Monday, December 07, 2009

VP Records Re-strategising for 2010

FOR almost 20 years, VP Records has ruled the dancehall roost from its Queens, New York, headquarters. But changing music-industry trends and artiste flight made 2009 a challenging year for the all-reggae powerhouse.
VP's marketing manager, Randy Chin, blamed the decline in compact disc sales for sluggish figures. The growth of the digital market, he said, made things even more complicated.
"The digital market is doing well but the problem is, the offset from the drop-off in CD sales is not compensating for the increase in digital," Chin told The Sunday Gleaner.
"That's the crux of the problem with everyone in media today, whether it is the film, print or music industry," he added. "The whole transition that's going on on the digital side is reverberating and everyone is trying to find their footing."
Below-par performances
Chin would not discuss the below-par performances of albums by 'brand' artistes like Mavado and Tarrus Riley. Given the unstable climate in which their music was released, he still believes their figures are encouraging.
According to sales tracker Nielsen-SoundScan, Mavado's much-touted Mr Brooks ... A Better Tomorrow was released in March but sold just over 14,000 copies. Riley's highly anticipated Contagious set hit record stores in August but has barely trickled past the 4,000-unit mark.
VP also got a double jolt with the departure of Lady Saw and Tanya Stephens, two of its stalwart acts. Chin declined to comment on what impact that may have on the company.
He says VP is excited about its foray into publishing. The label's stocks in that field soared when they purchased British independent company Greensleeves Records for £3.1 million in early 2008.
The sale guaranteed VP ownership of Greensleeves Publishing, the most lucrative in reggae with big-selling songs, such as Oh Carolina by Shaggy and Sean Paul's Get Busy. The Greensleeves catalogue has nearly 500 titles, including quality albums by roots acts like Dr Alimantado, Barrington Levy and Eek-A-Mouse.
Chin said VP has signed new acts, including Etana, Elephant Man and Busy Signal to Greensleeves Publishing. Company and artiste, he stressed, stand to profit tremendously from this deal.
Another area VP plans to concentrate on is touring, once the most effective form of exposure for reggae acts. Chin says while music videos and appearances on high-profile cable and television shows help, live shows can still do the trick.
Two of the most successful reggae acts in the US this year have been the American bands John Brown's Body and Rebelution. Tireless touring has done wonders for both.
"It's the one area I think we can improve on and we have been emphasising with the artistes that they need to go on tour," Chin said. "The Internet has made the music more available but at the end of the day, people still want to see the artistes."
VP Records was founded in 1979 in Queens, New York, by Chin's parents, Vincent and Pat. Vincent operated the successful Randy's label in downtown Kingston during the 1960s and 1970s before relocating to the United States.
Strong-selling albums
VP hit its stride in the 1990s as the leading producer of dancehall music in the US. They had strong-selling albums by Beres Hammond, Garnet Silk, Luciano, Freddie McGregor and Beenie Man.
The latter's 1998 album, Many Moods Of Moses, contained the song Who Am I, which was a runaway smash in the US. It set the tone for a fruitful period for VP which distributed platinum-selling (over one million units) albums by Sean Paul, and songs by singer Wayne Wonder and the deejay-singer duo of Tanto Metro and Devonte, that made the Billboard magazine pop charts.
Chin says VP will be churning out new albums in the first quarter of 2010, one of them being Escape To Babylon by Italian singer Alberosie.
There will also be projects from old-school singer Sanchez, Etana and Romain Virgo. -Gleaner