05 May 2009

Waxing Poetic About Family Music

Now that STINK Fest 2009 has come and gone (and changed it's name) and I've had a few wide-eyed hours to reflect on the experience I must say that I couldn't be more pleased to be considered a spoke in the wheel of the Family Music genre/industry/business (call it what you will). I'm calling it a community. One ripe with ideas, creativity, diversity, potential and common-good desires.

I was a part of the indie rock scene in the mid-90's. This was post-internet, but pre-iTunes, Napster and (importantly, for impulse purchases, pre-Paypal). One of the coolest parts of being a small, start up label back then was the sense that there was a large swatch of folks willing and able to help, dole out advice and essentially do anything they could to aid you in successfully joining them at the table. I still remember, vividly, a phone call I placed to Kim Coletta (then of the band Jawbox and owner of Desoto Records). I had just started MindWalk and wanted someone's ear to bend about decisions I was making with selecting a vinyl pressing plant, obtaining distro and such. She didn't rebuff my inquiries and once left a message on my parents answering machine whilst I was still under their roof (I still find that last point funnier than it probably was). I wonder if this story is possible in today's rock and roll world.

I was reminded of my music experience of dozen years ago while I listened to Dan Zanes talk about his entry into family music. He relayed stories in which he called up Tom Chapin and other vets of the genre, out of the blue, to pick their brains about how to break into the scene. And they answered the calls and lent him advice. Amazing.

I'm happy to report that, even in the cynical/jaded/narcissistic age in which we live, that feeling of togetherness and helpfulness remains alive and well in the family music space. Abundant evidence of this was on display for nearly 11 hours on Saturday at STINK Fest. Instead of feeling any sense of competition bloggers spoke of future plans, artists swapped stories about gigs and PR folks talked strategy for breaking their acts nationally.

The phone calls that Zanes and I made years ago would likely be replaced by an email, Facebook message or Tweet these days but the goal and the impact holds.

We are living in the Golden Age of Family Music. Perception about kid's music is slowly but most certainly changing. With cooperation and information-sharing levels as high as they are right now the Little Genre That Could will continue to flourish and gain legitimacy.

Just as I was in my early 20's, I'm honored and truly excited to be a member of such an amazing collective. You can continue to count on OWTK to bring you closer to the world of kiddie rock and family music in the months and years ahead. To quote Mos Def "We are alive in amazing times."



Jim Cosgrove said...

Right on, Jeff! We're all in this together. We were exhausted and energized by the day, and we're excited about watching this strong community thrive and grow. Keep up the good work. Cheers!

David Tobocman said...

The fact about we makers of indie kids music is that we're all in the same boat, trying to bring down barriers and break into a vast but pretty rigidly controlled corporate marketplace. Every time an independent succeeds, a brick in the wall is loosened. There's SO MUCH quality and fun creativity bubbling just under the surface in kids music today, I really feel we're on the edge of a new era, if we can all just push hard enough. We all play a big part, bigger than we know... you too, Jeff. Love the blog. Keep it up! Great meeting you in person, and so many others at Stinkfest too. Hooray for the indies!

ma and pa otter said...

As newcomers to the kids and family music scene I have been amazed how kind and positive everyone is...even Dan Zanes himself. When I sent out an e-mail and a copy of our new CD to him on a whim...just because he has been part of our family musical history since my daughter was born 11 years ago...I immediatly got an e-mail back saying, "there's nothing better than a family band" and wishing us luck. What a supportive community I have discovered!