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In 1991 when VP Records launched its Strictly The Best (STB) compilation album, dancehall music was primed for take off on American pop radio and in hip hop clubs. The series is still popular but as the company prepares to launch its 60th instalment on Friday, their marketing has moved with the times.

Like its initial release 28 years ago, Strictly The Best 60 will be released on CD. Richard Lue, director of business development at the Queens, New York, company, told the Jamaica Observer about its campaign to keep one of its flagship projects fresh.

“We are continuing the concept of the multimedia album roll out we started with STB 58 and 59 in January. First, we service select songs to our radio pool, then we do a global radio takeover about two weeks before the release date with up to 30 radio entities both online and terrestrial,” he explained. “This comprises album features and giveaways. At the same time, we start pitching print media for coverage.”

That approach did well for VP early this year. STB 58 and 59 had a total of 28 songs; they were launched at Usain Bolt's Tracks and Records venues in London and Montego Bay, and topped Billboard's Reggae Albums Chart in February.

CD sales have plummeted in the last 10 years as digital and streaming formats caught on with young music buyers. Lue said he and executives at VP are aware that demographic includes Jamaicans who were not born when the first STB came out.

“The streaming wave has affected the marketability of the CD compilation format because music fans now have the ability to stream only the songs they like. So, we at VP Records are in the process of repositioning our compilation brands like Strictly The Best, Soca Gold and Reggae Gold into more lifestyle brands,” he disclosed. “The live television shows that we have been producing is the first step to taking these brands on the road. We are currently looking for the right corporate partner to work with us to do the first Strictly The Best live US tour, hopefully in 2020,” Lue added. “We see this tour as a way to keep established artistes current between projects and expand the market reach of new artistes while keeping the brands alive and reach that streaming consumer.”

STB 60 includes songs like Only One by Beres Hammond, VP's main artiste for over 20 years; Progress (Romain Virgo), Babylon Bridge by Ky-Mani Marley and Spanish group, The Emeterians; One Way (Vybz Kartel), 1Option (Squash), Dutty Badmind (Alkaline) and Hold Back by Kes.

STB 1 contained songs that helped break dancehall music in urban music markets. Such as Baby Can I Hold You Tonight by Foxy Brown, Shabba Ranks' Wicked Inna Bed, Shower me With Your Love by Singing Melody, Stop Loving You by Freddie McGregor and the risqué Gun Inna Baggy by Little Lenny.

The series' early supporters are now parents and grandparents, so one of the challenges when it comes to song selection for STB, is bridging the generation gap.

“Richard “Shams” Brownie (a musician and music producer) is the A&R who has the task to put the Strictly The Best compilation together for the last couple of years. He does an excellent job making sure that the finished product represents a diverse collection from singers for one CD and dancehall artistes for CD two. From established artistes to the new talent on the scene,” said Lue.

STB 60 is one of the major 2019 projects for VP Records which was founded by Vincent Chin and his wife Pat in 1979. The company observes its 40th anniversary this year.

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