Archive for Beth Blenz-Clucas

Fun New Songs for Earth Day – By Beth Blenz Clucas

REPRINTED FROM NW KIDS MAGAZINE

If it’s spring, it’s time to clear out, clean up and generally get rid of “Too Much Junk.” A new single by New York electro-pop artist Elska might be just the inspiration you need to clear out those overfilled toy boxes.

The single was produced with Wilco artist Mikael Jorgensen and it is available HERE. The “Too Much Junk” music video was just released, too!

Another thing to think about now that the days are brighter and warmer is how to get all of those device-plugged kiddos outside for some good old-fashioned vitamin D. Portland tunester Cat Doorman has the right tracks to the outdoors, with her new digital EP “Calling All the Kids to the Yard.”

These poppy songs manage to be smart and sweet at the same time. You’ll be amazed at her rendition of the classic children’s song “All the Pretty Little Horses,” too.

A band I love from L.A., Earthworm Ensemble, is a group of alt.Americana artists who have played at Alberta Rose Theater as the band I See Hawks in LA.

Catch a sampler of their songs here, and check out the Earthworm Ensemble website and CDBaby.com for album release news on April 21st.

All of these are super song choices for your spring break road trips, too.

Guaranteed not to drive you mad.

Let us know what you’re listening to this season

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“IF YOU CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, JOIN ‘EM” – By Beth Blenz-Clucas

We responded to these three recent articles about people who don’t pay for music – and why complaining about that may be hopeless. 

Emily White (Emily White is this past summer’s NPR’s All Songs Considered intern. She is a senior at American University in Washington, D.C. and the general manager of WVAU.)“I Never Owned Any Music to Begin With”

David Lowery (Currently a teacher at The University of Georgia, and also the founder of alternative rock band Camper Van Beethoven and co-founder of the more traditional rock band Cracker) Responds via a: “Letter To Emily White At NPR All Songs Considered”

Jay Frank (Jay Frank is the Owner and CEO of DigSin, a new singles-focused music company that allows subscribing fans to obtain music for free.): “Is Stealing Music Really The Problem?”

I remember being appalled at the Emily White post, thinking her ignorant and larcenous, pretty much the same attitude that Lowery had in his very eloquent post. He’s absolutely right that it is often socially conscious people who think nothing of obtaining music for free, thus not supporting the artists they like. I’ve found that when young fans really think about what they’re doing, they’re more likely to use legal means (usually via one of the streaming services) to get music more often.

Since then, I’ve come to realize that bucking the free music trend will get artists nowhere. The next generation of music lovers won’t be returning to the world of album sales anytime soon. Yes, the niche fans who are once again buying cassette tapes from their favorite homegrown indie bands, and collecting lovely limited edition vinyl albums are a fun group to work with. But artists have to figure out how to follow that marketing path we talked about in earlier lessons – building on every level – awareness, acquisition, engagement – before expecting to make money from their music these days. It’s harder than sitting back and waiting for fans to come to you, but since when has the music business been easy?

Jay Frank’s post is a nice synthesis, a reminder that even a hot band from yesteryear – like Camper Van Beethoven or Cracker – has to find ways to attract new fans while reminding their longtime fans of why they liked them in the first place. The example of Wilco and their free streaming album was a good one, showing the power of a disruptive offer of free music to gain attention, loyalty, and ultimately support from fans.

Provide something special, of value, to your fans; give them a gift worth something, and you will build the kind of loyalty and support that you will need when you want to launch a Kickstarter campaign or sponsored tour later on.

Three children’s music artists offer some good examples of how to use “Free” to build awareness, acquisition, engagement, etc.

1. The Harmonica Pocket, one of the Seattle Kindiependent group of indie family music bands, has had a “Free Music Project” on their site for several years now. On this page: http://www.harmonicapocket.com/listen/index.html – fmp, the band offers a selection of free downloads, not ALL of their songs, just some. They’ve posted a Creative Commons-style licensing agreement on the page, which I think is smart. This has been an effective way for the band to attract new fans. Their songs are whimsical and smart, and I think it is simply the music that will  “sell” the band to new followers. I’m not sure how they’re keeping track of fan engagement and monetization from this, but they do manage to perform all around Puget Sound and sell albums as well as downloads. They also get a few bucks via the online “Tip Jar” jar every week. 

