Friday, October 28, 2011

6 Pro Tips for Marketing to Digital Natives

I've heard it said that we (those over 35) are "immigrants" to the technological culture, meaning that we came from a world that existed before we were all glued to our electronics. The people younger than us are "natives" - they've had a cell phone in their hands, a computer on their laps and an Ipod in their ears for their whole adult lives (or longer).

If you're looking to establish your brand to these folks, I suggest that you read the following article. It's one of the best ones I've come across. The author puts a definitely positive spin on this digital generation's earnest dislike of the hard sell and gives alternative means to making friends with them on their turf.

6 Pro Tips for Marketing to Digital Natives

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Artists on the Edge

Like many artists, Beth and I are struggling to maintain financial equilibrium in an economy that seems akin to a serious earthquake. While the life of an independent artist has never been without its share of minor tremors, we are currently experiencing some awfully big shocks that are threatening our ability to stay in business. Wouldn’t it be a shame if we had to switch careers at a time when we’re at the top or our game, when we feel like we have the most to share with children and teachers?

Before you get any ideas to the contrary, please know that Beth and I have no intention of giving up our lives as children’s musicians. We will continue to search for ways to trim our expenses and create more income. In the last year, we’ve examined our expenditures and saved quite a bit of money as a result. We’ve also invested a tremendous amount of time into marketing, becoming much more proactive when it comes to reaching our existing and potential clients.

We have also expanded and improved our programs. Since moving to our home in Yorktown Heights, New York, we’ve added new assemblies on wellness (Beth & Scott’s Nutrition Mission), character education (Do the Right Thing!) and, not coincidentally, financial education (Money Matters). We’ve seen tremendous growth in our song writing program, Creating a New Hit Song, not just in the number of clients who regularly book it, but in its usefulness to teachers.

Sadly, there are clients who have lost their funding. State and federal grants – once plentiful for schools in need - are harder to come by resulting in a decreasing number of opportunities for students in these districts. Just today, we found out that a school where we’ve had tremendous success for the last three years has lost their funding. By all measures (including test scores) our song writing program was an unqualified success according to the principal and the teachers. In fact, last year we were asked to speak at this school’s moving up ceremony where we were presented with an award for our commitment to the children of that city. As wonderful as it felt to be accepted and honored in that community three months ago, today it feels like we were declared “expendable”.

During most of the last twenty years, Beth and I were fortunate to see our income rise and our lifestyle improve. Married in 1992, we moved from a small apartment in New York City when we had children to a co-op in Westchester and finally to our own home in 2006. Like most Americans, we believed that hard work and education in one’s field were the ticket to consistent expansion and, eventually, a well-deserved retirement. In the meantime, we never longed for much in the way of material goods. To us, happiness has always been about enjoying our job, our family and friends and serving the community with our talent. And while we weren’t immune to the advantages of comfortable, beautiful things, most of our purchases were reasonable. Our choice has always been to measure our life not by what we were able to afford, but by how much time we were able to spend doing what we love with the people we love.

The hopeful part of me, the idealist who always looks on the bright side of life, wants to believe that what matters most cannot be taken away by a shifting economy. I cling to the rock that God has a plan and this is merely a passing phenomenon, a storm to be followed by bright, blue skies and happy, song-filled days. Heck, I grew up in an era where we laughed at zany comedians and sang ourselves happy.

Raindrops keep falling on my head 
But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turning red 
Crying’s not for me ‘cause 
I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining 
Because I’m free 
Nothin’s worrying me 
(Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head ©1969 Blue Seas Music, Inc. )

Some forty years later, I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit to some fear. I worry that our country has lived too long on credit, that we’ve lost our competitive edge and become ill-equipped to find the higher ground while the tsunami approaches us. I watch our government, paralyzed by money, power and old partisan ways, and I feel that are leaders are arguing with one another about the values of their beach condos while the waves are building on the horizon. The current movements like Occupy Wall Street attest to our collective belief that the earth is opening up, that people are being swallowed up and our leaders are trying to use duct tape to keep things together.

At times like these, I’m convinced that music is not a luxury, but a spiritual, medicine for the soul. I also reject the claim that any part of the school curriculum is more important than another. In fact, we are the only country in the world that has created a hierarchy of subjects where math and english sit at the top, social studies and science are in the middle and foreign language, physical education and the arts rest on the bottom. This is an antiquated, artificial system that doesn’t take into account all of the best thinking that has been applied to education. Imagine what our country would be like if creationists wrote all the textbooks and scientists who don’t believe in climate change wrote all of the laws. Narrow-mindedness rules in our educational system and our country and our people are suffering as a result.

All of us can make a difference. We can speak out in defense of what we know to be true, what we intuitively and logically believe is best for our culture and for our citizens. In the end, I think that this is our best and only hope to regain our momentum, to be part of a world that values humanity and what humans create. I plan on being there, a bit bruised by the seismic forces around me, but still hopeful that we can rediscover our better natures.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Top of the Charts

The programs receiving the most inquiries and bookings this year are “The Golden Rule Show”, “Do the Right Thing” and “Creating a New Hit Song”. Obviously, character education is big and getting bigger. Luckily, we’ve got three programs that can serve that need and shower lots of praise on the cultural arts representative who books it for her school.

“The Golden Rule Show” is for preK-2nd grade. It’s interactive, musical and very funny, but it’s message is serious and important: we can have peaceful relationships, classrooms, schools and communities when we treat one another with respect and kindness. Click here for a video interview with Beth and Scott about “Golden Rule”.

