ECS

What an honor it was for Debbie and Friends to participate in Berklee’s Early Childhood Symposium on April 9, 2012. The symposium was sponsored by Berklee’s Music Education Dept, under the leadership of Dr. Cecil Adderley, and included presentations and performances by Paul Reisler, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, and Debbie and Friends. It was a very special day with Berklee students, faculty, staff, and lots of families from the greater Boston area all focused on making music together.

Here’s a picture of Berklee’s Music Ed Majors on stage with Debbie and Friends having a great time with the kids and families in attendance. This was particularly special to me being an alumna of that program.

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Debbie and Friends with Berklee’s Music Ed Majors

Berklee constantly strives to be a great place to learn, teach, and work. Events like the Early Childhood Symposium are just one more example of this.

The following is an example of a fan engagement activity within the context of an email-for-media campaign. This idea is consistent with the marketing concepts covered in Mike King’s Online Music Marketing course with Berkleemusic.

Debbie and Friends has a new song/cartoon entitled “When You Were One.” The song celebrates a child’s life and special moments from ages 1-5. Here’s a link to our YouTube channel where the song is featured.

After receiving several requests from our fan families, we made the mp3 available to our to use as a soundtrack for their own family movies and slideshows. See the download link below.

We also encouraged folks to post their movies to YouTube with a hash tag #WYW1 so we can see their creations! The results are TBD. For now, the responses have been very positive.

Here’s a link to the campaign.

How have you used media for fan engagement? Please share your thoughts.

On Saturday morning, March 24, Debbie and Friends performed a show at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, MA (just outside of Boston). Our five-piece band performed songs and had a great time interacting with the kids and families in the audience; including many Berkleemusic families.

Many of you know Berkleemusic as the award-winning online school where you study with musicians from all around the world, learn from Berklee faculty, and connect with our advisors and customer service folks for support. You may not be aware that Berkleemusic is comprised of a staff of nearly 50 people, all of whom are passionate about music and the work we do to provide music education opportunities to musicians all over the world. And, most of the staff are musicians, too.

The show on Saturday included guest performances by two of my Berkleemusic colleagues: Milan Kovacev and Luke Stevens.

The following is a picture of Milan Kovacev—Berkleemusic’s Director of Interactive Marketing—joining us on bass. Milan is also the creative force behind Hipson Music and Clash of Civilizations.

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Milan Kovacev with Debbie & Friends

Also joining Debbie and Friends that morning was Luke Stevens, our Web Software Developer. Luke plays a mean Ukelele (among other things) and has been known to lead office jam sessions from time to time when he’s not working on improving the online learning environment for our students.

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Luke Stevens with Debbie and Friends

Berklee really is a great place to learn, teach and work. I’m happy to introduce you to some of the many folks who help to make it so.


Exciting news!

Debbie and Friends has a song on an album that was nominated for a 2011 Grammy Award in the Children’s Music Category! “Walk Away” is our song on the anti-bullying compilation called All About Bullies Big And Small. It is one of five nominees for Best Children’s Album this year! The winner will be announced at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards Ceremony on Feb. 12.

Here’s the cartoon music video version of our song that is on the nominated CD.

Debbie and Friends is working on our first-ever Christmas song called “Santa & Baby.” The song’s groove is inspired by the Spin Doctors and the song itself inspired by this picture of my friend’s dog named Baby.

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Baby! Photo by Beth Oram Photography.

Our friends at Planet Sunday are hard at work on the cartoon version while my producer, Michael Carrera and I finish up the production of the recording. Below is an “animation rough” also known as a storyboard. The finished version of this cartoon music video will be ready in time for Christmas 2011.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we always like to give our fan families an inside view as what’s in the works with Debbie and Friends!

Enjoy the (preproduction) story of “Santa & Baby”!

Following up on the previous post… here is the “Wendell” cartoon by Debbie and Friends.

Today more than ever, video is an essential way to break through the noise and reach new fans with your music. For Debbie and Friends, cartoon music videos are a great vehicle for this.

I’m always pleasantly surprised to learn that families from all over the world discover Debbie and Friends music every day through our YouTube channel and various cable outlets.