2. A NY band called Dog on Fleas just released a new album called “Buy One Get One Flea.” We cooked up a little launch for the album last month with a few YouTube video debuts, strategically timed over a 3-week period, and debuted with blog and radio partners. This is not a well-known band outside of their Hudson Valley milieu, although their existing fans adore them. The challenge is to build on this cult base and extend their reach more nationally (they rarely tour, and never beyond the Northeast). 

The album title lent itself to the February one-month promotion where we asked fans to download the Valentines-y song “I Must Be a Genius” via the band’s Bandcamp page.

Once a fan paid for the one track ($1), they could email the band or post a note on their Facebook page, and get a bonus song for free. This was a little klunkier than the Topspin model, but there have been dozens of downloads, lots of blog posts like this one:  and some nice overall buzz, making the title of the new album more memorable.

3. Roger Day makes most of his income these days from touring to schools and libraries. He often does week-long residencies in schools, and his latest albums are science oriented (STEM is a hot topic, very appealing in today’s education marketplace), and partnered with the University of Georgia two years ago to create a successful musical program about coastal ecology. 

In late January, on the day when winter storms stranded students at school in Alabama, Roger posted on Facebook that he’d be happy to connect with any stranded school via Skype. Immediately, three of his teacher-fans contacted him, and within hours, he was singing and playing along with students in three Skype sessions. The students loved it.

One of the teachers thought their session was so cool, he posted about Roger’s sing-along on Reddit. The post rose to the top of Reddit’s feed for 2 or 3 days, as people responded, talked about the weather, found out more about Roger, etc. etc. Roger also started getting requests from TV and radio show producers, and he appeared on a few shows in Alabama, also getting a feature story in the Birmingham News.

Pretty soon, the marketing folks for Skype heard about Roger’s Skype sessions. Their PR person contacted us, ran a blog post about Roger’s connection with the students, and then suggested he host some more sessions for a free service called Skype in the classroom. Roger was a little wary of doing more “Free” sessions with Skype. After all, he gets paid to work and perform in schools. We talked, and I suggested that the huge exposure (75,000 teachers participate in Skype in the Classroom, worldwide) and potential for new bookings, made it worth a few hours’ time in offering a class or two. I also suggested that he make sure that all of his web links were included in the offering, and that he create a simple handout that would provide teachers with information about all of his CDs, DVD, and booking information.

Last week, Roger posted his free class offering: https://education.skype.com/users/80263-roger-day – 

This seems to be working for Roger! And he can now say that he’s an official “Skype in the Classroom” educator, which only adds to his credentials.

Within hours of posting his offering, Roger had booked 15 sessions with schools, and he’s still taking inquiries. In all cases, the teachers and students want to learn more about Roger. It’s too early to tell what will happen next, but the early response is very good. The best thing about this is that Roger does not have to leave his home studio to do these sessions, and he’s connecting with dozens of new prospects for paid work in the future.

Beth Blenz-Clucas

 

Sugar Mountain PR

Sugar Mountain PR

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Two Free Family Music Festivals – By Beth Blenz-Clucas

Sugar Mountain PR

THIS SUMMER MARKS THE DEBUT OF TWO FREE FAMILY MUSIC FESTIVALS:Rox in Sox and Wiggle Out Loud

Rox in Sox: Aaron Nigel Smith and a host of partners debut the first free music and books festival in the Portland area, on August 3rd. What’s cool: Donations of socks and shoes will help kids in need.

Wiggle Out Loud: Chris Wiser (Boom) of the Sugar Free Allstars presents the first-ever kindie rock festival in Oklahoma on September 1. The Verve Pipe, an alternative rock band most widely known for its 1997 blockbuster hit single, “The Freshmen,” will headline. What’s cool: tons of fitness activities.

