Recently there have been a couple of big announcements in the kids music world that further underscore the shifting of the tides with regard to streaming media. Spearheading the big news was the release of the Pop Ups’ latest album, Great Pretenders Club, which is being offered exclusively online through Amazon Music, along with music videos for each song. The second is Rhapsody’s launch of Rhapsody KIDS, a dedicated resource specifically targeting younger listeners and their families.
The introduction of a new streaming service for kids isn’t that surprising as there are many streaming-video services already offering the convenience of a kid-friendly zone (Netflix, YouTube, Comcast XFinity). But, the move to create a streaming-music section especially for kids is trendsetting as there isn’t one streaming/subscription based model that has a separate kids section yet. Digital outlets and streaming media competitors like Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music offer access to titles within the Children’s Music category, but still require parents to sample and search for an artist/song, music channel, and select/create curated playlists. And there is essentially no buffer between kid-appropriate content vs grownup content. In other words, you can’t just hand your digital device over and not expect some exploring or tinkering with “your stuff.” With Rhapsody KIDS, Rhapsody is essentially promising a “hands-free, worry-free” experience where parents can let the kids “drive.”
As a someone who is professionally immersed in kids music what struck me about this new service is the impact that it could have for the genre as a whole. How this plays out financially for artists is another story, as small royalty payments and the loss of CD sales to streaming media continue to be sensitive topics. The thing that I find intriguing is the exposure potential that a dedicated kids music resource could offer, similar to the way Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live has made satellite radio a conduit for families to discover music together. While I recognize that exposure is in no way a substitute for the value of an artist’s time and craft, having a special “nook,” could add significant value through more focused research by dedicated music editors, and parent-child interaction. As the progression of kids music leans toward more of an all ages experience, where the sounds and quality of the lyrics are meant to appeal just as much to grownups, Rhapsody KIDS could open up a path toward a shared listening experience. As a parent I recognize the convenience of this service, and am eager to try it out with my daughter. As a music lover, and supporter of independent artists, I recognize that this is yet another avenue that discourages consumers from purchasing music, which is what puts more of a reward in artists’ hands.
Hopefully over time the industry will shift and artists will start to earn more. A recent Newsweek article polled indie artists on their thoughts about streaming music and a few artists asserted that exposure through streaming services are attracting more attendance at live shows. Since the kids music genre is somewhat of a niche it’s hard to say if that same logic applies, but exclusive offers through digital outlets and featured kids music sections could sway things toward greater success.
Chris Ballew of Caspar Babypants (and lead singer of The Presidents of the United States of America) is the featured artist in Rhapsody KIDS’ promotional video. Caspar Babypants is featured in promotional ads as well, alongside Kidz Bop and Disney.
The main Rhapsody app is a subscription-based model which means access to music is available for a set monthly price. Rhapsody is offering a special subscription rate bundle with Rhapsody KIDS for $1/month for 3 months and then the pricing goes up to $9.99/month.
Below are some of the highlights that Rhapsody KIDS offers. We will
- Create-your-own: Parents can select songs from the main Rhapsody app and add them to a playlist in the KIDS section.
- Featured editor curated songs and playlists.
- Offline Access – Save your data plan! Anything that’s bookmarked for kids automatically downloads for offline listening. Think dead spot on a local road, camping, or a dressing room in the mall.
- Repetition is key – Songs and playlists in Rhapsody KIDS automatically loop so you’re kids can hear their favorites til the cows come home.
- Keep it separate – The KIDS section is designed to fool the young’uns from getting back into the main Rhapsody catalog and revamping your playlists or cranking out some jams to a song you wouldn’t even want to play in public. Rhapsody requires users who want to return to the main app to swipe the screen in a specific direction.
Just like Netflix Kids, though, Rhapsody KIDS seems to appeal to a broad range of ages so there will be a mix of styles together, i.e. Kidz Bop with Caspar Babypants, for example. So not all of it will necessarily be tolerable but unlike YouTube or Netflix, you won’t have to moderate for tween-age drama and dialogue.
Our family still listens to our fair share of CDs, with streaming music a popular second and the radio third (50-50 between satellite and terrestrial). We are dedicated Netflix Kids users which has become a well worn resource and I plan on giving Rhapsody KIDS a whirl to see if it has the same effect. I will be reporting my thoughts back in a Kids Can Groove future post so stay tuned.