Tor Hyams: The Richard Branson of Kids Music

When I interviewed Tor Hyams a couple years ago at the Austin Kiddie Limits stage at the Austin City Limits Festival, it was clear he was thinking about how kids music could expand. And now, just like Richard Branson turned his Virgin empire into a fairly wide-ranging affair, Hyams is now doing lots of different kids music-related stuff.

First, he's going to host an hour of radio on Kids Place Live, featuring "America's best indie rock for kids and families." Hyams will be joined by Ziggy Marley "as they talk about life, family, Ziggy's brand-new kids CD and offer a special tribute to everyone's Mother Earth!" (Yeah, that's PR language for you.) Anyways, it airs Friday 4/17 at 11pm ET/8pm PT, Saturday 4/18 at 9am & 5pm ET (6am & 2pm PT), and Sunday at noon ET/9am PT.

But there are a couple more interesting aspects...

First, his website says he's going to be a judge for the NAPPA awards. Seeing as John Wood has done those awards for what seems like forever (I think he basically founded the music awards), this is a fairly tectonic shift, akin to replacing Johnny Carson with Dave Letterman. (Oh, wait, that didn't actually happen. But you get my point.) Nothing is official on the NAPPA website (they don't have their 2009 judges list posted), but that's a big deal.

And an even bigger deal is his newly-created label Happiness Records, which features a distribution deal with E1 Entertainment. Besides re-releasing the A World of Happiness compilation Hyams produced, his new "Kidzapalooza Kollection" will feature songs from folks who've played the Kidzapalooza and Austin Kiddie Limits stages (the Kidzapalooza Collection Vol. 1 edit: Tor reports below it's now just Kidzapalooza Vol. 1, no "Kollection"), and new albums from the School of Rock All Stars and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo.

Now, I must say that I don't quite see the market for a collection of songs from (comparatively) unheard bands slapped with a Kidzapalooza label. Don't get me wrong -- it'll be a fine compilation. I just don't think it'll sell well. (And spelling "Collection" with a "K" is almost as bad as pluralizing with a "Z," though the Kidzapalooza name has a relatively long-lived history.) But releasing an album by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and hopefully giving it better distribution? That is first-rate.

If Hyams starts ballooning around the world, though, then I think it may be time to stage an intervention.