Children’s musician Stacey Peasley was usually booked between five and seven days a week to perform her songs in schools, day cares, libraries, or at birthday parties. Now her gig calendar is empty, and the Natick singer is working to re-create her career online.
Just as the grown-up music world is migrating to social media and the Web with livestream performances and virtual tip jars, children’s musicians are moving their music online, too, from bonding and body-movement classes for parents with newborns to preschool singalongs to songwriting workshops for older kids. It’s a big change for some.
“I basically had zero online presence,” says Peasley, 46, who has three children, ages 15, 12, and 7. “I wasn’t one to upload videos of myself, really. I had a very inactive YouTube channel.” Now she’s posting videos, performing on the remote conferencing app Zoom for school groups, and offering 30-minute mommy-and-me music classes online, which helps compensate for some of the bookings the pandemic has cost her.
“Like any artist, you really want to make some sort of income, but you just keep plugging along because you love what you do,” says Peasley, a Parents’ Choice award-winner who’s working on her fourth album, “Make It Happen,” that she hopes to release this summer.
Peasley is among hundreds of children’s musicians who ended up in a shared online spreadsheet listing kid-centric performances and classes that had moved online as the pandemic forced them to cancel in-person events. Brooklyn, N.Y., singer Amelia Robinson, who performs as Mil’s Trills, started compiling the list in mid-March as a way of distracting herself from the news, before Adam Stout, a founder of the “kindie” music website playtimeplaylist.com, contacted Robinson about incorporating her work into that site.
“My vision for it was like a TV Guide that people can scroll through and see what’s on at what time,” says Robinson, 37, whose three albums have won Parents’ Choice awards. Her listings are now part of a website with 47 pages of artist links, a huge variety of music playlists broken down by subject, and a weekly calendar of streaming events.
Parents can browse artists by location, the awards they’ve won, album release dates or genre, and select playlists under topics from animals to feelings to “Star Wars” to vehicles.” There's also a listing of artists releasing new music, and users who create an account can add comments and rate the content available.
“People know Disney, people know Nickelodeon, but there’s this whole underground group, or presence, of independent artists that work so hard and provide so much to families and are not often recognized on a higher level,” Robinson says.
She’s building her own digital career with daily online songwriting workshops for kids that focus on expressing emotion, and has other related projects in the works that she hopes will find an audience.
“That’s kind of the struggle now,” she says. “How do I reach people who need this? And also, how do I make money at the same time?”
Ben Gundersheimer, a Latin Grammy-winning musician and author from Whately in Western Massachusetts, is also listed on playtimeplaylist after coronavirus shut down his career practically overnight. Performing as Mister G, he made most of his income by playing between 75 and 100 shows a year around the world.
His transition to online activities has included inviting his young fans (with their parents) to help him make a video by submitting clips of themselves at the sink singing along to English or Spanish versions of his new song “Washing Our Hands.” He recently launched “Mister G TV,” a weekly livestream event from his home studio. Gundersheimer is also pursuing sponsorships, and considering a crowd-funding model.
“Ideally, I’d prefer to have the content available for free and have the work subsidized by philanthropy and brand partnerships with like-minded businesses,” he says.