Looking to ride the recent crest of popularity of neo-reggae artists like Sean Paul, Heineken USA and Island Def Jam Music Group are collaborating on a new CD pairing hip-hop artists with Jamaican reggae and dancehall performers.
The record, "Red Star Sounds Presents Def Jamaica," dropped last week at music retailers nationwide from Island Def Jam and represents the third compilation CD from the Dutch brewer's cause-marketing program, the Heineken Music Initiative.
A percentage of the proceeds from the CD will go to the Grammy Foundation as well as rapper Jay-Z's Shawn Carter Foundation, which hands out music scholarships. A minimum of $50k is promised the charities.
Established hip-hop artists participating in the project include Method Man, Redman, Cam'Ron and DMX. Jamaican fave Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley is one of the local artists appearing on the full-length CD, an eclectic record with originals and remixes.
At the heart of the marketing for the record will be a viral online effort created by San Francisco area outfit Sparkart. According to Naveen Jain, Sparkart CEO, an online "player"—a slick, enhanced jukebox—was built to allow users to preview the music and video content from the record, encouraging fans to pass along the link to friends. Jain said player promotions generally elicit high response rates, typically averaging 30-50%.
"It's exciting because we see lots of information from our tracking for brands that indicates youth really gets into charity," said Jain.
The Heineken Music Initiative is largely the effort of its president, Scott Hunter-Smith, who doubles as the Heineken brand manager at Heineken USA. HMI launched three years ago as a cause-marketing initiative, intent to give back to the community while at the same time make enough money to have the program fund itself. "Def Jamaica" is the third compilation CD from the program. The first record was a neo-soul compilation of mostly Sony Music artists with much of the proceeds going to the VH1 "Save the Music" effort.
"Music is a great platform to pull on the heartstrings of people," said Hunter-Smith. "It unifies all people. It works well."
"Def Jamaica" is being supported by $1 million in TV, radio, print, online and street promotions.