Last Friday the 57th Grammy nominees were announced, including my category, Best Children’s Album. Four fellow independent artists in the kids-and-family music world were nominated for albums we enjoy in our kitchen and our car with our 3-year-old:
- The Pop Ups – “Appetite for Construction”
- The Okee Dokee Brothers – “Through the Woods”
- Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could – “Just Say Hi”
- Secret Agent 23 Skidoo – “The Perfect Quirk”
Additionally, a nonfiction audiobook “I Am Malala” by Neela Vaswani made the cut with the inspirational true story of a schoolgirl in Pakistan who literally took a bullet for her human right to her education in a culture that has been violently resitant to women’s rights.
As a new member of the Recording Industry Academy, I had submitted my debut album “Everyone’s Invited!” for consideration and was on the ballot. Knowing I was in the competition and seeing the nominee announcement got me thinking about the nature of competition in something as subjective as the arts.
Our culture has been saturated with the notion of arts being a competition since reality shows like American Idol, America’s Got Talent and Dancing with the Stars took the talent competition to a whole new level.
So what does competition mean to me as an artist? Career wise, quite a bit. It’s the chance to have my creation perceived as outstanding in its field, which creates more awareness and more perception of being worth the time of a new potential family of listeners, a family that has millions of choices at its fingertips at any given moment. The “Parents’ Choice Approved” seal has resulted in thousands of dollars of sales because a large public library distributor puts approved albums in its catalogs that it sends to public libraries all over the U.S.A.
Personally and creatively, I think the most important kind of competition is competition with my own previous works. As much as I stand on the shoulders of the artists I listen to and admire, I’m also standing on the shoulders of what I’ve previously learned to create, with an ear toward making future works more valuable to my overall body of work, more valuable to society and more pleasing to ears of kids and families everywhere, especially those who are predisposed to like Jersey rock.
So, did I spend last Friday night complaining online about the Grammy voters’ choices? Resenting my colleagues’ successful nominations? Feeling sorry for myself? No, I went down into my home studio and got cracking on a demo for my 2015 album. I have thoughts about a chance to compete in next year’s 58th Grammys, but mostly I’m competing with one specific kids-and-family album I’m proud of: “Everyone’s Invited!”… and I’m enjoying the view from up on the shoulders of that project. I hope you will too.
What do you think about the role of competition in creative arts? How do you want your kids to see that relationship? Please comment below.