Laughing Pizza may not yet be on most people’s radar screens. But that is poised to change. The Atlanta-based family trio has struck a multi-year deal with Epic Records and Sony Wonder.

Laughing Pizza may not yet be on most people’s radar screens. But that is poised to change. The Atlanta-based family trio has struck a multi-year deal with Epic Records and Sony Wonder.

Working together, the two Sony BMG divisions will, if all goes according to plan, laugh all the way to the bank as they build the family entertainment Laughing Pizza brand into a larger-than-life franchise, encompassing TV, digital, merchandise and branding platforms.

“Music is an important communication device, particularly for kids at an early age,” Epic president Charlie Walk says. “We need to capture that and be a part of it.”

And, it’s safe to say, to make some money along the way.

To be sure, the children’s music market is alive and well. Booming, in fact. For the week ending May 28, 2006, Nielsen SoundScan reports year-to-date sales of children’s titles at 6.4 million. For the same week in 2005, that number was 3.7 million.

The five-year-old “Kidz Bop” CD series, at nine volumes, has amassed sales of 6.2 million. “High School Musical,” released earlier this year, has sold 2.2 million copies. Jack White’s “Sing-a-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George,” meanwhile, is at 837,000.

On its own, Laughing Pizza—mom Lisa Michaelis, dad Billy Schlosser and daughter Emily—has released two CDs (“Meet the Pizza!s,” “Pizza Party!”) and two DVDs (“Feelin’ Good,” “Share a Smile!”). Epic/Sony Wonder will rerelease these discs in the fall. Brand new titles will follow in 2007.

According to Michaelis, the self-released four titles have collectively sold approximately 15,000 units. (SoundScan figures are not available for these discs.).

With original songs like the “Candy Bar” and “Back to School,” Laughing Pizza is an extra lite mix of New Edition and Kelly Clarkson. Toss in the family’s visuals and it’s the Partridge Family all over again—minus the bus.

Walk contacted Laughing Pizza about two months to discuss the possibility of a partnership. He learned of the trio from his three children, who he says are avid fans of Laughing Pizza. “They could identify with them more than with the Wiggles,” he adds. Additionally, his older kids (aged five and six) like that that Laughing Pizza is an actual family—one that sings positive, fun and upbeat songs.

Walk was also impressed by Laughing Pizza’s Web site [laughingpizza.com] and busy tour schedule. “They’re visionary and just needed a partner to take them to the next level,” he notes. “So, we’re here to enhance the brand they started.”

The biggest challenge for Epic and Sony Wonder in breaking Laughing Pizza on a grander scale will be getting attention in the children’s market. “The big driver in this market is TV,” Sony Wonder executive VP and GM Jim Wilson acknowledges. “We don’t own a TV network. But we have those contacts.”
Wilson continues, “We’re dealing with a loud and noisy—a very active—children’s market with many big brands. Our challenge is to break through that.”

Fortunately, Laughing Pizza likes a good challenge. “We had to mortgage our home to get where we are today,” Michaelis says. “This partnership opens many new doors for us.