“Do the Right Thing” is for 3rd-6th grade. While the younger kids are receiving messages about listening, sharing and anti-bullying, the older kids get a much more sophisticated show that shows them how to build courage in themselves, interact with others and avoid the perils of peer pressure. You can click here to receive a more in-depth description from Beth and Scott.

“Creating a New Hit Song” is a song writing workshop program that grows in popularity every year. As more schools recognize that hands-on experience “sticks” more with children, they turn to programs like “Hit Song” that empower their kids with 21st Century Learning Standards (communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity). All four of these standards are a HUGE part of a workshop program. Click here for a video testimonial and some sample songs.

Last Minute Mary and the Holiday Show

Have you ever heard the phrase, “being in the present moment”? As beneficial as that might be to one’s personal psyche, it can get you into some trouble if you don’t plan for he future. Such is the case with seasonal clothes and our assembly program, “Happy Holidays Around the World”. Read on to learn how you can be a Last Minute Mary and still get what you need.

Scott’s mother is an early planner. While we’re out performing, she’s out shopping for our kids’ clothes well ahead of the season. Without fail, she finds that perfect bathing suit or coat for our two daughters. We’re lucky to have her because we don’t think about seasonal clothing until the season hits. That’s why you might see Beth or Scott running from store to store on July 1st looking for the last available bathing suits in North America.

Some of our super-planner clients book our holiday show a year in advance, but most schedule their dates from June-September. In the past, that meant that anyone calling in October or November had slim pickings or no luck at all. Of course, everyone was frustrated, but we made a decision seven years ago that has made it easier to join in the fun – we run two companies!

So, don’t despair if Halloween isn’t here yet and Christmas Trees are appearing at BJ’s (they are). You Last-Minute-Marys are still welcome here at Beth & Scott and Friends. As of this morning, we’ve got new dates available for schools, daycares and libraries to select from and we’ll do everything we can to help you find the right date at a price you can afford.

Now, if we could just figure out a way to solve that bathing suit problem…

Friday, October 14, 2011

What’s the Best Age for Musical Lessons?

Scott is often asked his opinion about the best age for musical lessons and how a parent can encourage musical learning.

“I started taking guitar when I was eight. By that age, I was a reader and my hand-eye coordination was at a good place to begin with an instrument.

My teacher mixed the rudiments necessary for longtime mastery with my short term desire to play and sing songs. On any given week, I was reading from a scale book and learning a folk song.

Music was always on in my house and in my life. My parents introduced me to a great variety of styles, including folk, pop, show tunes and instrumental music, so I suggest that parents expose their children to great music- especially live music!

Students who practice fifteen minutes or more per day do best. Our job, as parents, is to help the student create a healthy, regular pattern where practice time is honored. In my opinion, it comes after homework, but before any other leisure activities.

If your child becomes bored or distracted, gently return them to practice. Discuss these instances in private with the teacher and consider changing the plan, if necessary, to include more songs. If your child becomes discouraged because they’re not learning fast enough (or as fast as their peers), let them know that even the greatest musicians faced times of doubt and difficulty.

Lastly, I recommend playing in front of family and friends for those brave enough to try it. The thrill of putting on a neighborhood performance and all the applause and good feelings that accompany your child’s “show” might encourage them to stick with their instrument and ascend to even higher heights of mastery and enjoyment.

5 Ways to Improve Assemblies

When booking an artist into your school, we recommend that you follow these simple tips:

1. Coordinate your efforts with key teachers and/or the principal. Collaborating with them will create trust and, in some cases, inspire the teachers to help you write grants for more programs! Ask them what they want the children to learn, what programs they remember as being successful and which ones didn’t work – and why!

2. Confirm your program and location with the artists 1-2 days prior to the performance date. The worst assembly is the one that doesn’t happen because of a mix up with dates or driving directions. The confirmation call is also a good time to recheck any needs (tables, sound systems, etc.)

3. Schedule the room! If another group (such as the orchestra, band or theater group) is scheduled to use the stage or gym directly before or after the performance, discuss this with the artist. Depending upon the artists’ setup and breakdown needs, you may have to alter who can use the room.
4. Confer with the custodian prior to the program. A custodian is responsible for providing the artists with access to the building, carts to load in their equipment, and a clean and orderly stage and audience area. Treating your custodians with respect and praise will enhance the artists’ and the student’s experience!
5. Always, always have a principal or staff member introduce the artists. A good introduction includes a word or two about proper audience behavior and sets the tone for welcoming visitors into your school.

Bringing Books to Life

Does your school celebrate PARP (Parents as Reading Partners) or do you have a mandate from your principal to support reading in your cultural arts programs? If so, then read on…

Beth & Scott and Friends have been actively engaged in developing readers for nearly 20 years. We are storytellers, actors and singers who take books from the library shelves and turn them into interactive songs where the children play roles onstage alongside the performers. How’s that for making books come to life!

“Singable Stories from Around the World”, first developed in 1995, is full of exciting tales that engage children K-6 just like a great book – with two important distinctions: first, we are musicians, so our stories are sung; and second, we involve the children in the stories, giving them an opportunity to create a connection to diverse cultures and stories through theater .

“Singable Stories” is performed in front of a large and colorful map of the world, so your children will learn geography, too. Featured stories include: The Empty Pot (China); The Best Food (India);and It Could Always Be Worse (Russia). Schools can also elect to have Beth & Scott write a new song for their school, so please contact us with your ideas!