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.

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?

I’m happy to share a recent two-part article on the Kindie Music Scene that Kyle Bylin wrote for Hypebot. I was incredibly proud to participate in this article along with the top publicist for this genre, Beth Blenz-Clucas of Sugarmountain PR.

The article is pasted below. The original piece can be found here.

Thank you, Kyle Bylin and Hypebot!

__________________________________

December 7, 2010

Recently, I spoke with Debbie Cavalier, who is 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.

Several months back, I wrote about kindie music and Cavalier was kind enough to get in touch with me. To me, kindie music is an opportunity that emerging artists might be interested in. In this interview, Cavalier and Beth Blenz-Clucas share their perspectives on the kindie music scene and provide insight into how the genre, due its young fans, operates a bit differently from the commercial field.

During this period of economic regression, kids music has been rejuvenated with new life and has almost arisen as a counterforce to the state of popular music.

Why do you think kindie music has seen such expansion? What’s the challenge in informing parents that they have these new options?

Debbie Cavalier: I think high-quality kids/family music recordings have always been in existence. Those of us making music today are standing on the strong shoulders of pioneers like Ella Jenkins, Pete Seeger, Shari Lewis, Bob McGrath, Raffi, and many others. There are current pillars in the industry that have been holding the bar up high for quality kids/family music for 25+ years including Bill Harley, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer.

And artists who have been providing quality programming for the past 10 years such as SteveSongs, Dan Zanes, Ralph’s World, Laurie Berkner, Elizabeth Mitchell, Ben Rudnick, and so on. The list truly goes on and on.

Kids/family music is thriving with quality music and production values that are off the charts. And, there are producers like Tor Hyams who are identifying and producing incredible new talent in this genre like 23 Skidoo, Okee Dokee Brothers, Lunch Money, Mr. Stinky Feet and more. (There really are so many more and I apologize to the many kids/family artists not listed here.)

It’s also nice to see so many mainstream artists such as Bare Naked Ladies, They Might Be Giants, and many others who have crossed over to serve this important audience.

Beth Blenz-Clucas: It’s true that there are hundreds of new bands creating great music for kids. Because indie kids’ music is exploding, the challenge now is just cutting through all of the noise that’s out there and finding the best ways to set yourself apart, and connect with new fans. Really, every two years, you have to reach out to a new fan base as kids grow out of the genre.

Parents are actually luckier than ever because of the digital ecology of music culture online. The flowering of the family music genre is a direct result of this brave new world of web-based marketing and social networking. Artists who previously could not find an audience outside of their hometowns are now reaching out and connecting with people all over the world. Debbie’s connection with her animator in Wales is another example of how technology has actually helped her move her career forward.

Hypebot: At best, the state of popular music is quite perplexing—catchy maybe—but it is so limited in its reach, subject matter, and demographic appeal.

Whether you’re tuning into Ke$ha or Taio Cruz, the lyrical emphasis pertains to such small part of the human experience. Songs subjects range from partying, sex, drugs, break-ups, and love, among other difficulties. Unless fans listen to indie music, they’d be hard-pressed to find songs that are about much else.

What makes the artistic constraints of family music so different from the mainstream? How have the subjects that performers tackle even strayed away from those that “kid’s music” normally deals with?

Debbie Cavalier: I don’t think there are constraints aside from age-appropriate vocabulary, melodic ranges and intervals that are comfortable for young growing voices, and subject matter that is relevant to a child’s world.

The sky is the limit related to style, instrumentation, tempo, form, etc. I think the folks at the Children’s Television Workshop have shown us for 40+ years that it’s important to address challenging issues, to validate a child’s experience and to help them to cope. Joe Raposa’s classic song “Being Green” addressed cultural diversity issues for kids dating back to the early 70s. Justin Roberts has a song that deals with the reality of divorce for kids and families. I recently wrote a goodbye song called “Until Next Time” and recorded it as a duet with Bob McGrath from Sesame Street. The song is being used by families to say goodbye to loved ones, pets who have passed, or friends who are moving away.

I’ve also written songs like “Willy Won’t Smile for the Camera” that deal with truly vexing issues in a fun and effective way. It’s enjoyable for the kids and even helps to relieve a little parental stress along the way.

Hypebot: As physical albums have withered and become displaced by digital singles, many artists have been catapulted into the road indefinitely, in hopes of capturing better, more sustainable incomes though touring.

Yet, with this abundance of artists on the road and the difficulties that others are having in gaining traction in overly saturated genres, the path to success in the record and music industries is being redefined.

Emerging artists are now in search of new opportunities and any means through which they can make money and remain creators of art.

Do you foresee kindie music as an enormous opportunity for artists in this climate? What do you think are some of the greatest barriers that prevent new artists from wanting to perform music for children?