Many of our songs are based on classic tales, and therefore well suited for visual presentation. Some of our songs, however, are not based on stories and I was always convinced those songs were not good candidates for video. “Wendell,” for example, is a cumulative movement song about a boy who finds a toy Robot. The Robot adds a new physical challenge with each verse. It’s fun, but I couldn’t imagine it as a video. My amazing animator, Goichi Hirata from Planet Sunday, had another idea. He suggested that we approach it differently than the others and tell the story from the perspective of Wendell’s imagination. For children, the Robot can represent hope and a doorway to, literally and figuratively, scaling walls and overcoming life’s obstacles. Needless to say, I was thrilled with Goichi’s idea and excited to move forward with the project!

To further fan engagement and help with some decisions about the piece, we even hosted a “pick Wendell’s hair color” poll on Facebook. (Purple won) Here are some initial images Goichi designed for the cartoon.

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Wendell finds the Toy Robot.
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Wendell and the Robot flying.
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Wendell and the Robot at the Toy Fair parade.

And, here’s the storyboard version of the animation.

The “Wendell” cartoon music video will be finished in June. I feel so fortunate to be able to work with such talented and creative people as Goichi Hirata and Greg David at Planet Sunday.

How have you used video to expand the reach of your music-related projects?

Debbie and Friends is hard at work on our new DVD to be released on March 29, 2011.

On December 18, we performed a live action concert shoot for the DVD at Berklee’s CAFE 939 with 100 of our fan families. The following is a fun “Outtakes Video” featuring some special moments from that day.

The families that were part of the shoot are thrilled to be part of our new release, and I couldn’t be happier to have them included. Making your fans part of your products is just another level of fan engagement. Do you have examples of engaging your fan in this way? Please post your stories and ideas.

Happy Holidays!

I’m pleased to share a piano method booklet for children that I developed with my Grandfather, Marty Gold. Marty is a wonderful musician who has enjoyed an amazing career in music. In fact, he’s the reason I became a musician. Recently, he told me about a piano “tent” he created to help kids learn the names of notes on a music staff. The story goes that Nabisco was going to put one in every cereal box back in the 1950s, and then pulled the project for fear there were not enough pianos in US homes. We decided to do the project together and make it available to friends of “Debbie and Friends.”

The following widget has a download link for a free copy of the Learning to Play Piano book and piano tent PDF files. A printed version of the book will be available soon. In the meantime, please let me know how the tent and method book are for your children!

Special thanks to Robert Heath of Barkley Studios for designing the keyboard tent, Greg David of Planet Sunday for the cover art image, and Shawn Girsberger for the book layout and design. What a dream team!!!

And, for the adults out there interested in learning to play the piano, I highly recommend the Berklee Keyboard Method online. Classes start Jan. 8.

All the best,

-Debbie

The following is part two of the Kindie Music article that Kyle Bylin wrote for Hypebot. The article is pasted below. The original piece can be found here.

Thank you again, Kyle Bylin and Hypebot!

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December 8, 2010

This is part two of my interview segment with Debbie Cavalier, who’s a children’s entertainer and vocalist for Debbie and Friends, a kindie music group. She’s also Dean of Continuing Education and Chief Academic Officer at Berklee College of Music. Joining Cavalier in this interview is Beth Blenz-Clucas. She’s the founder of Sugarmountain PR, a firm that specializes in raising awareness children’s and family-friendly music. In this interview, Cavalier and Beth Blenz-Clucas talk about the challenges of marketing kindie music and reaching a younger audience.

Hypebot: The traditional way of marketing music has been to slam as many artists against a wall, see what sticks, and then try everything to get that those particular artists to reach critical mass. Through MTV, in store promotion, and massive radio campaigns, major labels attempted to break through the clutter.

How does marketing children’s music differ from other genres? How are artists today connecting with parents and giving them reasons to buy?

Debbie Cavalier: I think there are a lot of similarities in marketing kids/family music to the commercial fare.

