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Last weekend, the family music community converged in Brooklyn at Kindiefest 2010. Attending the event as a blogger (and with my marketer’s hat on), I spent the day attending panels that pulled together some talented and knowledgeable people from the music industry. All shared their experience and opinion on marketing a children’s music release.

There are always going to be differing opinions and approaches, but I definitely heard some commonalities coming out of three of the panels I attended: “The Future of Marketing Kindie Music,” “Distribution in 2010 and Beyond,” and the PR-themed “What’s the Story?” Here are a few takeaways:

If you build a social network presence, don’t assume they will come. So you set up a fancy social network presence on Twitter, Facebook, iLike, etc. It’s bad practice, though, to  simply blast your fans and followers with info about your new album and upcoming shows. You want to engage your community as well. Ask them fun questions that are themed with your album. Share relevant articles that are themed with your band’s philosophy. Social media is…social. Blasting out promo info only is a one-way communication.

As far as blogging goes, there were mixed feelings. If you are sharing your day-to-day routine, there may be limited interest. However, if you are sharing your thoughts on other products, music, and even insight into the process of creating an album, you may get more traction.

Side note: Interns are great, but you need a social media expert in it for the long haul who will be there to take your brand’s voice and adapt it to each medium.

Old-fashioned marketing still works with the kiddies. Yes, social media is great for adults, but remember your under-13 demographic isn’t supposed to be on Facebook. Putumayo Kids realizes this and does black and white posters for kids to color in. Then, their decorated Putumayo poster is right up on their bedroom wall next to their favorite princess or superhero. Other traditional elements mentioned included CD samplers, goodie bag placements, e-mail marketing (yes, I call that traditional), and postcards. Don’t have the money for sponsoring or designing any of these? Like we said when we were kids, “tradesies!” Partner with companies and trade favors with friends.

Justin Roberts, Ashley Albert brought star power to panel

Pay attention to your personal brand. This is especially important in children’s music – and I mean everything from the superficial aesthetics and arts that represent your act, to the philosophy of your music. It was even suggested to share your “brand” philosophy directly on your packaging. Let parents know what you stand for. And most of all, stay true to your personal brand and keep it consistent online and offline – don’t shift it just to shift units.

“Parent-approved”: dead label or not? It was suggested by some that the days of having that phrase on an album or in a press kit is no longer valid, while others felt it still helps them out. As a parent who purchases music, I say “use it.” Why not? While the family music circle may be tired of hearing it, it may still resonate with parents learning about the kindie scene. Related, it was suggested that artists shy away from an “anti-Barney” descriptor as many retailers have made a lot of money with this property and still do. Also related, don’t insult other artists in your press materials as this could also backfire.

Digital age=digital tools. There are many digital tools at your fingertips to get your music out there to fan and industry folks alike. Whether trying to share some mp3s with parents or get your electronic press kit out to a media outlet, any family musician with basic business know-how needs to be on these sites.

  • WiggleNation – A new kindie-centric social network
  • Jitterbug.tv – A family music destination with videos and streaming music
  • MySpace – Their music pages are still considered valuable
  • TopSpin – Music marketing tools and a retail channel creator tool
  • Last.fm – Internet radio destination to upload albums to
  • Pandora –Streaming music site that now accepts kids’ music
  • ArtistData – Publishes artist info across multiple sites and social networks
  • OurStage – Compete in music competitions, send EPKs to venues, booking agents, and record labels. There is no children’s vertical on this site, but you can submit your songs to the genre your music matches up best to. (My own recommendation)
  • PumpAudio – Submit your music to be licensed for film, TV and commercials
  • SonicBids – Official Kindiefest sponsor, and a great resource for getting a gig. Post your EPK and get exposure to the 20,000 promoters on the site

Make it easy for editors. Press releases should be mini stories. That makes it easy for the editors to turn it into an interesting feature. And don’t overload them with gimmicky packages or too many copies of your album. One simple album is all they need. You can even send an electronic press kit over email.

Cathy Fink
Cathy Fink spiced up her panel with banjo accompaniment*

In 2010, the possibilities for distribution are unique. Big Boxes like Target can be a challenge, as they tend to stick to TV and licensed kids’ titles. Instead, think outside the category to places like your local teacher’s shop or a local natural grocer. These are places where your consumers are shopping, but may not have realized they needed your music until they saw it in this store. When distributing digitally, outside of the obvious places like iTunes and Amazon, consider places like KIDOS and the aforementioned TopSpin.

Everything is marketing!Yes, at the end of the day, everything you do is marketing your brand. From the little fan you hugged at the library show to the great performance you gave at a festival to the guy on the airplane who you explained your music to. But, the most important marketing of all is the music itself. If you don’t make sincere, honest music you believe in, then that will show.

These are, of course, just a few of the many insightful thoughts coming out of the Kindiefest panels. If you missed out, I recommend you attend next year, not only for the panels, but for the knock-out performances from the many artists selected to showcase their original talent. See you next year!

* Photos by Stefan Shepherd

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