Get your iPod, laptop, and credit card out, it’s time to refresh that music library. Your fall playlist is played out, and you need some new tunes to take you in to 2012. Below is a musical buffet of albums to check out, with several sure to fit your musical pallet.
The Jimmies – Practically Ridiculous: It’s here! After a (painful) 4 year wait, Ashley Albert & co have baked up a dozen new tasty tunes to memorize, chuckle at and share with friends. Bring on the high-concept music videos!
Charlie Hope – Songs, Stories and Friends: Let’s Go Play!: Sail away on the summer breeze of Charlie’s beautiful and airy vocals. Filled with her own original tunes and public domain classics, Charlie’s music makes the coldest day a summer holiday.
Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band – Oh Lucky Day!: Out of nowhere, Lucky and the fam burst onto the scene with their bar-raising intro E.P. of pop-rock tunes. As we hoped, the E.P. was just an appetizer for this full length release of jangly kid tunes for hipsters and homemakers alike.
Rabbit! – Go For It!: Sunshiny, feel-good indie pop that is ready for its close-up, from a Floridian crew that proudly takes it inspiration from the “bubblegum scene of the late 1960′s.” Another instant favorite in our house, and bound for kindie glory.
Dan Zanes – Little Nut Tree: Before I take that first listen to the latest Dan Zanes’ album, I always wonder what he will do to top himself. This time, the Grammy award winning singer mixes his truly ageless Americana sound with headliner guests like Sharon Jones, Joan Osborne and Andrew Bird.
Rocknoceros – Colonel Purple Turtle: Making kindie music before “kindie” entered the lexicon, Rocknoceros’ new effort is a CD/book concept album that takes place in the animal-filled, cleverly-crafted world of Soggy Bog.
Ben Rudnick & Friends – Live in Lexington : Under the Copper Beech: Children’s music staple Rudnick & Friends show they can make it happen outside the studio with a live, eclectic mix of bluegrass, calypso, folk and rock.
Biscuit Brothers – Get Up & Go: If you are one of the lucky PBS markets that carry the Biscuit Brothers, you are familiar with this music-filled show. We have been enjoying their YouTube video clips for years, and can now sing along to some of the greatest Cajun, rock, country, polka, jazz, swing, and a capella tunes heard on the Emmy-Award winning show.
Recess Music’s UR Some 1 and Big Bully compilations: Great compilations with great messages. On UR Some 1, artists like Peter Himmelman share the message of self-confidence while Big Bully has artists like The Hipwaders and Renee & Jeremy spreading the message of being generous and kind.
Mr. Leebot – Erratic Schematic: Plug it in and turn up the kindietronica, with Mr. Leebot’s inimitable new wave sound.
Hope Harris – Cousins Jamboree: With Dan Zanes’ production talent behind it, you know it will be a treat for the ears. If you are looking for a little twang and new, original tunes, you can’t go wrong with Hope’s first kindie rock release.
Doctor Noize – The Ballad of Phineas McBoof: For the kindie rocker who wants more than just the music, Doctor Noize (aka Cory Cullinan) has created a transmedia property around ‘Phineas McBoof.’ The colorful character creations of his music are brought to life on the page, kicking off a new kid’s property to watch out for.
Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
My Name is Handel – The Story of Water Music: Cool down time in the minivan? Let the London Philharmonic Orchestra introduce your kids to German composer Handel with an educational intro to his life and his instruments.
Beethoven’s Wig – Sing Along Piano Classics: Another way to intro kids to classical music? Add some silly lyrics to them. Richard Perlmutter has nailed this formula, and attacks piano classics on his fifth release of remade masterpieces.
In The Nick of Time – Making Silly Faces: The third release from Nick Deysher’s In the Nick of Time act brings a high-energy mix of genre-hopping with songs tackling “hot topics” like manners and healthy-eating.
Mister G – Bugs: Teacher/ASCAP-Award-winner/former indie rocker Ben Gundersheimer is back with another round of catchy kindie pop-rock tunes that should continue to build his loyal all-age following.