In addition to being the Dean of Continuing Education at Berklee, I also consider myself a student because I am constantly learning from our innovative online curricula at Berkleemusic.com with such online courses as Music Marketing: Press, Promotion, Distribution, and Retail, Online Music Marketing: Campaign Strategies, Social Media, and Digital Distribution, The Future of Music and the Music Business, Music Industry Entrepreneurship, Online Music Marketing with Topspin, and more. I’m fortunate to work with the likes of David Kusek, Michael King, George Howard, and so many others who are at the top of their game in the area of music marketing today.

As a result, I use Topspin for direct-to-fan marketing campaigns and direct sales (you can see examples of this on our home page and music page). Facebook and Twitter are effective communication and community-fostering tools, as is our monthly email newsletter. We have a presence on myspace, but I don’t think that expands our reach too much these days. Our live performances are our best means for fostering strong connections with our fan families and I use the tools previously mention to stay in touch.

Online social media and marketing tools certainly do help to expand our reach. Indeed, there are schools in Brazil and the UK that listen to our music and watch our cartoon music videos but would never have heard of Debbie and Friends if it weren’t for my YouTube Channel or my Topspin campaigns. That being said, the fan families that are most excited about Debbie and Friends are the ones who have seen us in concert and attend show after show, bring their friends, retweet our messages, share concert photos, videos, etc.

Beth Blenz-Clucas: You have it, Debbie. With children’s music, it’s all about direct connections with the fans. Parents need to know that your music will appeal to their kids and that they’ll learn something from it. Kids love it when they get a hug or a shout out from their favorite performers.

Hypebot: Direct-to-fan platforms empower artists by putting the tools to distribute, market, and monetize their music in their hands.

What are the challenges that kindie artists face in attempting to cut out the middlemen and go direct-to-parents?

Debbie Cavalier: I think I answered this in the other questions, however, I will say that the parents of the families that come to our shows are young (certainly younger than I am!). They are technically savvy and are most comfortable staying connected to Debbie and Friends via Facebook, etc. Email is also a great way to communicate with our fan families. I build email lists at my concerts and fine-tune my newsletter outreach so that it’s effective, but hopefully not annoying.

Do the music consumption habits in the kindie music audience differ from those that are affecting the record industry? How are artists designing experiences that appeal to both the younger audience and their parents?

Debbie Cavalier: I believe kids/family artists have always strived to create musical experiences that appeal to the whole family: kids and their parents/caregivers. Indeed, I only want to write, record, and perform music that appeals to me in addition to the kids and families in our audience.

Regarding consumption habits, as I mentioned in an earlier question, digital downloads make up just 10% of Debbie and Friends’ music sales. A physical CD is a tangible “gift” that parents, grandparents and caregivers give to my audience. Kids/family music purchases are not direct to fan, but rather direct to caregivers of our fans. I believe over time we’ll see a decline in physical sales, but for now, it’s strong. Post concert sales are always strong and online sales of physical CDs are consistently strong for Debbie and Friends. I believe the same is true for my colleagues in the field.

Hypebot: I’ve been a songwriter for a number of years and if you told me to write a song for kids my first take would be to try to talk about eating your veggies, brushing your teeth, or just, you know, things kids can relate to.

Do we wrongly assume that kids music should be about these subjects?

Debbie Cavalier: That’s exactly why our genre gets a bad rap in some circles, Kyle! Kids/family music doesn’t need to be simple. Again, the songs “Rainbow Connection” and “Being Green” have resonated with kids (and adults) for 40 years. Those songs have very interesting melodies, complex chord progressions, and strong lyrical phrases.

They are about complex and important topics such as diversity, self-esteem, and acceptance even though the target audience for those songs is preschool. Quality music and high production values are what matter most. The messages/lyrics need to be age appropriate, of course, but never dummed down. You’ll know the minute you start to share a song with kids if you’ve hit the mark!

Beth Blenz-Clucas: I agree. If you think of the children’s songs that have the most staying power – Peter Yarrow’s “Puff the Magic Dragon,” or Raffi’s “Baby Beluga,” they tell a funny or compelling story. Look at the old nursery rhymes and songs. They all have something deeper going on. Kids are people too – just littler! They think and dream all the time.