COURTESY KIRA O'CONNOR
A display of Israel Kamakawi'woole albums on sale at a Borders store in San Francisco. A "Wonderful World," released on June 26 -- the 10th anniversary of Iz's death -- debuted this week in the 44th position on the Billboard 200 sales chart, the highest debut of any Hawaiian album in history.
Iz album debut makes isle history
At 44th on Billboard, "Wonderful World" is the highest debut of any Hawaiian album
The strong sales record of the late Israel Kamakawi'woole has truly made it a "Wonderful World" for the Mountain Apple Co.
Released on June 26 -- the 10th anniversary of Iz's death -- the album of the same name, filled with symphony-scored songs selected from the man's recording catalog, debuted this week in the 44th position on the Billboard 200 sales chart, the highest debut of any Hawaiian album in history.
And like its still well-selling predecessors "Facing Future" and "Alone In IZ World," "Wonderful World" debuted at the top of Billboard's Top World Albums chart, and number 3 on its Top Independent Albums chart. "None of Iz's previous albums ever debuted that high on that chart before, never in the top 5," said Mountain Apple president Leah Bernstein.
The newly released album will also become part of the company's constant marketing campaign to license Iz's music worldwide.
Just recently, Bernstein said licensing deals to use recordings like Iz's "Over the Rainbow" have been finalized for advertising campaigns "with the largest bank in Hungary, San Gemini mineral water in Italy, another mineral water company in Slovenia, and just last week, Sony video cameras in China will use his music.
"It just keeps growing 'round the globe, and the best thing is, they all believe they discovered Israel," she said.
Bernstein found out that the strong sales figures of "Wonderful World" "even made MTV News (Friday) morning." More than half of the album's sales have initially been here in Hawaii, most of them in retailers like Longs Drugs and visitor centers like ABC Stores and Hilo Hattie's, none of whom participate in the Nielsen SoundScan system that Billboard takes its numbers from to tally the weekly rankings.
"But we're really happy that, in every single market we're in that SoundScan has bought into, sales of 'Wonderful World' have been in the three- and four-digit range. We're talking about cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit and Washington, D.C."
Bernstein also said the new album "has given a tremendous sales lift to Iz's previous songs and albums. ITunes and Amazon have shown a bump in downloads. Both "Facing Future" and "Alone in IZ World" haven't left Billboard's World Catalog chart (albums that are over two years old). "Facing" has been on that chart for 429 weeks running now, and "Alone" for 129 weeks. Even another of Iz's previous albums, "E Ala E," is currently at number 12 on the World Catalog chart.
And she said it was Mountain Apple's goal to keep "Wonderful World" on the Top World Albums chart for the full two years.
"We'll keep advertising and licensing, remaining vigilant," she said. "And we're taking Iz's music on the road next year and have it performed with symphonies around the world. While nothing has been finalized, the Honolulu Symphony has called us already."