Northwest Arkansas’ arts and culture scene is vibrant, and those in the music industry are beginning to take note.
One of them is Al Bell, the chairman and CEO of a career development company for recording artists in North Little Rock called Al Bell Presents, and one of the state’s most influential music and entertainment executives.
In an interview recently with the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, Bell said he is so impressed with the potential for growth in the region’s arts economy, he’s relocating his business to Bentonville.
“What I want to do is build a global music entertainment industry in Bentonville, Arkansas,” Bell said. “Not just a company, but an industry. And aid and assist in the development of a music ecosystem here in Bentonville. The environment, the climate the attitude — it’s all here. As a matter of fact, everything that you need to do that is here.”
A native Arkansan, Bell was inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame in 2015, notably in recognition of his time as chairman and former owner of Stax Records, and former president of Motown Records Group.
From 1965 to 1975, Bell helped build Stax into one of the most influential record labels in the world, and at its height, the Memphis record label was the second-largest African-American-owned business in the U.S.
After his time at Motown Records Group, Bell started his own Bellmark Records label, releasing Prince’s, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” and Tag Team’s Platinum hit “Whoomp (There It is).”
Bell’s long list of lifetime honors include The Trustee’s Award at the Grammy Awards — the highest honor the music industry bestows — the W.C. Handy Lifetime Achievement Award, Arthur A. Fletcher Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Black Chamber of Commerce and the National Award of Achievement from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
You can read more about Bell’s accomplishments here.
Bell, who just turned 78 this past March, said he’s found business and community leaders in Bentonville receptive to his efforts. But the most important thing he’s discovered about the city is the abundant financial support available to advance music and the arts.
“The ruling class, if you will, they are about economic development and economic empowerment, and so am I,” Bell said. “But I am about economic development and empowerment utilizing music. Because music can draw people together. I see the leadership here and general community with a spirit and attitude of coming together as a human race. I see and feel that. It’s here in Bentonville, and it’s exciting to me.”
You can watch Bell’s entire interview in the video below.