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Discover Kids' Digital Music

Digital music services, artists’ websites and the rise of parenting blogs make it easy to access great music for families. The challenge comes in identifying artists in the kids’ genre.

If you know who you’re looking for, online music sites make finding artists easy.  Looking for great online kids’ music, I rediscovered the role of blogs — the modern-day version of word of mouth. Spend some time on kids’ music blogs to acquaint yourself with the wealth of music available and follow their directions to craft your own musical journey.

Blogs

Zooglobble is an excellent starting point. Blogger Stefan Shepard has created one-stop shopping for the folks who share kids’ music. At Zooglobble you’ll find links to kids’ radio programs, music sites, blogs, reviews and the musicians themselves. No online service expands your sense of musical possibilities like the Top 10 Kids’ CDs named in the annual Fids and Kamily Awards presented by the Zooglobble blog.


Jeff Bogle’s excellent Out With the Kids blog remains timely as others have flickered and died. Bogle’s stay-at-home dad’s perspective balances  entertainment and criticism well. Both Zooglobble and OWTK offer a wealth of videos.

Gooney Bird Kids is a clearinghouse for information on the kindie (kids’ independent music) community. Blogger Gwyneth tracks who’s appearing where and when, as well as musical offerings. Both blogs are written by parents who test kids’ music on the toughest audience of all…their own children.

Online Services

I tested online music services by searching three kids’ recording artists representing the past, present and future of the genre. First discovery: Online music services are not conducive to browsing for new kids’ music. You have to know the name of the artist you want to hear. Typing in my favorite kids’ artists yielded their entire output, some inappropriate for a kids’ audience. What parent has time to slog through every track, no matter how beloved the musician?

Look for Your Own Favorites

Blogger recommendations can be helpful, but you may be the most qualified expert on music for your child. Share the great kids’ music you enjoyed.  The artists who raised you are still making music and have spawned new generations of kids’ performers. 

The Not-Its, the Jimmies (pictured), and the musicians honoring Barry Louis Polisar on We’re Not Kidding show what they’ve learned from the greats while putting new spins on kids’ music.

Because online music is aimed at the middleman (a.k.a. the parents) rather than directly at the kids, online services require a serious time commitment for minimal payoff.  Convenience of online music service diminishes as difficulty of use expands.

Spotify is the newest shiny thing in digital music services. The website was easy to access, but once there, my kids’ music choices were limited. There is no specific “kids” or “family” channel.

Pandora may not be the coolest kid on the block, but she’s reliable and lends herself more to discovery than Spotify. Once I got past the ads and pop-ups, I liked Pandora’s artist information and suggestions, along with a great mix of artists based on my initial choice. Pandora’s Family Channel is divided into three groups emphasizing soft sounds (toddler, lullaby and kids’ folk) and one “tween” channel with no kids’ music at all, offering instead Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, etc.  A search for individual kids’ artists and Pandora’s resulting suggestions provided a far more satisfying listen than depending solely on the family channels.

Music Choice’s website is challenging, and some of my search subjects didn’t show up at all. On cable TV, Music Choice ruined its great kids’ music channel when it was divided into one for babies/toddlers and a channel for Disney pop.

AOL Radio may tempt you to search for kids’ music. Don’t. An abundance of kids’ channels (five) doesn’t guarantee better music.  Their “10 Best Albums for Children” include one actual musician and nine TV- and movie-based albums, some more than two years old.

Kathy O’Connell is a contributing writer to MetroKids and host of  Kids Corner, weekdays 7-8pm on WXPN 88.5 FM.

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