I receive a lot of CDs every week, some good, some bad, but not so many DVDs. I expect DVDs to become a much bigger deal in the world of kids' music here in the next couple years as artists look to connect with their audience in multiple ways, beyond just recorded music and concerts. It's also a way to help artists develop more of an identity nationally. (It's also a way to generate additional revenue, but that would be a rather crass way of putting it, I suppose.)
For the moment, however, the number of DVDs is still more accurately a trickle rather than a flood. Musicians Jim Cosgrove and Eric Ode each released a DVD relatively recently, and it's worth a glance to see the results of some of the early settlers of the kids' music DVD field.
Missouri-based musician Jim Cosgrove has a fanbase of some sort, as a few of his fans have written me over the past couple years asking me to check out his music. Cosgrove has released six kids' CDs and this DVD, Mr. Stinky Feet's Road Trip Live, was released earlier this year. It was distributed by Jack Records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers and the same label releasing comedy records by Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy.
I wish I could say that I understood what draws people to Cosgrove, but this 30-minute DVD, which is a filmed "live" performance (it appears to be specifically for the DVD), does him no favors. Only a few of the songs, such as "Little Red Wagon," generate any interest on repeated hearings. Perhaps kids might enjoy shouting "P.U.!" over and over in "Stinky Feet," but it gets tiring quickly. And Cosgrove's lengthy banter is mostly limited to explaining what people should be doing to interact with their songs. I'm not opposed to between-song banter, but it just seemed labored compared to, say, Trout Fishing in America, who could probably release a whole album of quality between-song banter.
Songs are targeted at kids ages 2 through 6. If you need to see for yourself, you can watch "Put Down the Binky" here. But I've just completely missed the Jim Cosgrove boat. I'm sure those of you who think I'm wrong will tell me exactly why...
Washington-based Eric Ode also has a number of kids' CDs (five) to his credit, plus a bunch of poetry anthologies. He released Welcome to the Workshop late last year.
I don't think this DVD works great, either, though I like it more than the Cosgrove DVD. It misses the mark not so much because the songs aren't good -- some of the songs, like "This Song Has No Elephants" and the rocking "Trash Can," are quite good. In this case, the quality of the 35-minute DVD itself doesn't always reflect quality of the songs. The video is a combination of interlude bits with a cat puppet named Scratch and videos of varying quality. The sound on the interlude bits sometimes drops way out, while the videos range from decent ("Trash Can" and "Worms," for example, could be in-show bits on some PBS show) to not very good ("Corner of a Cloud" is pretty boring).
This is one of the better videos and songs, the very meta "This Song Has No Elephants." If you don't like this, then you're definitely not going to like the rest of the DVD.
If you think Eric Ode smiles a lot in that video, you're right. The entire DVD is like that -- Ode is nothing if not genial. It's a completely safe DVD and songwriting approach, and so parents and kids looking for a bit of an edge, any edge, will probably find this too safe. It's probably most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 8.
Even though I can't really recommend Welcome to the Workshop, I think it shows promise for future DVD releases by Ode and his compatriots. And fans of Ode's CD output will probably find it a pleasant visual accompaniment.
But I think the bar for kids' music DVD releases, if not high now, probably will be considerably higher the next time both Cosgrove and Ode release a DVD.