23rd Time Is A Charm: Third World (from left): Stephen "Cat" Coore, Richard "Richie" Daley, William "Bunny Rugs" Clarke, Norris "Noriega" Webb and Tony "Ruption" Williams
What's a band to do that's been around for almost 40 years, released 22 albums and bounced around on at least 5 different labels? If you're reggae legends Third World, a band that knows a thing or two about the music industry, it might be a good time to try a different approach
On April 5, Third World's 23rd album "Patriots" was released on the band's newly formed label Third World Music Group, in association with VP Associated Label Group (VPAL), the recently launched subsidiary of the Queens, NY based reggae independent VP Records. Donovan Williams, Director of VPAL, says the industry downturn presented an opportunity for VP Records to create an imprint that allows artists not signed to the label the option to negotiate usage of the company's physical and digital distribution services, marketing and publicity departments as well as touring and booking divisions.
"VPAL arrangements mirror what VP Records deals offer; royalties and publishing get embedded into the agreement at the same rate and advances are based on an artist's track record and projected success," Williams explains. "The difference is in the marketing and promotional resources: I advise the artist/label of my plans to get their project off the ground and ask if they are comfortable with the plan of action because all services rendered are considered recoupable expenses."
Third World is utilizing VPAL's marketing and distribution; while its bookings are handled by Third World Music Group, and Triple 7 Entertainment LLC is doing the group's publicity. The band, by having both in-label and out-of-label services, are saving on recoupables and may potentially have more control over the various moving parts that help make a successful album campaign.
VP Records offiicially launched VPAL on January 25, 2011 with the release of "Treasure" from St. Croix, Virgin Islands based reggae outfit Midnite who signed on for a distribution and marketing deal. Digital sales figures are not yet available for "Treasure" which has thus far moved 1,875 physical units according to Williams, who expects that tally to rise significantly as the band tours throughout 2011.
Preorders for physical copies of "Patriots" (Third World secured digital distribution through Jamaica based Zojak Worldwide prior to finalizing their VPAL deal) surged past 3,000 last week, said Williams, due to various promotional activities, which commenced with a record signing at VP Records' Queens, NY retail store. The album debuted at No. 12 on Billboard's Reggae chart.
On April 4, a Third World concert/interview was broadcast live from the Manhattan studios of SiriusXM during the satellite radio network's reggae program The Joint, followed by a sold out "Patriots" launch concert on April 5 at Manhattan's Highline Ballroom, both events coordinated by the band's manager Victor E Lewis, CEO of VicRae Inc.
In anticipation of "Patriots" European launch on June 25, Williams shipped 1,000 units to European distributor Groove Attack on March 23 and will send another 1,000 there within the next two weeks.
Third World's tightly woven sonic identity offers a superbly executed fusion of R&B, one-drop reggae, rock strains and even classical phrasings. The band has sold 779,000 albums in the U.S. since 1991 according to Nielsen SoundScan, although their career total is certainly much higher. They've charted 8 albums on the Top 200; their signature hit "Now That We Found Love" peaked at no. 47 on the Hot 100 in 1979 and remains a favorite among their legions of loyal fans, as evidenced by the crowd's response to it at the Highline Ballroom.
The band chose a diverse cast of Jamaican collaborators for "Patriots", which was delivered to VPAL as a finished product, including rising songstress Tessanne Chin, whose sultry vocals beautifully dovetail with lead singer William "Bunny Rugs" Clarke's soulful expression on the lovers rock single "By My Side."
Beginning in June, VPAL/Third World Music Group will promote a second single, Stephen and Damian Marley's hip hop flavored Auto-tuned remake of Third World's classic "1865 (96 Degrees in the Shade)".
Although in its early stages, the partnership between the venerated Jamaican band and the veteran reggae label looks to be another mutually beneficial, cooperative strategy that has emerged from the music industry's prolonged slump. "We are pleased to be working with VP/VPAL after so many years in the business", says Third World guitarist/musical director Stephen "Cat" Coore, "VP Records are very much in control of Jamaican music worldwide, they've become the Motown of reggae."