Kindiefest, Schmindiefest

Kindiefest is over, but the memories linger on.  Did we have a great time?  Yeah.  But I always come back from Brooklyn with ideas of how I wish my Kindiefest experience had been different.

Don't get me wrong - I think Kindiefest is pretty darn great as it is; to make changes is akin to pulling a thread in a bulky sweater -- doing so would unravel the whole enterprise.  So consider these add-on suggestions, from somewhat serious to slightly less so.

KindieCamp: There is a big opportunity for musicians who are expert in a particular area to share that expertise with others in a concentrated format, far more than a 60-minute panel or even 2-hour chat can do.

Would it be possible, for example, to have a video camp with Recess Monkey?  Tell a dozen artists to bring an idea for a video, a camera of some sort for capturing video, and a computer of some sort for editing video to Seattle for 48 hours.  For a relatively low cost -- $1,000 per artist/band? -- the band -- known for its raft of low-budget, slick-looking videos -- could help other musicians formulate, create, and edit their own video, giving them both the fish and teaching them how to fish.

Or perhaps Jeni and Jim and Keli from Jiggle Jam go over specific details and budgets in putting together their own music festival.  Nothing too trade-secret-y, but enough info to get musicians (or interested families) going by themselves (with a follow-up all-access pass visit to the Jam over Memorial Day weekend to see it in action).

Songwriting weekends, app-development weekends -- there are many possibilities.  The added benefit?  Spending time with a core group of people working through the same issues you are.  Building capacity and connections.

KindieTalk: Hey, I love the panels - and as a perennial moderator, I appreciate their inclusion.  But as a non-musician, I don't get as much out of panels on, say, breaking into TV, as musicians might.  There might be some news/big-picture value to some panels, and sometimes they generate big laughs, but I don't take much away from them.  I often spend the majority of the panel time outside in the Littlefield courtyard gabbing with musicians and other attendees (or inside chatting loudly, sometimes to the chagrin of Kindiefest organizers).  It's where I learn most of what I take home with me - what's going on with the new album, how much touring are they doing, who they're recording with.

On top of that, the conversations at the end of the evenings on Friday and Saturday night are often highlights of the weekend for me.  They're funny, insightful, and, well, more honest than the panels, which for obvious reasons tend to avoid the warts of the business.  When I come stuffed to the gills with ideas, it's from these after-hours and sideline conversations.

Add to that the fact that there are tons of people I would have loved to have had conversations with and didn't, or people who might have wanted to catch up with me and didn't, and it contributes to a feeling that there was a lot more I could have spent time with.

Is it possible to have a conference that doesn't consist, you know, of anything that a conference typically has - panels, keynotes, name tags?  Can you have a conference with a big gaping hole at its center?  Probably not.  But I could probably definitely fill 48 hours just talking and listening one-on-one and in small groups.

KindieSing: As nice as it was to hear 10 artists on Saturday night and 8 on Sunday afternoon, the downside was the artists -- more so on Saturday night, not so much on Saturday -- didn't get a lot of time to play, to settle into a groove.  And the audience was similarly short-changed.  I've never been to a performing arts showcase, one of those two- or three-day affairs where bookers from across the country watch acts perform, aside from Kindiefest, which is a shorter version of that.  And it strikes me that extending the length would make it less likely that other artists would spend as much time listening, singing, and dancing along.  It's one of the great joys of the conference dedicated to making music for kids (and families) that the artists in the audience often act as joyfully as the kids they normally play for.  So much harmony and clapping along.

MindyFest: Someone e-mailed me after the conference asking if Sirius-XM Kids Place Live's Mindy Thomas could be assigned to every panel next year.  I totally agree.  Mindy is a hoot and a half, and not only on my panel when she spent most of the time audibly wondering whether she should say something, then saying it.  She's a genuinely nice person who bears the burden of being the person everyone wants to talk with lightly and with good humor.  So why not make it all Mindy, all the time?

KindieFelt: I just want to echo what Jack Forman and I said before we introduced Hand Aid's "Felt Around the World" (thanks, Kindiefest organizers!) -- next year, a panel of puppets.  Tell me you wouldn't pay to see that.  Conference gold, my friends, conference gold.