Alastair Moock – These Are My Friends: Boston-bred Moock is back with another rootsy family album, this time bringing along some very special guests like Rani Arbo and Lori McKenna. Moock’s last album was track-by-track greatness, and this album continues his streak with folk-rock covers (“Mail Myself to You”) and his own new creations (“Born To Dance”).
The Hipwaders – The Golden State: Band leader Tito Uquillas and the gang keep churning out delightful power-pop for the whole family, with their latest a tribute to the sunshine sound of California.
Peter Alsop – Grow it At Home: Peter is aiming squarely at the kids with this award-winning album of goofy-good, green-themed tunes.
Rollie Polie Guacamole – Time for Hummus: Brooklyn-based Rollie Polie Guacamole will bring you back to your favorite summer jam band festival, but with the kid-safe lyrics and appropriate substances.
Hullabaloo – Road Trip: Made for the mini-van, this folk-rock duo’s latest release is full of clever songs about the pain and pleasure of family road trips. Take the journey with high-energy, twangy tunes like “Rolling Down That Road,” “Are We There Yet?” and “Good To Be Back Home.”
Chip Taylor & The Grandkids – Golden Kids Rules: With a pedigree that includes crafting hits like “Angel of the Morning,” this gravely-voiced musician is a welcome addition to the family music scene. Academy Award-winning brother Jon Voight graces the liner notes, while his three grandchildren duet on songs like the gentle title track.
Jane Roman Pitt – Midnight Lullaby: Instead of buying another one of those chimey lullaby albums, consider Jane Roman Pitt. This mother and grandmother does her own soothing take on contemporary tunes by artist like including Wilco, Sade, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Josh Ritter.
Laura Doherty – Shining Like a Star: If you love the breezy sound of female singer/songwriters, Laura Doherty delivers sweet and interactive acoustic tunes for the kiddos.
Todd McHatton – Galactic Champions of Joy: We described Todd’s last album as “one of those rare releases that you can play from start to finish.” Once again, he delivers. This album is hard for parents to tire of, full of college radio-style rock for the whole family. Added bonus: a song called “I Think I’m A Bunny.”
David Rees – I Believe in Pasta: David Rees has a progressive new idea in the kindie space: album merged with iPad app. Beyond being an innovative idea, this experienced composer has also created a charming bunch of pasta-themed tunes for kids.
Jason Riley – Funky Folk: If you are yet to explore instrumental music with your kids, here is an interesting way to start. Riley takes on well-known songs like “Camptown Races” in genres like jazz, blues, funk and, when the album really shines, bluegrass.
The Que Pastas – Debut E.P.: If you have a penchant for the weird (as I do), you will love the debut (free) EP from this Denver duo. Quirky and catchy, this is not your average kindie band, and I look forward to seeing what batch of original recipes the ‘Pastas’ cook up next.
The husband-and-wife musical team Katie O’Sullivan and Steve Borne, or as kindie rock fans know them, Princess Katie & Racer Steve, were already a hit in our household thanks to their live concert DVD release, Revved Up & Ready to Rock! Initially, I was hesitant to bring this band into our house. Maybe it was the fact that I used to shy away from bands in costumes or with fictional personas. Or, it could have been the fact that I had enough Princess-mania in my house. But I soon realized, after a few video views on YouTube, that Princess Katie is, in fact, breaking the typical tiara mold. Unlike most royal role models, this princess cares more about rocking out than marrying off, and I could get behind that. As for the group’s costumes, as long as weren’t using them to hide a lack of talent – and they surely weren’t – I could get on board. Plus, let’s face it, kids love the costumes and isn’t that what it’s all about?
