The shallow man is in full agreement with the late great Noel Coward when he said “don’t put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington.” In this third and final chapter of the story of Brandi Russell you’ll see why.
Brandi, a professional singer from the US, moved to the Netherlands to be with her husband. She attempted to make a go of her singing career, a tough and competitive business in any country, but was told that due to her American accent that she wasn’t fit for purpose. Again, the shallow man does wonder how when he has been in the back of taxi’s blaring Sky Radio at full volume, why he kept hearing so many songs by American singers with accents, but let’s not go there.
Frustrated, and determined to make a success with her singing she opted to audition for the first series of Popstars. She didn’t do this to win fame and fortune, simply as a route to getting some more exposure that would benefit her chosen profession. Six months after her first audition she won the competition and was placed in a band formed by the makers of the programme. Their first single, inevitably, reached number one and a whirlwind of promotional events followed which she thoroughly enjoyed at the time, but there was only one nagging doubt, where was the money???
Like many a reality TV talent contest winner before and after her, she soon learned the bitter truth about these programmes. They are nothing more than soaps set to music. The record company, management and TV production organisations behind these shows milk the “artists” for every penny and take the lion’s share of the profits until the next series comes round and the whole cycle begins again with another bunch of wide eyed hopefuls. We continue her story below.
The producers of Popstars are only interested in producing high quality music with a Dutch sound like the song recorded by Brandi and her fellow band members below. (Warning, not suitable for people with taste in music)
How quickly the “experts” change their minds
During and shortly after Popstars I was told that I was “going to be huge” and that I was “one of the best singers they ever heard.” If you hear this enough you really do start to believe it. Move forward a year and the very same people were now saying to me that I , and I quote “heeft sen kraaistem”. That I sounded like a screaming bird.
I did my very best to continue my pop career after the conveniently timed 1 year contract (Convenient for the record company to align with the following series of Popstars) expired. I figured that as all the record company people previously loved my singing, that continuing with them wouldn’t be a problem, but of course, that is not how the well oiled machine behind these programmes works. I was told that I needed to work with well known producers and songwriters to be considered for a contract again, so I went off and at my own expense invested in working with the best names in the business.
I wrote and recorded songs with Grammy award winner Alan Glass, producer Emil Hellman and Peter Hageras, who have worked with people such as Michael Jackson, George Michael, Ace of Base, Kylie Minogue, Taylor Dayne, and Britney Spears, to name a few. It took a year to write and record everything, and then, when I finally took the material back to Hilversum, all I heard was “you should scrap this and work with Dutch producers to get a more Dutch sound”. It was embarrassing, frustrating and depressing. Forty thousand euros of my own money, wasted.
For me that was it, I could go no further, I lost all hope, energy and the will to live. It damaged my first marriage and I was diagnosed as suffering from depression. I went to a therapist who specialised in foreigners living in Holland, and even she said in her very Dutch way “In Holland you have to work hard, things just don’t get handed to you.” Talk about kicking a woman when she’s down. Apparently, me spending 40,000euros of my own money to promote my career, record high quality music and music videos with the best of the best wasn’t working hard enough.
By this time the media had all but ignored me, until I made the mistake of confiding in someone that my husband and I were going to divorce. That evening it was mentioned on a TV show, thus, my parents in-law found out before we had a chance to tell them. Of course after that the media weren’t interested in me and returned to focus on the latest batch of pop stars.
It took me four years of incredibly deep depression to finally have the guts to do something about it. I didn’t want to end up hurting myself, though those thoughts always ran through my mind. I fell in love with another Dutch man, who is also a trained singer and actor, and we left for the UK, where we now work for a company that provides entertainment all over the world.
We have built up a huge fan base in the past year, though still in Holland, no one in the industry can believe that I am doing anything worthwhile, because its not Dutch. My husband and I are having the time of our lives, we love each other are performing together while working in the music industry on our terms. I’ve come through the worse and am doing what I love, with the man of my dreams, what couldn’t be better? A video of my husband and I performing is below.
A message to all future talent show contestants
The shallow man asked me if I’d recommend anyone to take part in such contests. Well, the simple answer is yes of course I would but with the following advice:
- Read all contracts very carefully. The new contracts are even worse and sign artists to an exclusive deal for three years
- Get independent legal advice before signing, don’t let them pressure you
- Be prepared not to earn any real money for the year after the contest and make sure you have plenty of savings or financial support
- View it as an experience, but not a route to fame and fortune. The fame is short lived and no fortune will be earned by you, only the record and TV company
- Enjoy every minute while it lasts
- Don’t take all the praise from the Hilversum media mafia seriously. You’ll be told that you’re the best singer on the planet, don’t fall for it
This entire experience has made me stronger and wiser and I hope that by sharing my story that it will help the next batch of hopefuls who are auditioning for talent shows. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have on this site.
The Shallow Man
A big thanks to the lovely Brandi for sharing her story. No talent show hopefuls were hurt during the writing of this article.
For more wisdom on life in the Netherlands read the Amsterdam Confessions of a Shallow Man, click here to order from BOL or Amazon.