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April 2006 | Vol. V - No. 4
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The Hollywood Toyboy Visits the Record Industry

The Beat Goes Young


“... older kids and adults can get their music on the Internet now and download it to their MP3 players ... younger kids can’t: Mom and Pop have to buy them a CD.” A Sony executive
Who woulda thunk it? Kids have taken over the national pop album sales chart. Not since the heyday of the Monkees have tweens and younger children driven the record charts to such highs. The top three positions were recently held by albums that sold primarily to the preteen set.

Disney Channel’s soundtrack for its original movie, “High School Musical,” scored No. 1 with a plastic bullet, followed by the latest (ninth) volume of the Kidz Bop series, and chased in third by Jack Johnson’s group of songs from the movie, “Curious George.”

With Devo re-forming to do a kids album, and They Might Be Giants already having done one, is the face of music going from bubblegum to pacifiers?

Donning my iPod and taking my Bonine, I waded into the fray, asking music execs around town what’s up: “Dude! (or, Dudette) What’s the haps? When did the little tikes begin rockin’ out?”

One exec from Sony, with a shaggy “do” reminiscent of ’66 Revolver Beatles, but streaked with grey, shook his head. “I think it’s the fact that older kids and adults can get their music on the Internet now and download it to their MP3 players. Their tastes are more diverse, as are their buying habits. The younger kids can’t: Mom and Pop have to buy them a CD; therefore, more focused sales and bigger numbers.”

A Warners VP with a neo-punk haircut (think Siouxsie goes executive) believes that parents are now of an age where their own favorite bands are of an age to make music for their own kids. “Hey, I grew up in the ‘80s, so I want to hear that kinda music … with my kids.”

And then there’s the next step of musical cloning:

Devo 2.0 came from the idea that the Mongoloid Boys could spawn a sort of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” for themselves, where they would grab some kids to form a band to play their old songs for 4- to 8-year-olds. Weird, but then, so was the original Devo. (Granted, the Talking Heads already had a video in the same vein as this: “Burning Down the House.”)

So, is this a viable marketplace? Three No. 1 albums in the same week says it is. Should the toy industry keep an eye on it? By legitimizing this category with established “names” it opens up a whole ‘nother cash flow. Sure, Elton John has always sold well on Disney films, but this is a rethinking of the basic music itself. Can “Satisfaction” for newborns be far behind?




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