Princess Katie & Racer Steve have just released their third album, Tiny Cool, and it is already getting buzz from both mainstream magazines and family music fanatics alike. We were sent a review copy of their latest effort, and looked forward to experiencing PK &RS in an audio-only format. The album started off strong right away with the Latin-flavored party jam “Clelia’s Party,” immediately squelching any fears that this band specialized in live performances only. A stylistically diverse album, Racer Steve gets to have his hard rock fun in “Kids Rock,” turning up the electric guitar for some kid-safe heavy metal. The band continues to keep it interesting with songs like the surf rock ditty “Sand in My Sandwich,” straight up funk tune “Tiny Cool” and electro-pop closing track “Japanese Robot.” Katie and Steve also specialize in crafting songs that help kids deal with common emotions and feelings without being condescending or cheesy. The songs on Tiny Cool continue to touch on kid-relevant topics, covering themes like honesty, individuality, compassion, and goodwill.
Anyone who follows Katie O’Sullivan on Twitter or Facebook knows how much passion the band has behind this project and how much they care for their young audience. The duo’s dedication to their musical project, consistent output and interactive, high energy shows are what put them on the radar. With comedic skits both onstage and on albums, cleverly-crafted cartoon avatars on their website and DVD, a killer wardrobe and three albums of original songs, Princess Katie and Racer Steve are class A children’s entertainers.
Be sure to check out their new album Tiny Cooland, if you are near one of the lucky cities they are touring, come out and see them do their live show. Dress up is strongly encouraged!
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.
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 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!
I still have not been able to convince some friends and family to check out some of today’s modern family musicians. They may politely listen to my pitch, but are probably going to just go and buy the newest Laurie Berkner album and leave it at that. These skeptics, who may be scarred by too many force feedings of Wee Sing Silly Songs and Raffi, don’t realize the good tunes of which they are depriving their families.
Hence, the point of this post: a summary of four strong entries in the genre. Each of these albums – and their creators – strongly represent my position on the family music scene. Today’s scene is built upon a group of artists creating uncompromising, non-condescending music that makes attempts to include the whole family in its writing and production.
Bunny Clogs – More! More! More!
Bunny Clogs is the side project of Adam Levy, frontman for “adult band” The Honeydogs and his other side project Hookers $ Blow. Levy worked on this project out of his home, with his daughters Esther and Ava Bella contributing vocals and his son Daniel designing the cover art. More! More! More! was also put together with help from students at the music school Levy teaches at, the Institute of Production and Recording in Minneapolis. The album itself has a strong absurdist comedy theme and is stylistically quite diverse, touching on folk, hip-hop, electronica, brit-pop and even Brazilian-flavored pop.
If you rocked Beck’s Odelay in the 90’s, love the iPod “shuffle” feature, and enjoy quirky, well-written pop tunes, then Bunny Clogs is your jam. As soon as I heard the hip-hop Yiddish-inspired “Shpilkas” track online, I knew I was in for an original effort. And once I got the album in my hands, I wasn’t let down. From the breezy, veggie-themed “Olive’s Olives” to the nonsensical electro-rocker “3 Dogs and a Pancake,” this album is non-stop great writing and production that showcases all the different sounds that exist in modern music. Adam also has the amazing ability to make his voice stretch from a Prince-style R&B funk (see “Confessions of a Teenage Lima Bean”) to indie-rock troubadour (see “Midtown Greenway”). More! More! More! came out a couple years ago, but it is never too late to hang with the Bunny Clogs.
Timmy Sutton and Matty Senzatimore make up the duo Ratboy Jr., born out of the Hudson Valley, NY region that gave us kindie rock acts like Dog on Fleas, Uncle Rock, and Elizabeth Mitchell. Already getting lots of attention for their live, interactive shows, equal amount of attention should be paid to their new release, Smorgasbord. With a sound that will remind you of diverse references like 90’s rockers Everclear and Sublime, your favorite jam band and a day at the Bonoroo festival, Ratboy Jr. should be the official kindie rock summer soundtrack.
Sutton and Senzatimore’s summery sounds perfectly match the theme of many of their songs. Songs like “Worms,” “Dirt,” and “Living in the Trees” celebrate free-range summer fun, all to the tune of their refreshing rock songs. I can even see the aforementioned ‘Trees’ riding the modern radio waves several years back – with the song even catching the attention of some people in my car who do not have kids, but loved its laid back vibe. And for those who hear “music-and-movement” and roll their eyes, it is hard to feel “too cool” when participating in their “Clap Your Hands” southern rock jam. Another standout track is “Bear Bus,” a celebration of the imagination that had me thinking of rap-rock-funk fusionists like Soul Coughing and Cake. The music on Smorgasbord feels as organically constructed as the themes of many of their songs (outdoor play, imagination, animals), and truly sets this band apart in the kindie music space.
