Real Housewives Sing the Blues
Singles released by Bravo reality stars have generated mixed results.
Since its premiere in 2006, the Real Housewives series has spawned six locations and just as many would-be singers -- to dramatically mixed results. The latest: New Jersey's Melissa Gorga, who premieres her "On Display" single this season.
The most successful song to emerge from the franchise? "Tardy for the Party" by Atlanta's Kim Zolciak, written and produced by fellow Housewife Kandi Burruss, which has sold some 101,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Factor in the piracy rate, and more than 1 million people own the tune -- despite Zolciak's questionable singing skills. The poorest performer: Michaele Salahi, one-half of Washington D.C.'s White House party crashing couple, whose "Bump It" moved a whopping 122 copies.
"These are fun, novelty records … not everything is a Grammy-nominated piece of work," says David Waxman, head of A&R at respected dance label Ultra Records, which signed and released two singles by New York Housewife LuAnn de Lesseps, including the autotune atrocity "Money Can't Buy You Class." He says "Tardy" influenced his decision to acquire the Countess LuAnn track. "She was popular on the TV show, the song was reactive, and we took advantage of it," says Waxman, adding that even with small profit margins, such tracks can have a long shelf life, re-emerging in reruns and syncs that could "cause a whole new surge."
But not everyone has made out from these modest club hits. Burruss says she only received a one-time payment of $4,000 from "Tardy" while Zolciak pocketed eight times that, in part because Burruss didn't have an agreement in place concerning royalties but also because she handed over rights to Bravo. "Normally, I would get sync license fees every time the song plays, but I gave the show a gratis," says Burruss, who has written hits for the likes of 'N Sync and TLC. As for profits generated by digital sales and airplay, Burress says she never saw a dime, but defends her friend. "I know she new to the music industry so I don't feel like Kim was purposely trying to wrong me. I just think she was misinformed."
Waxman won't divulge how much Ultra spent on Countess LuAnn, but he says the label did pay to promote the song to pop radio, market the track and make a professional video. (Such expenditures could easily top $100,000.) "It's been an interesting relationship," he muses.
"It's almost gimmicky now, like every Housewives show has someone trying to get a record deal," says Burruss, who points to one key difference in her motivation. "I'm a music-industry person first and a reality-show person second. [The show] is what I do for fun. They, on the other hand, do music for fun. I'm not so into it."
But even she can't deny the power of Housewives. Says Burruss of her show-born song "Fly Above": "I toured with Fantasia and Eric Benet, and every arena where I performed it, everybody got up and was singing all the words. You would've thought I had a major pushing it. And that's one thing about the show: You don't need the label. People know these songs. And that makes you feel good and appreciated."
REAL HOUSEWIVES DIGITAL SONG SALES: How They Stack Up
- Kim Zolciak (Atlanta): "Tardy for the Party" – 101,000 downloads
- Kandi Burruss (Atlanta): "Fly Above" - 25,000
- Countess LuAnn (New York City): "Money Can't Buy You Class" – 19,000; "Chic, C'est La Vie" – 4,000
- Melissa Gorga (New Jersey): "On Display" – 8,000
- Danielle Staub (New Jersey): "Real Close" - 3,000
- Simon van Kempen (New York City): "I Am Real" - 1,000
- Michaele Salahi (Washington, D.C.): "Bump It" – 122
* Source: Nielsen SoundScan