VP Helps the big boys
IT was announced two weeks ago that soca star Bunji Garlin's hit song, Differentology (Ready for the Road), will be marketed by major label RCA Records in a joint venture with independent reggae label VP Records.
It continues the Queens, New York company's long record of working with bigger labels to break artistes from the Caribbean into the lucrative pop market.
The first such deal emerged in 1999 with the Penthouse Records-produced Everyone Falls in Love by Tanto Metro and Devonte. After VP introduced it to urban radio in the United States, Sony 550, a division of Sony Music, came on board and helped push the song on Billboard charts.
Everyone Falls in Love peaked at number 38 on the Hot R&B Hip Hop Singles chart, and number 88 on the Billboard Hot 100.
This prompted Sony 550 to sign Tanto Metro and Devonte, but they later dropped the duo. In 2002, they re-emerged on the Billboard charts with the VP Records-promoted Give It to Her, produced by Jeremy Harding.
Cristy Barber is a former vice-president for marketing and promotions at VP. She is currently president of the Marley family's Ghetto Youths International.
Based on VP's track record, she believes the RCA deal with Bunji Garlin will put music from the Eastern Caribbean back in the reckoning.
"This is a great opportunity for Bunji Garlin, a deal like this will put the genre on the map. It will definitely give soca music some exposure," said Barber.
Soca acts have had short-lived success on US mainstream charts. In 2004, St Vincent and the Grenadines singer Kevin Lyttle hit the pop chart with Turn Me On. He was signed to Atlantic Records.
Barbadian Rupee scored a number 38 Billboard Hot 100 hit with Tempted to Touch, which resulted in a deal with Atlantic Records.
Trinidadian David Rudder was once signed to Warner Brothers Records while Montserrat soca pioneer Arrow was signed to EMI in the 1980s. This partnership resulted in his Hot, Hot, Hot single entering the Billboard Dance and UK Pop Singles charts.
VP's biggest triumph came with Sean Paul's 2002 album Dutty Rock, a joint venture with Atlantic which sold millions of copies.
That tandem also enjoyed solid returns with No Letting Go, the 2003 album by Wayne Wonder.