Out with Barney, in with Nine Inch Nails

By Luciana Lopez for The Oregonian on March 24, 2007

For years, parents looking for kids music have had plenty of choices, like Barney's gooey sing-alongs. But options to entertain parents and children at the same time were few. Now, though, a swell of artists and entertainers β€” often Gen Xers themselves and tired of insipid music for the short-pants set β€” are changing that.

That's what prompted Loren Hoskins to team up with Kevin Hendrickson in 1998. "I was upset with the things that were passing for kids music. It was trite and it was condescending," Hoskins said.

Thus was born Captain Bogg & Salty (Hoskins is Bogg), a pirate-themed band based in Portland. "At our shows, the whole family goes and they all jump up and down in the pirate mosh pit," Hoskins said. "We call it the Fisher Price My First Mosh Pit."

Hoskins cites demographic changes to explain his band's appeal. "I think there was, in the '90s, just a pacifier approach to music. But then that started to changed as our generation started to have kids," Hoskins said. "We're a generation that went to clubs and went out to shows and bought all the records, so we wanted to share that with our kids."

Gen Xers, people currently between the ages of 28 and 39, are getting just a little past prime child-bearing years: Women in their 20s account for more than half of all births in the United States, according to government figures.

That means the generation that grew up with the Walkman (first sold in 1979), MTV (launched in 1981) and the CD player (marketed in 1982) has already had most of its children.

Lisa Roth, vice president of Baby Rock Records in Los Angeles, sees the current crop of parents as a "media generation" more steeped in accessibility and taking chances. Her company makes lullaby versions of artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, U2, Tool, BjΓΆrk and Bob Marley. The lyric-less results can be quite pretty departures from the traditional sing-song of much children's music β€” albeit sometimes a little ... unusual. A Nine Inch Nails lullaby?

The result, Roth said, is children's music that appeals to parents as well.

The series has done well: Since its August 2006 launch, the company has released 19 albums.

The kids-music market has been growing. Sales in the category increased 4.9 percent last year, according to Billboard.

"Kindie" rocker Dan Zanes won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for Children this year for "Catch That Train!" Zanes will stop in Seattle for two performances at 1 and 4 p.m. April 14 at the Moore Theatre.

Children's music is even cool enough now for the South by Southwest indie-music festival. The Sippy Cups, a California band that tries to reach both parents and kids, were invited to play there this year.

But is it satisfying, as a musician, to play for the peewee crowd? "I love speaking to the parents in parentheses, and communicating with the kids very directly," Sippy Cups singer Paul Godwin said. "The answer would be a resounding yes."

Transcribed by Lt. Randazzo

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