Kindiefest 2010: Own Your [Stuff]

I've launched into a series of posts focusing on the individual artists who showcased at the 2010 edition of Kindiefest, but I thought a few words about what I took away from the conference would be appropriate before getting too far down that path.

If the thread running through last year's conference was that of community, the thread running through this year's conference was that of hard work and committing to the craft of making music for kids and families.

Or, to put it another way, committing to owning your stuff.

Except when we (or at least I) talked about it this weekend, we used an earthier word in place of (but close to) "stuff" that I don't feel comfortable using on the intrawebs. And we (or at least I) used that phrase a lot.

Danny and Sarah and Nori from The Not-Its walking around in their band trademark black and pink outfits? Owning their stuff. Recess Monkey putting together sweet little videos on the cheap? Owning their stuff. Justin Roberts playing a set so awesome that at least a couple other performing artists said that it inspired them to improve their own game and making at least one audience member literally cry? Completely and totally owning his stuff.

As I suggest above, that commitment requires time and attention to detail. The panels this year were, with the exception of my Old School Meets New School panel, technically oriented. And what I saw of the panels suggested that people can't do this lackadaiscally. The panel on videos moderated by Michael Rachap of Readeez brought to life the truism that when it comes to making videos good, fast, and cheap, you can only pick two of them (and nobody suggested dropping "good"). Though I didn't see all of the production panel, what I heard suggested that the producer wasn't necessarily going to make your life easier. Better, hopefully, but you'd be working even harder.

And the distribution panel might have been the biggest cold water splash of them all. Veronica Villarreal from E1 Music said that only 500 of 4,300 Walmarts carry music, of which most of it is TV-based. The Walmarts and Targets of the world are look for you to sell 400-500 CDs per week. Kevin Salem from Little Monster Records was again one of the most quotable folks around, pointing out that the question isn't just (from the artist to the distributor), "What are you doing to get my record into stores?," but also (from the distributor to the artist), "What are you doing to get your record out of the stores?" Said Salem in that regard, "Nothing is as powerful as doing a great show, even if it's for 10 people." In other words, you've got to take your career -- even if it's a part-time one seriously. You have to, yes, own that stuff. (Just like Cathy Fink did in giving her initial comments for the panel while accompanying herself on an electric guitar-styled ukulele.)

My own panel on "Old School Meets New School" was fun, but I'm a poor judge of that, I suppose. It was the only panel that wasn't specifically designed to be nuts-and-bolts. Instead, I viewed it mostly as an opportunity for the more experienced hands on the panel to a) reassure newer folks that this was a valuable path to travel, but b) it wasn't going to be easy. Bill Harley still sets aside an hour a day to write new stuff. That's commitment to the creative side.

Sustaining this Kids New Wave is going to take a lot of hard work and effort. You don't have to do it full time. But whatever time you give to the genre, you're gonna need to give it your full attention. If you don't own your stuff, nobody's going to do it for you.

More thoughts after the jump...
Random thoughts...

-- My nametag just said "Stefan" (no last name), but it turns out that it wasn't because my fame traveled so far only one name was necessary a la Prince or Madonna or Liberace. Just an oversight.

-- Having traveled all the way from Arizona to be at the conference (pretty sure I was the only one there from Arizona), people seeing me kept asking me the same burning question: "Is your name pronounced 'STEF-un' or 'stef-AHN'?" For the record I pronounce it the former, but my mom who named me uses the latter and I honestly don't know how somebody pronounces my name. Unless they call me "STEE-ven," in which case, yes, I notice.

-- Conferences of artists and in the Facebook era can lead to some puzzled looks. Alexandra from Alexandra and the Good Batch without green hair and Gwendolyn without her pigtails both threw me for a loop. Of course, I should talk -- my Facebook page has my face obscured by a lime-green Dan Zanes ukulele. When I went to say hello to Yosi Levin, the fact that I hadn't actually met him in person before slipped my mind. Without the uke in front of my face, it sorta confused him...

-- Heard a lot of release dates, including the release date for the next Secret Agent 23 Skidoo disk. But the most exciting news was that the Elizabeth Mitchell / Suni Paz collaboration is now public knowledge.

-- It was a great time, even if the nearly 300 people there were probably 50 more than the venue could reasonably expect to handle. As a result of the huge crowds, I was sort of forced to choose between committing to the panels or committing to chatting. I spent nearly the entire time talking and still didn't get to meet everyone. I even occasionally got confused (or just couldn't remember things). So, sorry, Dave, I get 300 disks a year and sometimes I get my facts confused and think I got a 2008 album rather than a 2009 album. So if you didn't get a chance to talk to me, drop me a line, happy to say hello.

-- And finally, thanks to Tor, Bill, Stephanie, and Mona, for a great lineup and for keeping that lineup moving in a timely manner. It was (and will be in the future) an excellent weekend.