If the words “jam band,” “hip-hop,” or “electronica” are not “moshy” enough for you, than meet The Boogers. Winners of a 2009 National Parenting Publications Award, this act was started by musician/developmental psychologist Paul Crowe (a.k.a. “Crusty Booger”). Paul spent the 80′s and 90′s punk-rocking as a bassist with various Chicago bands. Meanwhile, he was able to complete a PhD in Developmental Psychology at Loyola University. This, his passion for punk rock, and his three sons were the springboard to The Boogers record. Not surprisingly, the sound of The Boogers is tied in very closely to two artists Crusty once shared the stage with: Dee Dee and Marky Ramone.
Ramones-style punk rock is clearly the musical inspiration for the 20 songs of reinterpreted kids’ classics and inventive originals on Road to Rock. Their own creations include the manic music and movement song “This Song is About Transportation!,” the tuneful mosh-friendly ode “I Like Bananas,” and the chant-along “Um Tut Sut.” The Boogers also have a gift for taking tired standards and making them fresh again with, of course, a punk rock core. I never expected to appreciate and enjoy “The ABC Song” in an iPod mix, but these guys pull it off. Ditto for reinterpretations of other classics like “Twinkle, Twinkle”, “Bah, Bah, Black Sheep,” ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and “Working on the Railroad.” The Boogers are your go-to for straight up punk rock fun, with no ballads, folk-rock melodies or slow jams thrown in for measure to slow things down. I look forward to creating some living room mosh pits to their future projects as well, and can’t wait to hear what they offer on more of their original songs.
The funk/soul brothers of duo Sugar Free Allstars have been serving up music for families for five years now, playing venues throughout Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas and Arkansas. Comprised of Chris (Boom!) Wiser and Rob (Dr. Rock) Martin, they already have one successful kids’ album on their musical resume (Dos Niños), as well as a live concert DVD (Gettin’ Funky with the Sugar Free Allstars). The Sugar Free Allstars have quickly become family music darlings, selected for inclusion in this year’s Kindiefest after a wave of great reviews for their new album, Funky Fresh and Sugar Free. The first thing that caught my attention with this band was the fresh sound they brought to the genre: a mix of organic funk and soul-infused rock.
Funky Fresh and Sugar Free stays true to the Sugar Free Allstars’ sound, featuring their unmistakable trademark vocals. The album does take some interesting turns, including the chant along rock-hard first single “Rock Awesome” and a southern rock take on a music and movement song, “Train Beat.” But have no fear, Allstars purists! These guys get as funkadelic as ever, including the classic Allstars throwdown “Tiger in My Backyard.” “Little Red Wagon” is another funk-infused rock number, a sunny celebration of family time. “Hey Now, It’s Your Birthday” is another classic, a fill-in-the-name party song that should be a staple at kindie music-lovers’ birthday celebrations. These guys even dare to take on the Beatles’ “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da,” but give it their own fresh arrangement. Sugar Free Allstars deserve the buzz coming their way, and I expect these guys to continue to make their mark in the family music arena.
If you are still feeling uncertain about wading into the family music genre, just check at the links to the samples above. Once you listen to the work of these bands, you will discover that resistance is, in fact, futile. Best of all, you are training your little ones’ ears to a higher pedigree of music that could make them intolerant to factory-produced pop tunes once their teen years kick in.
One act we can’t wait to check out at this year’s Kindiefest is the Sugar Free Allstars. We are already a fan of their DVD (“Gettin’ Funky with the Sugar Free Allstars!”) and are currently readying a review of their upcoming album, “Funky Fresh and Sugar Free.” The band just premiered their new “Rock Awesome” music video and we have it for you to check out. And yes, the video does rock pretty damn awesome.