Debbie Cavalier: There are no barriers that prevent kids/family artists from “wanting” to perform music for children. Personally, it’s one of my most favorite things to do and I know many of my colleagues in this space feel the same way. Performing for/with a kids/family audience is incredibly fun and rewarding. The kids are active participants in our Debbie and Friends concerts from start to finish! And, CD sales are very strong at shows as well. I think physical CDs will be relevant in kids/family music for many years to come.

It’s a tangible “present” that a parent, grandparent or caregiver can give to a child. I don’t think that will change any time soon. My experience has been that the “iPod” rip happens after the CD purchase. Currently, downloads make up about 10% of our overall music sales for Debbie and Friends. I believe that is true for many kids/family artists. The only barrier to performing live is related to economic challenges for families. Ticketed theater shows can be financially prohibitive for families.

Beth Blenz-Clucas: I agree that the children’s genre is going to continue to be a good one for physical CD sales, at least for the next few years. Kids like to have something to look at and feel – and they make a fun, lasting gift. There are some artists who do see themselves as primarily studio artists.

They don’t perform for kids much (and with a few of them, you wonder if they like children at all!), but the best ones get out there and learn first-hand what works and doesn’t work with their target audience. Interactivity such as what you do in your shows is KEY for this audience. Children learn best experientially, and we know they just have to MOVE.

It’s true that venues are having a hard time right now finding sponsors that will help defray the costs of tickets. Libraries and schools remain the most reliable way for many artists to earn an income.

Hypebot: A major point of discussion in music and record industry circles has been the DIY artist and debate that they can’t do everything themselves.

It’s said that management and music labels will still play a major role in the future of recorded music and live performers. Bundled in with these conversations is the notion that we are moving away from a top-down, winner-takes-all market to one with an increasing number of musicians that exist somewhere in the middle class, making a steady, humble income, but not getting a jet anytime soon.

Based on your involvement with kindie music, do you think many of the artists are DIY? Have any middle class musicians emerged yet?

Debbie Cavalier: I’m not sure of the moniker “Middle Class,” but I do know many kids/family artists that are earning a full-time living in music and always have. I don’t think the demise of the record labels has had a negative impact on kids/family CD sales. Aside from a few household name artists, I don’t think the majors ever truly embraced the kids/family genre whole-heartedly.

I think kids/family artists have been in DIY mode for many, many years; long before the elegant tools of technology became available. Technology has certainly armed musicians with the ability to expand their reach and be more targeted with marketing messages and direct-to-fan campaigns, but in the end I believe it’s still about relationships and connecting with the fan families at shows.

Beth Blenz-Clucas: The artists who get out on the road and perform do indeed manage to earn a livable income. There’s no doubt this genre demands hard work and dedication. You can’t just release a CD and expect sales to come sailing in. You need to pull all the pieces together – a great concept and “brand,” fantastic music that speaks to kids and parents, then it’s all about how you market what you’ve got, via distribution, publicity, promotions, social networking, and live performances.

I’m excited to tell you that our kids/family music group “Debbie and Friends” has been nominated to the top 5 for the Nickelodeon Parents’ Pick Award for Kids’ CD of the Year! WE NEED YOUR VOTES TO WIN!

Please click the link below to register to vote. You can vote once a day through Aug. 30!

Nominated for best kids’ music cd. Vote now!

To hear the music, please visit

Thank you from all of us at Debbie and Friends!

Fan Concert Memories

Jul 11 2010

Debbie and Friends is a kids/family music project I started a few years ago. The project has grown and it’s been great fun and extremely rewarding. The concerts are all about interacting with the kids and families at our shows. The following is a “thank you” slideshow I put together for our fan families to show my appreciation for their support. They are at the heart of our success. I think the same keepsake can be done for fans of any genre.


What kinds of memory keepsakes have you put together for your band’s fanbase?

You outta be in pictures! In fact, as a performing musician in today’s self-promoting, DIY world, every one of your shows should be photographed and everyone who is there supporting your music should be included. Take pictures of your fans having a great time at your show. You should also have pictures taken of the band performing, the crowd interacting, the sound man, the club manager, the show poster on the door, the waitresses… everyone! (Of course, if you do children’s music, it’s important to secure the proper permissions before taking pictures of your audience.) Then, immediately after each show, follow up with everyone who was there using the pictures from the gig for viral marketing!

There are several web-based applications, such as Flickr, that will provide storage for your images online, and easy-to-use tools that enable you to share your memories with fans through your email newsletters, and Web sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Reverbnation, and your band’s own Web site.

Before you know it, your fans will link to the images from within their own personal blogs and social networking sites, and your gig pictures will quickly become viral marketing vehicles, making more and more people aware of your music!

With Flickr, you can upload pictures, add descriptions, links, and keyword tags, and then organize them into “Sets.” Here’s a link to my gig Sets on Flickr. A screen capture of my gig Sets page is presented below. Notice, each Set is focused on a particular show.

