Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Follow the Yellow Brick Road....

Perhaps one of the hardest things to succeed at in this life is in the world of entertainment. For every success there is literally thousands of stories that did not end in success. There are just so many talented people out there with what they call the total package or part of the package, but like all things it really comes down to supply and demand, a little bit of timing and dare we say luck. In this business there's tons of supply but the demand? Well that's quite another story. Here's an article from yesterday's Honolulu Advertiser. In this state of Hawaii you would think that if anyone had a shot at success in the entertainment field it would be the 50th state's own Jasmine Trias. It's tough, it's rough and the entertainment will just chew you up, spit you out just like that. Pretty uncool sometimes, but, as Frank Sinatra used to say, "That's Life".

Posted on: Monday, August 22, 2005

Jasmine will sweat for stardom

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Jasmine Trias has been all over O'ahu lately, promoting her new CD. Here, she is attending a reception last Monday for the "Lilo & Stitch 2" direct-to-DVD movie at the Turtle Bay Resort.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

Jasmine Trias joined Mayor Mufi Hannemann last week at a Honolulu Hale news conference to unveil a public-service announcement for the city. It is one of many events Trias has taken on to gain exposure.

Life after "American Idol" for Jasmine Trias means long days and nights signing autographs at places like the Hawai'i Kai Costco on a Sunday afternoon for 50 to 60 fans, then hustling over to the Royal Kunia Wal-Mart to meet and greet 100 more.

She made a red carpet appearance last week at the premier of the new "Lilo & Stitch 2" direct-to-DVD movie, then caught a flight the next day to Toronto to sing at the 2005 Mabuhay Festival Show featuring performers of Filipino descent.

Trias has appeared at Kmart and has sung at the NFL Pro Bowl halftime show. She has signed autographs at Watanabe Floral in Kalihi and has headlined the Hawai'i State Farm Fair. Two weeks ago, she and Mayor Mufi Hannemann unveiled a public-service announcement on behalf of the city's online drivers' license renewal program.

She promotes her new CD through performances and "in-store" autograph sessions at Borders Books & Music and Tower Records in Hawai'i, California and Las Vegas, where she is treated like a star — mostly by large groups of Asian-Americans, die hard "American Idol" fans and expatriate Hawai'i residents living on the Mainland.

"We take every single offer," said her Hawai'i agent, Lincoln Jacobe, CEO of Hawaii Pacific Entertainment. "It's all about the promotion and the exposure and the publicity. The more events you do, the more (CD) sales. She wants to make it happen and she'll do whatever it takes."

"Jasmine Trias," a CD of 15 hip-hop and R&B songs, debuted July 12. Soon after, it sold 5,000 copies in a week and registered at No. 11 on Billboard's new artist chart, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks sales for the music industry.

That same week the No. 1 selling album on Billboard's Top 200 chart was R. Kelly's TP.3 Reloaded, which sold 139,000 copies.

In the month since "Jasmine Trias" debuted, the record has sold a total of 9,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and is no longer listed on any Billboard charts.


"Jasmine Trias," the CD, gets limited radio time in Hawai'i and is difficult to find on Mainland stations.

"I don't want to say anything negative," said Chuck Cotton, vice president and general manager of Clear Channel Radio Hawai'i, which has seven radio stations in Honolulu, including top-rated KSSK. "She's competing with every other artist out there and obviously what we have to do is play the stuff that tests with listeners. We played it for a while until it just didn't hold up in the testing. ... Our livelihood is advertising. The way you get advertising is to get good ratings. The way you get good ratings is you play what people want to hear."

KUMU-FM, a light rock station, has been playing the first three cuts of "Jasmine Trias" and has "been getting some phone calls" requesting her songs, said Ed Kanoi, operations manager for Maui-based Visionary Related Entertainment.

"I try to give everything a good 14, 16 weeks before making a decision," Kanoi said. "Sometimes it takes a long time for things to hit in this market. Right now, (with 'Jasmine Trias') I'm still at this gauging stage. ... If they don't stick, they're gone after 14 weeks or so."

Gary Greenberg, Trias' Los Angeles entertainment attorney, said "It's a mystery to us" why radio stations — especially in the Islands — aren't giving "Jasmine Trias" more play time.

"We thought it would hit all of them," Greenberg said. "It has hip-hop and R&B but also a pop ballad. It's in that mode of a Mariah Carey and J-Lo. We thought people would be burning up the phone lines begging to hear it on the radio.

"I tell all of my clients that the chances of success are very small for a new artist, even when you have something like 'American Idol' behind you," Greenberg said. "From an industry standpoint, there probably is a certain amount of skepticism in the industry whether or not a Hawai'i artist could really become a mainstream success because it's never happened. But if you listen to Jasmine's record and hear her sing, it becomes very clear very quickly that she is a mainstream pop artist."

Despite the limited CD sales, Greenberg said Trias is doing well financially. Many of her appearances are free — such as a new arrangement she has with the Hawai'i Visitors and Convention Bureau to talk about Hawai'i during interviews with Mainland, magazine-style television programs.

But she has endorsement deals with Pizza Hut/Taco Bell and Inspiration Furniture in Hawai'i. In the Philippines, she has endorsement deals with McDonald's, Hapee toothpaste, Bench Clothing and the Smart Communication cell-phone company.

"Financially she's doing great. She's doing great," Greenberg said. "We'll leave it at that."


Two seasons after she placed third on Fox Television's "American Idol," Trias said she's willing to put in long hours and log plenty of miles to reach her goal of attaining stardom beyond Hawai'i, the Philippines and her strong Asian-American fan base.

