Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, September 14, 2001

Na Leo will also be celebrating the recent opening
of the new Na Leo kiosk at Dole Plantation during
the Maze anniversary bash Sunday.

Na Leo hopes to sing
a worldwide serenade

By John Berger

Many entertainers talk about "giving back" to the community. Na Leo will be doing it this weekend with a free concert noon Sunday at Dole Plantation. The noon concert will be part of a daylong celebration to mark the 3rd anniversary of the Dole Plantation Maze. All the entertainment is free but admission will be charged for the maze.

"The North Shore community doesn't often get bigger groups out there so it's a way for us to do a show for them," Nalani Choy said. Na Leo fans know that Choy is the writer of "North Shore Serenade," the trio's ode to the area.

Choy, Angela Morales and Lehua Heine are also celebrating the recent opening of the new Na Leo kiosk at the Plantation. The kiosk is a new part of the trio's international sales and marketing campaign. The product line includes an assortment of Na Leo brand clothing and three new Na Leo anthology albums available only at the kiosk.

"The whole idea of the kiosk, as well as other projects, is to see how we can get Hawaiian music heard throughout the world," Morales said.

"Something that Hawaiian music doesn't tap into as much as it should is the tourism industry. There are still lots and lots of people who haven't heard the 'Friends' CD or the 'Flying With Angels' CD. 'Flying With Angels' is an older song in Hawaii but it still has a lot of potential to travel elsewhere. So how do we get into the tourism market? ... The kiosk is one of the stepping stones we're looking at."

Choy wants Hawaiian music to be on the must-buy shopping list of every visitor along with "aloha shirts, a pineapple and mac nuts."

"Music should be right up there with the other things but it isn't yet. We need to make it easier for them to find it and buy it. How can you buy a CD if you hear a song on the radio and they don't say who it is or the name of the song? We've discovered since we opened the kiosk that CDs are not impulse purchases, and we still need to do a lot of ground work to figure out how to get the music out there."

Choy says that the Na Leo web site ( received more than 90,000 unique visitors in the three months following their appearance on a nationally televised PBS Hawaiian music special. Among the emails they received was one from a new fan who had been minutes away from catching his flight home when he happened to hear "I Miss You My Hawaii" being played in an airport gift shop.

"That's a great story, but what bothers me is how random it was and how many opportunities (to sell music) have come and gone because it didn't happen like that," Choy said. "There's too many barriers to a tourist happening to hear something on the radio, figuring out who it is, getting to a store, figuring out which CD it's on, finding the CD, making the purchase and taking it home."

The trio has learned that marketing can be almost as important as the music itself. Na Leo's licensing agreement with Sony-Japan gives the Japanese label complete control over packaging and marketing strategy there. The trio is now using what they've learned from working with Sony-Japan to connect more strongly with Japanese tourists here. Choy says, for example, that Japanese prefer to see prices of items posted rather than having to ask someone how much something costs.

Sony-Japan uses different art and images too.

"It always blows our mind because it may be nothing like what we would envision (as representing Hawaii) but they know their audience and what they expect. Tourists here may (also) have a different idea of what they relate to and want to take home as a CD cover. The music can be classic and timeless (like 'Flying With Angels') but the covers have to appeal to them."

With that in mind, Na Leo is watching to see which of the three anthology covers appeals most strongly to people who presumably aren't familiar with the contents. "I Miss You My Hawaii" shows the Na Leo logo and a plumeria lei. "North Shore Serenade" has a slightly smaller Na Leo logo and a beach scene. The cover of "Pineapple Princess" is dominated by a pineapple and a hapa-haole hula girl.

Choy says Na Leo is also watching how their regular albums are selling elsewhere in Hawaii.

"A lot of our sales in Hawaii now are in one-stop shopping places where the local community is going -- less to record stores, and more to Sam's Club and Costco -- but I don't think that's where tourists are. We're focusing on where the tourists are as a separate market and where they are when they're spending money. The bulk of our sales are still right here (to local people) and with over 7 million tourists a year coming to Hawaii that's a big potential market for Hawaiian music."

The Maze 3rd anniversary

Featuring Na Leo and Firehouse Band

Where: Dole Plantation, 64-1550 Kamehameha Highway
When: Noon Sunday
Admission: Free
Call: 955-8411

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