Picture 10

Each thumbnail image above leads to a Flickr Set page. Here is a link to a Set of pictures from a recent Debbie and Friends gig at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, MA. The Set contains 17 pictures. Interesting to note that even though I only sent the link to a handful of people, the gig Set has been viewed 290 times on Flickr as of this article’s writing. The hits came from link-sharing and viral marketing efforts by a few fans. Nice!

You can add descriptions and thank you messages to the fans as a way to personalize your gig picture Sets, along with a link to drive traffic to your band’s site, after the images have been enjoyed. See an example of this below.

Picture 9

Here’s a quick, step-by-step list on how to get started using Flickr for your band’s gig memories.

1. Create a Flickr account. There are free- and fee-based versions available, depending on your needs. You will also need a Yahoo email account to create a Flickr account.
2. Log into your account.
3. Upload pictures.
4. Edit your pictures with comments and tags.
5. Organize your pictures into sets.
6. Spread the word: embed the set page link into your email newsletter and on your Web site(s).

There are many more features to explore on Flickr. To learn more, take the tour at http://www.flickr.com/tour

Sharing pictures after a gig is a great way to help build community with your fans and provide tools that enable them to share their excitement about your music with others.

You really outta be in pictures!

You landed the gig!

In order for your show to be a huge success, there is a lot of work to do be done. Whether you play in a steady band or have a roster of musicians you call upon for different types of shows, the logistics and communication needed to pull it all together can be immense. The band leader in charge of making it all happen has to communicate with the players, the sound/light people, the booking agent, the club manager, the promoter, media contacts, fans, street team, etc.

If you are in charge of organizing your band’s gigs, Basecamp is about to make your job a lot easier. I call it “gig management software” because it works so well in that capacity. But really, Basecamp is a web-based project management application useful for all kinds of projects from shopping lists and vacation planning, to Web development, and the planning of a new business. Personally, I have found Basecamp to be the perfect solution for managing the logistics and communication for my growing list of Debbie and Friends gigs. Basecamp has made my gig management responsibilities so efficient that I wanted to share my experience with other musicians.

Basecamp provides a platform for communication. You can share everything anyone needs to know about an upcoming gig within the program including rehearsals, set up and sound check, directions, parking, load-in, stage plot, set list, dress, promotion, email campaigns, travel arrangements, guest lists, CD and merch sales, and more. Before discovering Basecamp, I used to manage these elements via email and phone. I found myself sending and resending the same information to the various parties involved in the gig right up to the day of the show. It was an unwieldy amount of information that inevitably led to miscommunication and a lot of extra work for everyone involved. As my gig calendar began to grow, and the logistics became more intense, it became clear that I needed a Web-based solution. Basecamp does all that I hoped for and more.

The best way to see all that Basecamp can do is to view their audio/video tour.
While it’s true that you can do the same kind of project management with Wikis, Google Apps shared documents, and other web-based applications, I personally like the turn-key, templated approach in Basecamp. And, my band members are very happy with the adoption of this program. It truly makes gig management, communication, and planning much easier for everyone.

In a word, Basecamp completely rocks! For more information on how to use Basecamp for gigs, click here.

In fact, as a performing musician in today’s self-promoting, DIY world, every one of your shows should be photographed and everyone who is there supporting your music should be included. Take pictures of your fans having a great time at your show, the band performing, the soundman, the club manager… EVERYONE! Then, use your concert pictures as a viral marketing tool!

There are several web-based applications, such as flickr, that will provide storage for your images online, and easy-to-use tools that enable you to share your memories with fans through your email newsletters and Web sites.

Before you know it, your fans will link to the images from within their own blogs and social networking sites, and your gig pictures will quickly become viral marketing vehicles, making more and more people aware of your music!!

Here is an example of a set of pictures from a recent “Debbie and Friends” show. Interesting to note that even though I sent the Flickr link to only a handful of people, the page has been viewed 130 times on flickr as of this post’s writing. The hits came from link-sharing and viral marketing efforts by a few enthusiastic fans.

Sharing pictures after a gig is a great way to help build community with your fans and provide tools that enable them to share their excitement about your music with others.

You really outta be in pictures! More information can be found here.

iMix for Promotion

Oct 27 2007

How can you put your music in front of people who are searching for better-known artists of your genre? Create an iMix with their music and yours combined!

What is an iMix? Think of it as a playlist that you share with the entire iTunes community. It’s designed to help the listener, but it is also a wonderful promotional vehicle for artists.

I am a children’s music artist under the name of Debbie and Friends and have a new CD that needs some buzz. Part of my marketing strategy includes creating iMixes that combine my music with better established, highly-searched children’s music artists that, like me, cater to the pre-school demographic.

Here is my first kid’s music iMix (my songs are listed on tracks 4, 7, and 12):

Higher-rated iMixes get more visibility, so it’s important to send it to as many folks as possible! For example, promote the iMix link on your blog… ; )

I’ll report back on the results after a few weeks. In the meantime, I’d love to know how some of you are planning to use iMixes to promote your music.

Good luck!