Believe it or not, children’s artists can make quite a bit of money with CD sales, gigs, and even merch. After all, it’s not the kids who are spending the money, it’s the parents, and parents love to spend money on their kids.
Children’s music also has real value for kids. Music makes for better learners, it can boost overall IQ, and can even help with math homework!
It’s important that kids have music in their lives from a young age, so there should be children’s entertainers out there performing and making music for kids.
The thing is, it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds. Kids are actually discerning listeners, and so are their parents. You have to make your children’s music as accessible and interesting to parents as it is to their kids.
Tons of extremely well-known musicians have released children’s albums and made good money doing it. Barenaked Ladies, Taj Mahal, They Might Be Giants, and others. You can do it too!
So what are some key things to keep in mind when you’re writing and recording music for kids? Let's have a look.
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1. Give The Writing, Recording, And Production The Same Amount Of Effort And Attention You Would With Any Other Song
Do not underestimate kids. They have ears, they know what they like, and they’ll be able to tell if something is done poorly.
First and foremost, the songs need to be good songs! Catchy choruses, nice melodies, appropriate harmony. It’s probably a good idea to arrange the song in using a standard format. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, and maybe a bridge. This gives kids repeated lines to grab on to and sing along with.
Then, the production has to be good. Quality instruments and sounds help. Spend time engineering it. You don’t necessarily need to spend big money on a mix, but it has to be commercial quality.
Often, the musicianship on children’s albums is very high – heavyweight side musicians often end up playing children’s music because of the high wage.
It helps to have great musicianship on your children’s album because it makes the music more interesting to parents, who are used to listening to high-quality music.
2. Have Fun With Different Moods & Genres
You’ll notice that many famous children’s albums are all over the place stylistically. There will be an acoustic song, a reggae song, a rock song, a rap, and a big band song all on the same album.
When you’re making children’s music, you can basically do whatever you want, as long as the songs are catchy and they have children-appropriate themes. In fact, many children’s artists intentionally write in different genres to expose kids to all sorts of music.
You also do not need every song to be butterflies and rainbows. A joyful approach to writing children’s music is definitely helpful, but it doesn’t need to be “happy”.
You can combine joy, sadness, frustration, and any other human emotion if it’s balanced correctly.
Just like adults, kids crave honesty and they want to be treated as mature individuals. Sometimes, exploring a more mature theme can make for a better song and a song with a more lasting impact on a child.
3. Write Lyrics That Are Appropriate For Children
Obviously, don’t swear or put in any language that parents may find offensive. Always write with the idea in mind that children at a young age absorb the values that are being taught in the music as well as in the TV shows they are watching.
That said, you can absolutely have fun with wordplay, humor, and poetry. Just make sure you are using words children will be able to understand.
Many of the words we use in regular conversation are not words that children will be familiar with.
There is usually a way to tell a story or deliver a message without being preachy and fake, and without using words that kids will not understand.
4. Look For A Producer That Has Experience & Loves Kids
There are plenty of producers that have experience with children’s albums. Look up local children’s entertainers, see if you like their music, and try to work with whoever they've worked with.
Alternatively, work with someone who loves kids. It’s pretty important that you, the artist loves kids, and it helps if your producer also loves kids. In fact, it’s probably helpful to work with a producer who has kids. They will likely have listened to children’s music and will know what they like and don’t like about it.
Beyond producers, look for musicians who love kids. They’ll be more excited about the project, they’ll probably have more fun doing it, and they’ll write parts that are suited to children.
I know I said it’s important to get excellent musicians, but it’s probably more important to get musicians who love kids or have kids. The approach to the music will have better intentions.
On that note, it’s a great idea to work with real instruments. Part of the fun of making children’s music is exposing them to new instruments: drums, trumpets, ukuleles, etc. Parents can have fun teaching their kids about what they are hearing.
5. Keep Things Light While You're On Stage
There are a few things about performing for kids that are different from performing for adults.
For one thing, kids aren’t afraid to tell you if they are bored. They are not shy about putting their hands over their ears and shutting their eyes. They may shout questions at you that have nothing to do with anything you’re doing.
If you really like kids, you probably know how to deal with that. But making a great children’s show is an art.
Try to keep the banter and storytelling to a minimum. Let your music speak for itself. Engage the kids and get them to interact with you, kids love to be the center of attention!
Keep the show fun, funny, and short. There is really no point in performing much longer than 45 minutes. Even that can be a stretch sometimes.
Have you made children’s music before? What are some of your favorite children’s albums? Let us know in the comments!