Archive for May, 2010

Beth’s Corner # 3

Sugar Mountain PR

By: Beth Blenz-Clausen

Kindiefest Recap

If there was any doubt that the kids’ music is on the upswing again, the wild and unwieldy energy at the recent Kindiefest conference will put it to rest. More than 300 people from all walks of the musical life showed up to Littlefield in Brooklyn, NY for the three-day festival. With media coverage on CBS TV and in the New York Times, Time magazine and Time Out New York, it appears that the long untold story about independent family music finally hit the news in a big way.

Kindiefest kicked off on Friday, April 30th with a stirring speech from Dan Zanes. Whether he should be credited as the godfather of kindie music, or not, he certainly presented his story in a humble and helpful way. He told how he got started 10 years ago, building a fan base and market for his children’s music street by street in ever-expanding circles around his neighborhood. Certainly, he’s not an overnight sensation. Clearly, he had to work very hard to get where he is today. As Time noted, he has become family music genre’s most outspoken and eloquent advocate (mostly because he gets so much great press!).

Justin and the Not Ready for Naptime Players courtesy of Stefan Shepherd/Zooglobble

On Saturday, Kindiefest kicked off with a hilarious and informative panel discussion about marketing (headed up by Ashley of The Jimmies, and including Justin Roberts, Regina Kelland, Andy Blackman Hurwitz and Mona Kayhan). The “Old School vs. New School” panel provided a provocative discussion with Suni Paz, Elizabeth Mitchell, Bill Harley and others talking about how they got their start in the family music arena. Other panels revolved around distribution, publicity and the recording process itself. Artists, managers and other kids’ music aficionados took notes and shared a lot of great information and advice.

Saturday night’s industry-only showcase featured a high –powered performance by the fresh and funky duo Sugar Free Allstars (conveniently, I was AWOL when band leader Chris Wiser called me onstage to dance). Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem wowed the audience with their brilliantly taut and engaging string band music. By the time Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players took the stage to end the show, the audience was jumping and screaming at the top of their lungs. At least one report mentioned that some audience members were in tears at hearing Justin’s new songs from his upcoming CD Jungle Gym.

Bill Harley photo courtesy of Jeff Bogle Out With The Kids

Sunday’s public festival was a family concert open to the public. What a thrill it was to see Bill Harley perform. His skill as a storyteller and performer shone through. Some other highlights were the shows by Rocknoceros, Recess Monkey and Clementown, not to mention Rhythm Child and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo. Mindy Thomas from Sirius-XM Satellite Radio was on hand for a live broadcast. Alas, I had to head for the airport before seeing Ralph’s World as the closing act.

As Zooglobble so rightly put it, Kindiefest demonstrated the power of “owning it.” That is, the artists who put their souls behind what they do, following their dreams and staying true to what inspires them. That sense of purpose resonates with parents and kids.

Undoubtedly, there were artists who felt they weren’t included, and some people remarked that the festival focused too much on “kindie rock” and not enough on the wide variety of other genres in children’s music today. Kindiefest may have a hard time being all things to all people, but the organizers (Bill Childs, Mona Kayhan, Stephanie Mayers and Tor Hyams) can surely pat themselves on the back for pulling off such an ambitious and community building event. Most people I talked with found it immensely valuable and inspiring. I fully intend to go again next year whether they invite me or not.

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