Trias knows that it could take several years to achieve "cross-over" status and appeal to a mainstream, Mainland and international audience. She looks to Latino actress-singer Jennifer Lopez as a role model.

As her representatives try to land Trias her own movie or television deal, Trias hopes her CD will reach the platinum plateau of selling 1 million copies.

"Some people think in four years I'm going to give up, but that's definitely not me," Trias said. "I'm going to keep on going until it happens because I love doing it. Now that I've got my foot in the door I don't want to stop. I want to keep on going. Since there isn't that Filipino or someone from Hawai'i that's broken those barriers, I want to be that first one to break those barriers."

Trias, who graduated from Maryknoll School in 2004, had won a scholarship to Hawai'i Pacific University and planned to become a nurse. Now she hopes to take business courses online — perhaps from HPU — to learn more about the entertainment business she's trying to succeed in.

Maybe some day, Trias said, she might even manage the singing career of her younger sister, Neolani, who will be 8 in September.

Trias showed up for an interview at the Ward Centre complex Starbucks wearing a V-neck T-shirt ablaze with the phrase "Live To Dream" in gold, glittery letters.

Over a green tea frappucino and veggie wrap, Trias said, "Live To Dream — that's my motto for today. I live to dream. I'm going to keep on going. The sky's the limit. ... I'm very passionate about it. I'm so motivated to do it for the Filipino-Asian community, for Hawai'i."


There have been a couple of missteps on Trias' path to stardom after "American Idol."

Music industry insiders wonder why it took her so long to produce a CD after millions of people saw her for weeks in a row on "Idol" — although Greenberg said her timetable is running ahead of other Idol runner-ups that he represents from the same season.

While fans and the music industry waited for Trias' debut CD, Trias struck a promotional deal with Pizza Hut/Taco Bell to produce a ballad entitled "Flying Home."

Trias acknowledges that the single "confused" her audience, partly because its soft melody ran counter to the hip-hop, R&B style she wanted on her debut CD.

In February, 45 Hawai'i Pizza Huts and 35 Taco Bell restaurants began selling the "Flying Home" single for $1.99. A spokeswoman for Pizza Hut and Taco Bell declined to explain exactly what happened next. But within two weeks, the restaurants began giving away the CD to customers who bought a combo meal at Taco Bell or a literacy card at Pizza Hut.

"It was supposed to be sold," spokeswoman Leah Allen said. "Subsequently, we ran a secondary campaign."

Asked why the restaurants went from charging $1.99 for the CD to giving it away as part of other purchases, Allen said, "because we still had an inventory of CDs."

Neither Allen nor Jacobe, Trias' Hawai'i agent, could say how many copies were sold and how many were given away. But Jacobe said all 200,000 CDs have since been distributed.

"It got a little bit messy because promotion wise, it was supposed to be promoted as a promotional demo CD for free," Trias said. "But something went down. It was supposed to be for promotional use, not for sale. I wanted the first CD for people to buy my album, not a promotional jingle for a food company. ... I don't regret anything at all. Things happen like this. You have to move on. It's part of your journey. It's part of your struggles. That's my story.

"I don't think it was a mistake," Trias added. "It definitely got me more visible in Hawai'i. It really got me exposure."


Trias' representatives continue to talk with the producers of a potential movie called "All Girl Band" in which Trias would play the drummer. A possible reality television show would follow her around for a month or possibly six weeks. She just auditioned for a volleyball movie and also a television sitcom based in Hawai'i about a group of surfers, tentatively titled "Boarding School."

"She's got a tremendous amount of charisma," Greenberg said. "But it's just tough for them to take a chance on someone with no acting experience. ... We see her as an actress, as a model, as a spokesperson. We look at her as a celebrity, not just as a recording artist."

In the meantime Steve Holmberg fights to find traction for "Jasmine Trias" the CD beyond Hawai'i. His Aloha Music International is responsible for distributing the CD in Hawai'i and on the Mainland.

"From what I see, she's working very hard," Holmberg said. "She'll go to Costco's, Wal-Mart and all the military exchanges. There are days she'll do four events in a day. Her CD has had the largest sales volume we've ever had in the history of our company for first month sales. I have no problem with the way she's promoting the CD."

But Trias, who dreams of stardom beyond Hawai'i, cannot appear in every Mainland market to promote her CD — especially without a concert tour backing it.

"Jasmine hasn't been able to get any significant radio air play as of yet on the Mainland," Holmberg said. "Jasmine doesn't have a tour going on the Mainland at this time. So when we call up a store in Cleveland with a CD from the third place 'American Idol' finalist from two years ago, we have to work hard to convince retailers to carry her product.

"But we have been successful in getting her CD in stores in all 50 states," Holmberg said. "What happens next is unknown."



Title: Vice president, Jasmine Trias, Inc.

BORN: NOV. 3, 1986





Former winner: "Brown Bags to Stardom," 2001; "Road to Fame," 2003

"American Idol" finish: Second runner up, behind Diana DeGarmo and winner Fantasia Barrino (2004)

Upcoming highlights for Jasmine Trias:

September: Trias flies to the Philippines to promote the Philippine version of her album, which will include nine songs from the U.S. release and five new songs, including two in Tagalog. Her Philippines appearances will include concerts in Cebu and Manila.

October: Trias performs concerts on O'ahu, Maui and in Hilo on the Big Island.

December: Eight songs from "Jasmine Trias" will be played on all local, national and international Hawaiian Airlines flights with an interview by Emme Tomimbang in between each song. Trias talks about the lyrics and the meaning behind the songs, among other topics.

Source: Hawaii Pacific Entertainment

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com.


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