Welcome to Brooklyn, home of Kindiefest, the annual confab of kids musicians, writers, radio folks, promoters, bookers, and other folks trying to figure out where they fit into this new universe. I've already given you my thoughts on the weekend's big takeaways, the Saturday industry artists' showcase, and the Sunday public concert. My comments below are mostly a notebook dump -- that is, if the notebook were my brain. I need to get this out of my brain and onto paper (sort of) so I can move on and do more awesome stuff.
First, props go out once again Stephanie, Tor, Bill, and Mona for putting on this conference. They seemed much more relaxed this year than last, so we'd actually see them throughout the weekend, maybe even enjoying themselves. If there were glitches, they were minor (sound problems before Aaron Nigel Smith's set) or well-hidden. It left more time for conversing instead of worrying what sort of weird thing would crop up.
That's them at the registration table on Friday evening, by the way. I think that might have been the most stressed they appeared to me all weekend.
I hadn't previously mentioned the Friday evening keynote from SiriusXM cut-up/high-level manager Kenny Curtis, who gave a pep talk to the crowd about the value of kids music, complete with bingo cards. (The trick? Identify phrases on the bingo cards and shout "Bingo!" when bingo was, in fact, achieved. That was in the middle of one giant schmooze-fest that essentially ran from 6 pm or so 'til past midnight for some of us. I forgot until I got there how much talking I end up doing. Pretty good for a shy guy like myself.
Nor have I previously mentioned the Saturday day panels. I tend to find panels at conferences -- regardless of subject area/purpose -- to be less essential. (You won't be surprised to hear that I find the brick-by-brick community-building resulting from personal interaction more valuable.) I'm a poor judge of the value of the panels, because I either know most of this stuff or it doesn't apply to me as a writer (I'm sure the tech panel was great, but it was useless for me). Having said that, you didn't need to be a musician to appreciate (or enjoy or laugh during) the social media panel moderated by the self-deprecating Jeff Bogle and featuring folks like Jonathan Coulton and Ashley Albert from The Jimmies.
I had originally pressed Bill to get food trucks at Littlefield because, y'know, food trucks. But it is Park Slope, and no small number of restaurants were only a block or two away. We went twice to Babouche for Moroccan food. Mmmm.... tagine... But if you can't have food trucks, you can at least have ice cream from Mister Softee. Thanks, Deb, for the ice cream. I totally owe you one.
I also wish I had brought running shoes and shorts, because I walked around Prospect Park on Sunday morning when it was closed to car traffic, and I was very much wanting to take a Sunday morning run around the park. Oh well. Next year. (That walk to the Park was also when I much more fully understood the derivation of Park Slope's name.)
Again, I can't stress enough the value (and fun) of socializing with other over the weekend. Not in a "I'm gonna pitch you" sort of way, which is sort of awkward, and not all that useful. But it takes a certain sort of person who wants to write (or play or write about) kids music, a certain perspctive on the world, and when you get two folks together like Robbie Schaefer and Billy Kelly, they're probably going to enjoy each other's company. (Also, "Where is the Turtle Wax? Where is the Turtle Wax?".) The best conversations I had all weekend just involved hearing others' dreams and aspirations and concerns, sharing what they did or what they (or I) hoped to do. Also, making fun of Bill's meal.
In the end, I'm going to leave you with a couple other memories.
1) I was talking with someone where we both agreed that we didn't like hearing the phrase "I didn't have time to do [X]." What that phrase really means is that "I didn't prioritize [X] highly enough." If you want to do something badly enough, then just do it, recognizing that that may mean sacrificing something else. There are so few rules in this genre and community right now, that anything you want to try is worth taking a shot. If it succeeds financially, awesome, but if it doesn't (so long as it doesn't bankrupt you), did it succeed artistically?
2) I flew home on JetBlue, which offers some SiriusXM stations, including Kids Place Live. I listened to it a bit, and happened to catch Frances England's "Place In Your Heart," a song that features Mates of State. I almost choked up a bit, because here was someone who less than six years ago decided to record an album as a preschool fundraiser. She spoke (or, rather, sang and played) from the heart and now has a song that features, well, Mates of State. Things like that take a bit of luck, but they mostly take guts and doing things that are true to who you are. That's what the family music genre needs to do. If everyone involved does that, then we -- musicians, writers, the audience -- will come out just fine.