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ROAD TRIPPIN’ WITH CMMDR. HADFIELD AND A CARLOAD OF FREE SONGS

jpegIt’s almost time for the annual phenomenon known as the summer road trip. Whether you’ll be traveling to see grandma and grandpa or simply packing for a music festival, you will have to find creative ways to keep the kids happy and your sanity intact.

In fact, a summer music festival is a very smart destination when you’re traveling avec la famille. “Your summer might begin this weekend at any number of festivals in your town, or journey to the Hudson River Valley next month for the Clearwater Festival.

In July and August, you might travel to the Winnipeg Folk Festival. And, Lollapalooza will once again host a Kidzapalooza stage.

Parenting sites are full of advice for maintaining sanity during long car trips, including the tips from Coolmompicks and Today’s Parent.

Music can be an enormous help, and the old stand-byes like “99 bottles” and “The Wheels on the Bus” work for awhile (check out CafeMom’s list of favorite tune, here.

Pretty soon, though, “The Song that Never Ends” loses its charm, and you long for alternatives.

So, in honor of the launch of summer 2013, we’re offering a new playlist of interesting independent family music. These are one-of-a-kind tunes, like the “Honk Honk” rocker by Toronto’s The Monkey Bunch, thought pieces by Justin Roberts and Shine and the Moonbeams, folky sing-alongs from Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke, and a quiet lullaby, “Down at the Sea Hotel,” from Montreal-based The Secret Mountain.

For this week only, until June 1st, we’re offering a new Summer Road Trip 2013 set of tunes as a FREE DOWNLOAD. Click over here to listen, then download them all or just the ones you like best. https://soundcloud.com/bethbcpr/sets/summer-2013-road-trip-playlist

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Beth’s Corner # 9

NO ONE REALLY CARES ABOUT CHILDREN’S MUSIC…

By: Beth Blenz-Clucas

Friends:

I recently traded emails with the editors at www.commonsensemedia.org, a site that I’ve respected and enjoyed reading for the past several years. They’ve provided a smart and helpful parents’ guide to current media. Their reviewers and editors are astute and articulate, and until last fall, they gave plenty of coverage to indie music and DVDs from all sorts of artists. In the past, the only criterion was quality, and they featured the best stuff.

According to the editors, the new editorial policy is to feature only mass-marketed CDs and DVDs THAT ALREADY HAVE A BIG AUDIENCE. Sure, they’re still judging by the quality of the media, but the first gatekeeper is whether a title is already a best seller. In other words, unless something is already getting lots of plays on iTunes, they simply won’t review it.

I hope you’re incensed about this policy as much as I am.

They’re expressing a typical attitude that I hear often from journalists: “Well, no one really cares about children’s music.” I find this annoying, given the fact that whenever an indie title gets featured on NPR or another mainstream media outlet, the sales for that particular title inevitably jump and parents emerge from everywhere to exclaim about how happy they are to find out about the alternatives to mainstream, commercialized music for kids.

Clearly, there is a demand for high quality music for children. It’s a shame that a non-profit organization such as CommonsenseMedia doesn’t see the value in it.

It’s all about delivering the maximum number of eyeballs to the site, I know. As one performing artist remarked, “ I suppose it’s much easier to cut and paste the consensus than to actually listen closely to something new and formulate an original opinion. However, I think it’s a bit more than that. I think it goes beyond laziness or inability. I believe that there are financial incentives – direct support for not-for-profit organizations that follow certain editorial directives – to support the more popular, better funded projects.”

Essentially the music editor is saying that unless something is already a best seller, they don’t think it’s worthy of attention. I truly don’t get their logic. Coming from an organization whose mission is the following, “Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology” this attitude is especially egregious.

All of you are key players in the indie kids’ music world, and we are all affected by attitudes like the one expressed below.

I’m not sure what we can do about this, but I personally plan to write a letter to the CommonsenseMedia board and directors, to see if they’ll reconsider this new policy.

Best regards, and HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all the moms!

