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Monday, November 10, 2008

Free songs for teachers

Help me with this problem:

This winter I'm going to go into the studio with my band, the Deedle Deedle Dees, to record the material for two new albums. One of the planned records is a collection of nature songs I've written for the toddler nature education and music program that I teach in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. It will include songs about folks like John Muir and Frederick Law Olmstead for older kids as well as the simpler tunes about ducks and trees that we sing every week in class. The other album is a bunch of new American history songs, many of which we've been playing live this past year. Amelia Earhart, Satchel Paige, Emily Roebling, and some of our other favorite people from the past will all make appearances.

Once these albums are recorded, we have two options. We can:

A) have them pressed and released and sell them just like we did our last record, at shows and online Our last album, Freedom in a Box, has sold nearly 1000 copies in this way.

B) not have any physical CDs pressed and give the songs away free

Most of the people to whom I've mentioned Option B, have demanded to know how I expect to make any money by doing this. I tell them that we still haven't broken even from the first album and that we have nothing to lose by trying something new. Granted, Freedom in a Box came with a free coloring book that ran up production cost, but even if we eliminate this nice extra and just press a simple CD like other bands do, breaking even is really the best we can hope for financially from these new CDs. More importantly, not enough of our albums aren't getting into the hands of the people we want most to have them: teachers, librarians, and the kids in their classrooms and libraries. Some schools and libraries have bought copies and we've given away many more to the schools and libraries where we've performed, but most of our customers are well-off New Yorkers who can afford to come see us perform at Manhattan prices ($15 a person). We're happy these parents want our album, but ultimately we want to reach a wider audience with our music and don't know how.

When I say "a wider audience," I'm not saying that I want a marketing platform like Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel -- instead I want to be able to communicate directly with teachers and parents around the country so that I can give them songs that will help them teach their kids about what is important to them. The internet is an ideal place for this kind of a dialogue, but right now I don't know how to make it happen. In other words, I don't know how the Deedle Deedle Dees can afford to give away our music for free unless we happen upon some amazing grant that will fund this venture for several years.

Do you have any ideas? Can you help us? Our library of original educational songs -- not only about American history, but also science, literature, and "core academic subjects" as they like to call them -- is ever-growing and there's no way we can afford to record and release all this material in the traditional way. Ideally, we'd like to create a digital online resource that any teacher or parent can visit and take away what they'd like to use. No more albums, just songs on demand. For free.
A musical American history textbook, written by the Deedle Deedle Dees with your help. A book that's never finished, that keeps growing as more of you supply us with suggestions and ideas. How can we do it?