Do Children’s Music Awards Add Value To Our Art?

Children and Family Musicians make up a large part of our membership, and many have won well-deserved awards for their music. The usefulness of such awards has been a source of some debate; member Paul Nye weighs in.

Paul_Nye_Promo_Session-100

By Paul Nye

I’ve only been writing and performing children’s music for about 10 years, but one thing I’ve noticed are the plethora of awards available to children’s musicians.  I’m wondering if winning any of those awards translates into sales.

A lot of my musician friends brag about how many “views or plays” they have on their YouTube channels, ReverbNation, or Spotify, et al.  Yet, less than 1% of them can admit that those “plays” translate into sales.  So, that brings me to the awards.

One big award organization is Parent’s Choice.  Having researched the organization and listened to some of the “award-winning” music, I’m not a big fan of PC.  Undoubtedly, there is some very good material, but some of the recordings I’ve listened to, well…let’s just say I have my opinions.  Aside from the outrageous submission fees and user fees organizations like Parents’ Choice charge (obviously they’re businesses that need to make money), there are a couple of reasons why I don’t participate.

To me, children’s music award organizations are a group of adults deciding and recommending to parents what kids should listen to or want to listen to.  Frankly, I find the irony rather humorous, if not questionable.

I sing in front of kids about 150-200 times a year.  I wonder if PC realizes what kids are listening to these days.  I even wonder how many children’s musicians are aware of what kids listen to. I recently asked a group of kindergarteners who their favorite singers/musicians were. Their response: Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, One Direction, Blake Shelton, Jake Owen, Paul Nye. The last one I actually expected because I was with a biased group, but some of the others? I realize that pop radio and what their parents or older siblings listen to influences them.  But when I asked one kindergartener what she liked about Miley Cyrus, she said, “She sings good songs.” Then I asked her what her favorite MC song was. She said, “Wrecking Ball.”  Several other kids agreed.  I took note that none of the kids mentioned any Disney or Barney songs, much less any well-known children’s musician.

Recently, I had a parent at one of my concerts give me a questionable, disapproving look when I sang my song, “Why Don’t Bears Wear Underwear?”  Despite the fact that every 5 and 6-year old in the audience was having a blast, dancing and singing with me, I couldn’t help but wonder if that parent actually knew what music his child was being exposed to.  The back story is that the concept for the song came from a kindergartener.  For sure, Parent’s Choice would not approve of even the title of the above mentioned song, which in my mind makes them not only out-of-touch, but rather political.

The other reason why I’m not a big fan of children’s music awards organizations is that, frankly, I don’t feel I need the validation by such organizations simply to say “award-winning children’s artist/recording,” and then having to pay fees to use their logo, stickers, images, whatever.

There’s no question that winning a PC award may translate into some major market credibility or even bigger and better gigs, if that is what one is looking for.  But, the bottom line for me is I write and record music for KIDS in a small market where I’m very happy and content.  The more time I spend in front of kids, the more I realize there is a big disconnect between these organizations, as well as other recording industry people (adults) in terms of what kids listen to and what the industry feels they should listen to – or, what is credible for their parents.

One national library resource purchased over 350 copies of my 2nd kids CD without me winning any award or having any other credibility as a Kid’s Pop artist.  Maybe if I had “award-winning” after my name they would’ve ordered 1,000 units.  I don’t know.  I’m happy with 350+.    My audience & focus is kids.  If adults or parents have an issue with my music, maybe they ought to re-examine what their own kids are exposed to and listening to.

Finally, please don’t any CMNers interpret this as a personal bash against your efforts.  I’m very happy for ANYONE who wins any award for their accomplishments.  (I’m an award-winning former journalist, although that might not be apparent by this post.)  I just feel we need to put the award thing into perspective.

When I feel my music needs some adult validation, maybe I’ll pay up and send one of my CDs into some kids music award organization…or, I’ll just create my own award if for no other reason than laughs.  AND, if I ever receive a legitimate award for my kids art, I’ll be the first to let y’all know.  Now I gotta go back and sing for some more kindergarteners.

Why Don’t Bears Wear Underwear?

Paul Nye plays for both children and adults over 100 times a year.

 

4 comments

  1. Much respect for your opinion and the passion behind it, Paul. You’ve cultivated an audience and know it well. I was drawn into the kids’ music game less than 2 years ago by becoming a dad; Parents’ Choice made an early impression on me as I was researching the field and I made it a goal all the way back then to win that award. It was gratifying to get PC Approved on my debut kids/family album and then see it do so well with a library distributor as a result.

    I drew the line at buying the stickers or license for the graphic seal, since I didn’t have evidence that I’d make my money back for that; my strategy proved right for me because the distributor sales were so great that they paid back my application fee five times over (before you factor in the manufacturing/shipping costs of the CD’s, that is).

    Bottom line, though, your music should delight you and your audience first and foremost. If you’ve done that, you’ve achieved richness beyond awards!

  2. Good points you’ve raised here. In some ways it’s not dissimilar to paying for a review for your book or song, which just feels wrong to me. Do these awards add value or merely the perception of value? A parent may well think, “If it’s endorsed by XYZ, it must be good…” rather than listening to what their kid actually likes or listens to.
    That age old conundrum huh? The generation gap starts now.
    We have a much smaller market here in New Zealand (I’m happy if a library buys 5 CDs) and I like your underwear song. Keep up the good work.
    Jim from Kahuna Kidsongs

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Paul. Back in the day, an award sticker did help sales, no doubt, but back then I sold way more physical copies of my recordings. Awards also opened up doors to distributors that were otherwise closed to me. Nowadays, with companies like CDBaby around to help, independent artists have unprecedented access to national and international distribution — woohoo! I haven’t put award stickers on my CDs for many years, but I will mention awards if I’m selling my recordings after a gig. I’ll also include mention of awards on any PR material I publish and, of course, on my website. Awards are often meaningful to adults who buy recordings for their children, but this is really beside your point. I know of no children’s musician who does what she does WITHOUT loving it, loving the validation of live performance and/or classroom work. As the business of CD sales becomes less predictable and less profitable, nothing will beat out the thrill of a fabulous live performance for both performer and audience, and nothing will boost sales of recordings like a personal connection to the performer and great CD production values (i.e., quality songwriting, singing, and arrangements).

  4. I love what you wrote and the way you wrote it Paul. Disney’s “Let It Go” has been my biggest request at shows and schools this month (and no, I haven’t learned it yet). PC does strike me as greedy. One can get on the Grammy nomination list for free. It is a balancing act doing music for kids full time because we love it, and making ends meet financially.

Comments are closed.