So last week's Billboard charts were pretty anemic, as Idolator pointed out that the 61,000 albums Alicia Keys sold of As I Am was the second-lowest chart topper in the SoundScan era. And once you go down the list, it's kinda shocking to find out that 27,000 albums can get you a Top 10 slot -- 27,000 albums used to get you a swift kick in the tail if you were the major-label A&R person for an album that debuted with those sales totals. This week's charts were little better, with the Juno soundtrack selling 65,000 albums and the Hannah Montana 2 disk placing 10th again, this time selling 30,000 albums. So what does this have to do with kids music, our little corner of the music world? Well, you're probably aware about this They Might Be Giants CD/DVD, Here Come the 123s, which is released next week? (That was sarcasm, of course you're aware.) Well, I think Here Come the 123s could break the Billboard Top 10. Not the kid audio chart -- the whole enchilada. Think about it -- its predecessor, Here Come the ABCs went gold (
500,000 50,000 albums) in just 2 1/2 months. The album is, at the time of this writing, sitting at #21 in Amazon's Bestsellers list, right around Billboard Top 20 artists like Colbie Caillat, Daughtry, and Mary J. Blige. Their podcast for kids is a huge hit on iTunes. I mean, really, why couldn't they sell 35,000 - 40,000 copies the first week of release? Frankly, the only reason why I didn't ask why They Might Be Giants reach #1 is that that honor will likely go to Jack Johnson, who's got a new album coming out next week, too. (And who knows a little bit about kids music himself.)
I got an e-mail a week or two ago from an artist who asked me: "Do you know you if applying for the Parents' Choice Awards is worth the application fee?" Well, as someone who spends a whole bunch of time thinking about the relative merits of hundreds of CDs suitable for kids and families, I'm probably not the best person to ask that particular question. I don't need the Parents' Choice Awards. It's like asking the staff of Film Comment if launching an Oscar campaign is worthwhile. But lots of artists (and authors and manufacturers) do submit their stuff, paying the fee ($225 for CDs) to submit their product for consideration, even though you might end up not getting any recognition at all. (See this post from Amy for a not entirely complimentary view on the matter.) So I have two questions, one for the artists out there, the other for the parents, librarians, and general consumers (which might just include some of the artists). Artists: So is the Parents' Choice entry fee worth it? Is there some other award or recognition that's particularly useful in terms of driving sales? Parents/librarians/consumers: Do you care about what type of Parents' Choice Award a CD or artist has won, if any? Is there some other award or recognition that's a really good guide for you? Now, I'm perfectly happy if the artists just want to respond anonymously -- I understand if you'd rather not have your name attached to any comments. And I guess in general, anybody who's reading (and commenting) here probably isn't a typical family music consumer, but I think the comments would be valuable for the artists reading. Finally, I'm not attacking Parents' Choice here -- I'm honestly curious as to the responses I hope you'll provide. There's an artist (and probably many more) who needs you.
With Dan Zanes visiting Phoenix for the first time on tour with Dan Zanes and Friends less than two weeks from now, I thought it'd be a good time to catch up with the singer. I've done both these things before (seeing him perform in Tucson in April 2007 and interviewing him back in summer 2006), but nothing ever stands still in Dan Zanes' world these days. So I called him up in Puerto Rico and chatted a bit. Read on for his views on what makes a good Dan Zanes and Friends concert and what he does the first time he visits a city. (Phoenix-area readers, feel free to chime in with suggestions for what he should do here.) Find out about the upcoming album, ¡Nueva York! And even if you've never even been to Phoenix, you'll want to read the end of the interview where I find out exactly what he was doing in Puerto Rico and what Paul McCartney has to do with it. Trust me, it's worth the time. (And thanks to Dan for making the time.) Zooglobble: How would you describe a Dan Zanes and Friends concert? Dan Zanes: As much like a little Grateful Dead show as possible. I try to make the theatre feel like your living room. There's lots of people singing along, lots of people on stage, and as much roaming around, laughing, and crying as possible. And then the whole dissolves into a whole dance party. I want everybody who comes to feel like we're all in this together. What's your favorite part of the show? Two things: first, how much people throw themselves into singing. Are they singing their heads off? Second, what's the level of the dancing? Are the aisles filled? How many people are upfront? How much chaos? How intense does it get? I can't even remember the last show where people didn't dance. In the world of young people, it's so much how they relate... in a physical way.
Remember last month when I told you that the Barenaked Ladies had a new kids' album coming out? Well, more details have emerged, thanks to those hardworking folks at Billboard. They're reporting that the band will release Snacktime on their own Desperation Records on May 6. Even though I don't have any ads here on the site, I'm going to gin up some tension and page views by making you click on the link below to see the track list. Hee hee.
The New York band Astrograss has, at least in its music for kids, always had an affinity for words -- after all, its first EP for kids (review here) set its bluegrass-y jazz (or jazzy bluegrass) to the lyrics of Shel Silverstein. So it's no surprise that the first song the band's made available from their upcoming album, tentatively called Let Me Stay Up All Night continues with the fanciful wordplay. Called "There Their They're," it includes the zen-like phrase, "Someday, when I learn to spell 'spell'..." and is set to Astrograss' adventurous musical stylings. Plenty of kids' bands say that they don't sound like anyone else -- Astrograss is one of the few that can back up that claim. Listen to (and download) "There Their They're" here. Let Me Stay Up All Night is out March 9.
Many months ago, I had this crazy idea that instead of giving away a copy of the Deedle Deedle Dees' excellent album Freedom in a Box (really, top 10 of 2007 for me!) to a reader, I'd give away a copy of the album to a school or library designated by a reader. All readers needed to do to enter was to suggest a historical figure the Dees could write a song about. And then chief Dee songwriter Lloyd Miller had this crazier idea of actually writing the song. Loyal reader Katy was randomly selected to win this contest, having suggested not one but four figures, including Amelia Earhart. And while I've heard the resulting song before, Bill has now sent it onto the internet, not once but twice, first on this weekend's Spare The Rock show and then at a benefit show later that day, from which the very brief clip below comes from. It's lots of fun.