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Beth’s Corner # 8

By Beth Blenz-Clucas

Giving the Genre Its Due, Children’s Music is in a Renaissance

Pamela Paul, the new New York Times Book Review children’s books editor, remarked in her introductory editorial, “Children’s literature has entered what many believe to be a new golden age.” She noted that the artistry and creativity in today’s picture books elevates the genre, so that “the best books are for grownups, too.”

It’s clear that children’s music is also in a renaissance, with hundreds of artists across the nation creating music and writing lyrics that rival the best of mainstream music. We often wonder why the New York Times and other mainstream media pay such infrequent attention to this burgeoning genre. It’s an uphill road for family music artists to get any exposure in newspapers, magazines and radio.

Luckily, there’s a whole world of alternative ways for kids’ music artists to build awareness. Kids’ radio shows across the country feature indie children’s music every day. There is no shortage of bloggers who feature the genre regularly (including our own weekly “2 Tunes 2 Ways” posts for Bunchfamily.ca (this week’s guest blogger is Stefan Shepherd of Zooglobble). Occasionally, NPR and major newspapers and magazines give a little attention to “kindie” music, usually surprised to see former rockers who are now making music for kids. When new kids’ CDs do get coverage in traditional media, the reader and listener response is always tremendous (easily trackable via spikes in Amazon.com sales and online responses). Clearly, parents want to know about the alternatives to commercialized music. So, why the continued cold shoulder from music critics and news assignment editors?

New Tunes

Just a sprinkling of the new releases this spring provides proof of the quality in family music today:

Temple Grandin recently wrote to us after hearing Brady Rymer’s forthcoming new album Love Me for Who I Am. She said, “ I really liked it. I hope it gets widely played.” We do too, because of how joyfully Rymer celebrates the little things in life for children of all abilities with these new songs. Five percent of proceeds of the CD sales will benefit Autism Speaks, and additional funds will support the Celebrate the Children school. The students there inspired Brady to write these brilliant and touching new rootsy-rocking songs.

We’re very excited about the May 10th release of the first full-length album from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band. Oh, Lucky Day! evokes the imaginative world of childhood and the emotional connections between parent and child. Mindy Thomas, program director of Sirius Satellite Radio’s Kids Place Live chose this as “the best new kids’ artist of 2010” for USA Today. Oh, Lucky Day! features a performance by latest indie it girl Holly Conlan. Lucky and his band plan CD release concerts in Brooklyn (The Knitting Factory, May 1) and Los Angeles (Hotel Café, May 8). Get a free download of the energizing new song “Here Comes the Sun” here.

The Baby Loves Disco Superhero Tour is well underway, with four public events in Southern California coming up this week and next. Andy Blackman Hurwitz’s Baby Loves Disco: The Soundtrack, produced by King Britt, provides families with an excellent party starter, anytime.

On a quieter note, former Disney artist Craig Taubman releases Celebrate Jewish Lullabies, the latest in his “Celebrate” series. The new album features 14 songs from various artists including. David Broza and The Pop Ups. “This is for the child who still lives in all of us,” says Craig. Featured artist Josh Nelson, who is currently composing for the Broadway musical Sleepless in Seattle, adds, “As a new dad there is no collection of songs I would rather use to put my boys to bed.” Download a free song now from Craig ‘n Co.

Celebrate CINCO de MAYO with Two New Bilingual and Spanish Language Releases

Family music today has a global reach, and the bilingual/Spanish music scene for kids is thriving, as this article in Billboard notes. Sandra Velasquez and her band Moona Luna plan their festive Piñata Party CD release concert at Joe’s Pub in NYC on April 3rd, and over the weekend of April 30-May 1st, the band performs two shows at the L.A. Times Festival of Books at USC. The Target Children’s stage at this free event will also feature Justin Roberts and The Okee Dokee Brothers, for an excellent sampling of the diversity and excellence in family music right now.

