I can now relax heading into the Christmas holidays because I wrapped up my reviews of the best -- or at least my favorites -- of the year in kids music. Here, before I forget, are my three lists:
Before I sign off for the year -- and this site is going to be pretty quiet until the new year -- a couple brief thoughts to ponder in 2016.
I think there was a lot of great music this year -- really, just go back and check out those lists of top albums and songs -- but I felt like the number of new musicians I was introduced to this year was diminished a bit from previous years. I noted last year that the number of artists represented in my lists was maybe 20% of all the artists I was exposed to. So I recognize that this dimming of new music tickling my eardrums could be my own narrowing of tastes. But I'm also a little worried that I couldn't find ten debuts I wanted to highlight this year -- it wasn't even like I had 8 or 9 and could've tweaked my guidelines to get to 10 -- at best there was maybe one more that was anywhere near being in the running. So, again, I don't know if that's me or the genre generally, but that's not something I recall thinking in previous years.
The other "big thought" I have from the year is that I think the economics of the genre is at a tipping point... but I'm not sure which way it's going to tip. Artists keep reporting that album sales (both digital and physical) continue to decline. Not for all artists, and to vary degrees to be sure, but it seems like the model of having album sales be the primary income stream is nearing an end for the kids music world much sooner than I thought it would. At the same time, artists are diversifying their artistic efforts (books, puppet shows, videos). And with the explosion of streaming services trying to provide "walled gardens" for kids-related media, there could be an explosion of opportunities for talented kids musicians to be snapped up for exclusive albums, videos, and more for those services. (Exhibit A: The Pop Ups.)
If I had to guess, I'd think that this is a great opportunity for focused kids' artists with a wealth of songs, creative ideas, and creative people in their address books... and not so good news for "hobbyist" musicians who can't devote a significant amount of resources (mostly time, but even money) in producing high-quality music, videos, and concert experiences.
Will the explosion in places to have music heard result in an ever-increasing flowering of types of kids music... or its homogenization? I'm not sure, but I'm thinking 2016 might be a really important year.