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With a few notable exceptions, people buy records and compact discs based on the artist. The exceptions would include Motown Records and Windham Hill.

Rhino Records strives to be an exception, too.

The 16-year-old company quietly carved a niche for itself as a marketer of novelty music compilations. As the number of titles swelled, however, Rhino began to think about a corporate image, both to lend an edge to the consumer appeal of its compilations and to convince other labels to license their out-of-print titles.

"We felt like we had a unique opportunity compared to other labels," says Garson Foos, VP-product management. "A label can mean something to a consumer."

To create that image, Mr. Foos signed on Venice, Calif.-based Bomb Factory, an agency whose creative director, Mark Fenske, was a fan of Rhino records and had approached the company in late 1991.

"It was a fortuitous meeting," Mr. Foos, 34, says. "He'd seen some of our advertising and felt like he could put a finger on the image we should project to the world."

Rhino began promoting multiple collections in single ads, positioning the company as an edgy and hip label offering up "pop culture products from the '40s to the '80s," Mr. Foos says.

Its slogan: "We collect records so you don't have to."

While Rhino Records increased consumer awareness, it also attracted Atlantic Records, which licensed its classic catalog of soul, early rock and jazz artists to Rhino in mid-1992. That boosted Rhino's volume by 30% to 35%, Mr. Foos says, bringing the number of in-print titles to 1,300.

Rhino's success at remarketing earlier releases has led some major music houses to create new divisions, such as Sony's Legacy label. But Mr. Foos remains confident.

Divisions within larger companies usually consist of just a handful of employees. "They don't realize that here's a hundred-person company devoted largely just to rereleases," he says.

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