important? In any and everything we make up our minds to do, there will always come the contradiction. You have to know how to answer that.
Discouragement is something that we all experience and go through. The key to overcoming it is to know that it’s momentary – it’s totally wrapped up in being caught up in not knowing what to do IN THE MOMENT, which if you allow it, you carry over into everything else.
DeFY: I recently did an interview with legendary Crazy Legs from theRocksteady Crew and he told me that he recommends to all the up and coming dancers that they have a back up plan so that if dancing professionally doesn’t work out they don’t end up in a bad situation. When it comes to the music industry a lot of times you hear of people leaving their jobs to pursue their dream what words of wisdom would you like to pass on to up and comings artists?
Dre: Keep your day job until your music replaces your income AND/OR until your music career is at a place where it is compromising your performance at work to where you’re looking unreliable.
DeFY: Have you always been a fan of Christian music? If not how did you get into the genre?
Dre: While I grew up in a Christian household, I didn’t have my own personal relationship with God until I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. From there, my desire to hear music that really was in line with my beliefs grew. That lead me to find music that was familiar to my preference as well – Christian hip hop, urban Gospel, etc.
DeFY: Do you think Christian music will grow substantially more or less in the coming years?
Dre: I think Christian music as a whole will grow as the niche becomes more innovative in its approach. That’s one of the reasons we have our yearly music business conference, The Inaxxs Music Business Conference, for the Christian music industry.
DeFY: Tell me a little about the Inaxx’s group.
Dre: The Inaxxs Group is a brand development and management company that focuses on digital market. We implement creative design, social media, and content development to make brands real, relatable, and relevant to their core audiences.
DeFY: By now we all know that technology has and will continue to effect the music industry. Physical media doesn’t make the money it did a decade or more ago and streaming looks to be where the future of music consumption will ultimately wind up for the masses. The problem is when you stream music you can’t recoup any of your money the way we would if we owned physical media and we lose the interaction one would have walking into a person’s house and seeing all this media on the wall. My question to you is that do you think streaming will ultimately help destroy the music industry or resurrect it?
Dre: Streaming won’t destroy the music industry nor necessarily resurrect it. Streaming hurts artists that are signed to labels – especially the majors. It is my opinion that indie artists benefit the most from streaming platforms because they own the rights to their music. The folks that raising picket signs against streaming companies are majors, not indies.
DeFY: How is your friend Manuel “Jblaze” Garcia feeling these days?
Dre: Manny is doing great. New kidney, a growing 3 year old son, and great life in Miami.
DeFY: What projects are you currently working on?
Dre: Currently we’re working on our in-house brand, The Inaxxs Music Business Conference and its 2017 edition. We’ve just brought on a sci-fi author, and have a few potential clients in the pipe.
DeFY: Ok so you know I couldn’t let you go without asking you about sneakers. What are some of your all time favorite sneakers?
Dre: Personally, I am a Nike fan. Nike is derived from “nikos” in the Greek which means “victory” so that’s why I wear them because I believe I’m a victor. My Nikes of choice are the Air Max. There are SO MANY variations out there that can’t go wrong. Also, I make sure that I have a pair of Air Forces in different styles too.
DeFY: Who do you think is doing a great job at branding in the footwear industry right now and why?
Dre: Well, I always like the way Nike positions their brand. They do so with the athlete and regular everyday person in mind. It makes for a great balance. While they know that they are an athletic brand, they’ve not excluded those that are continually pursuing serious athleticism even thought they don’t compete
DeFY: What is one of your favorite ad campaigns from the footwear/fashion industry?
Dre: I absolutely love Nike’s “Unlimited You” campaign. It embodies Nike’s premise that there is a champion in everyone – no matter the age. It really makes people feel like they can achieve despite of the level that they’re at currently.
DeFY: Where can everyone go to follow all your happenings?
Dre: People can follow me personally on Twitter & Instagram @drebooge and on Facebook at Dremullen. They can follow The Inaxxs Group on Twitter & Instagram @inaxxsgrp and The Inaxxs Music Business Conference on Twitter, Instagram, and Soundcloud @imbcnyc