As many of you know, I have a kids/family project called Debbie and Friends. One of the most rewarding aspects is interacting with our fan families and making them proactive contributors to our overall plans, including song and video production.

A recent example is “casting” the part of the fairy for our new song about Cinderella. We offered up half a dozen “fairy” characters for our fan families to weigh in on and we received more than 100 enthusiastic votes!

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The Fairy Godfather won. We are having a great time working on his lines! The song and the cartoon are currently in production.

Here’s a “sneak preview” into the music and animation (currently in development) that we recently shared with our fan families via Facebook and our Kids’ Music blog.

Our fan families are always part of our new product development process from start to finish. This kind of engagement not only furthers our relationship, but also makes for a better product!

The final version will be released in December.

No matter the genre, fan engagement is important! What are some of the ways you involve your fans?

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Debbie & Friends in Concert with Video.

As a kid’s/family performing group, Debbie and Friends are always looking for new ways to actively engage our audience. A typical D&F concert includes our fan families doing everything from starting up the band with a clapping beat, to fixing rhymes, playing the “Simon Says” song game, dancing, singing, and interacting with all five members of the band.

Our good friend and booking agent for the Midwest region, Jeni Cosgrove, challenged us to find a way to to incorporate our animated cartoons into our live show format. It sounded like great fun so we decided to give it a try!

How?
First, we created a version of one of our cartoon music videos without recorded music. Then, we added a click track. During the performance, the click track is sent to our drummer, Bill D’Agostino’s wireless earphones so that he can lock in with the click and remain in sync with the video from start to finish. The band plays along with Bill so that we are all in sync playing, singing and dancing along with the video.

The Result?
The families in our audience LOVE it! And we do, too. In addition to adding a multimedia dimension to our show, we’re promoting our music video catalog and visits to our Web site, You Tube channel, and Jitterbug.tv. The cartoons all contain movement parts, so the families in our audience continue to be active participants throughout the show.

I highly recommend giving live performance with a music video a try! (Thanks Jeni!) I’d love to hear from other bands doing this sort of thing. Please share your experience.

The following is our “Little Red Riding Hood” animated music video. This is one of the animated music videos that families sing and dance along with during our shows.

It’s an exciting time to be a musician. There are so many new channels of distribution, new formats, and new delivery options that can help you expose your music to potential fans. I have found animated music videos to be an excellent platform for reaching new fans and reconnecting with existing ones.

The three main ingredients needed to produce an animated music video are:

1. A fully produced song that lends itself to visual representation. Although the example that follows is for children/family music, animation can work for any genre or age demographic.

2. A graphic designer to create compelling characters and imagery.

3. An animator who can storyboard the project and create the animation.

The entire process can take 6 to 12 weeks.

Start with a Song
All Debbie and Friends’ animated music videos are based on the original songs that we perform from our CD, Story Songs and Sing Alongs. The final mastered version of the song is used for preproduction planning purposes only. The audio mix is somewhat different in the animated feature to best support the visuals.

Our most recent animated music video was based on our “Jack and the Beanstalk” story song.

Jack and the Beanstalk by DebbieandFriends

Main Character Design
A creative brief is sent to the designer, Robert Heath at Barkley Studios who designs the main characters and elements of the story.

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“Jack and the Beanstalk” main characters by Rob Heath.

Backgrounds and Scenes
Next, the designers and animators at Planet Sunday create backgrounds and scenes to support the characters and the overall storyline.

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Jack and the cow.
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The Giant taking a nap.

Storyboard Sketch
Once the characters and background scenes are developed, a storyboard movie is created putting rough action sketches to music. We typically do two or three iterations of the storyboard movie before locking it down and going into production on the final movie.

“Easter Eggs”
Al Hirschfeld, the visual artist best known for his cartoon-like line renditions of musicians and actors, always hid his daughter’s name “Nina” in his artwork. Along this line, all Debbie and Friends’ music videos have a “Spider” that drops down and makes a brief cameo at some point during our cartoons. It’s become a fun activity for our fan families to “find the spider” and write to tell me where it is. This is another example of how the music videos help us stay connected with our fans.

Final Movie
The finished movie is uploaded to our You Tube channel and related children’s music video sites such as jitterbug.tv and totlol.com. They are promoted to our fan families via our Debbie and Friends email newsletter, Facebook posts, and blog posts, etc.

The animated music video becomes a viral marketing tool as our fan families share the links and embed codes with their friends. The videos have proven to be great market research tools as well. We are receiving lots of requests to turn the music videos into a DVD product that can be played at home or in the car. Individual music video downloads can be made available to purchase as well. And, the animated music videos can serve as licensing vehicles for film and TV placements.

Indeed, it’s an exciting time to be a musician!