The Secret Mountain, the Montreal based purveyor of gorgeously produced and illustrated book-and-CD sets (including Trout Fishing in America’s My Name is Chicken Joe), will publish their first-ever Spanish title on May 15th: Un Pato en Nueva York. The new book and CD set was adapted and translated from Connie Kaldor’s Juno Award winning A Duck in New York City. It’s the story of a little duck from the heartland with a big dream: to dance on Broadway. Noted Uruguayan artist Inés Canépa performs the songs, translated by Yanitiza Canetti (who also translates Dr. Seuss books). The new release premieres in Los Angeles on April 29th at the Feria del Libro en Español (Spanish Book Fair), and at the international book expo in Bologna.

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Beth’s Corner # 7

Sugar Mountain PR

Sugar Mountain PR

By: Beth Blenz-Clucas

Best of 2010 Lists, Holiday Music and 2011 Forecast

The Grammy voters have spoken, and we’re happy to announce that Justin Roberts has won a nomination in the Best Musical Album for Children category, alongside Pete Seeger, They Might Be Giants, the Battersby Duo and Judy Pancoast. Bill Harley also received a well-deserved nomination in the Best Spoken Word Album for Children category. Congratulations to all of the nominees and all of those who have released CDs during this incredible year for family music.

Several “Best of the Year” lists are posting, with more coming soon. There is no lack of helpful sites for locating great music for kids:
Fids and Kamily poll – The critics involved in this poll, modeled on Pazz and Jop, grows every year. This year’s top 10 list includes the heavyweights of indie kids’ music.
Coolmompicks – These moms are indeed cool, particularly the smart and sassy reviewer Christina Refford. The list is worth checking twice.
National Children’s Entertainment – Paula Slade brings a sensitive and smart ear to her picks.
Parents Magazine – This venerable parenting publication teamed up with Commonsensemedia.org to pick their top 10 musical picks.
Parentsconnect – This Nickelodeon site is staffed by some very smart mamas, and they’ve selected a lot of different CDs for their Best of the Year picks.
Time Out NY Kids – super smart dad music aficionado Jeff Bogle picks the best of the year for this fantastic NYC parenting magazine.
Zooglobble – Frequent NPR contributor Stefan Shepherd has been weighing in all year about his picks, and he is choosing his favorites in a few different categories.
Kidzmusic.com – Highly respected reviewer, and former children’s artist performer, John Wood, brings a very unique perspective to his reviews of some of the best children’s music. CDs and downloads can also be purchased at the site.

Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer will be the stars of a Christmas Sing-Along special on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio’s Kids Place Live over the holidays. Beloved DJ/acclaimed musician Robbie Schaefer sings and plays along with the Grammy Award winning duo. Also joining in the holiday hootenanny will be Scottish fiddler Bonnie Rideout and Frank Solivan, plus an amazing 7 year old banjo player named Jesse. The special airs on Kids Place Live (channel 116) several times: Friday, 12/24 6pm PST/9pm EST; Saturday, 12/25 9am EST & 5pm EST; Sunday, 12/26 12pm EST/9am EST

Key Wilde and Mr Clarke have cooked up a couple of new songs for the holidays, to post as a digital download on the Little Monster Records homepage soon. Their rockingly harmonic “Christmas Cheer” and “Silent Night” songs on Sirius-XM Kids Place Live later this month, too.

Meanwhile, the Sugar Free Allstars are making the holidays groovy again with their FREE song download, “Funky Christmas.” Get it here and get your party started.

For more sing-along fun this week and next, check your PBS TV schedules for the Peter Yarrow Sing Along Special, which includes performances by kindie artist Billy Jonas, Keb Mo and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

COMING NEXT YEAR
Smithsonian Folkways legend Ella Jenkins will release a collection of songs from her African-American heritage on February 22nd: Ella Jenkins: A Life in Song.

Tens of thousands of fans have viewed Debbie and Friends’ animated videos based on Debbie’s engaging Story Songs. A new DVD featuring some of the fan favs mixed with live concert scenes will be released in March, and you may preview some of the videos now on the Debbie and Friends Youtube channel.

We were excited to hear the beautifully produced R&B introduction to the instruments from Groove Kid Nation. The Wheels on the Bus, the first CD from this L.A. based indie label, run by musician Rodney Lee, arrives in March.

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