“I would like that,” the parent said. “It’s impossible to get out on the weekends. After dinnertime, there’s no way I can leave the house. Come to think of it, I’d love something like that. We’re usually out with the kids during the afternoons anyway.”
Ralph Covert, aka the “charismatic leader” of Ralph’s World, has made a career filling this need and is a pioneer of the growing trend of playing kids music in rock venues. And it’s not the “I Love You, You Love Me” kind of kids music, either – just straight-up rock ‘n’ roll that parents actually like hearing in the car all day long.
Covert, who was in nationally touring act The Bad Examples before reinventing himself, told Pollstar there was nobody doing what he’s doing when his first kids record came out six years ago. Now there are plenty of acts that will turn otherwise dark afternoons into profitable ones.
“It’s exciting to watch the genre grow,” Covert said. “When [booking agent Erik Selz] and I started doing club shows, nobody got the concept. We both thought it would be a great way to go but he had to do a lot of educating. He would have to tell the club buyers, ‘No, really!’”
Covert recalled a gig at Joe’s Pub in New York City that sold out so fast that he got a call from a company CEO begging for tickets. Then there was a show that was so packed that a photographer from the local paper couldn’t get in. Instead, the newspaper ran a photo of Ralph’s World playing an impromptu gig to the spillover crowd in the alleyway. Now Ralph’s World is hitting several House of Blues this summer – including the new one in Dallas – as well as several other large rooms like the Great American Music Hall and the Fillmore in Philly.
Selz of Red Ryder Entertainment told Pollstar that, although his client draws a crowd, it is contingent upon practical ticket pricing. “A couple may be totally comfortable spending $25 to $75 per person for an evening out, but the notion of spending more than $15 per person, with a mom, a dad and a pair of kids, for an hourlong daytime weekend diversion is sometimes hard to swallow.”
Anthony Nicolaidis, the buyer for HoB Dallas, recently created a “Family 4-Pack” for Covert’s upcoming June 16th gig. The package of discounted tickets sold so well that Selz has “lifted” the idea for himself.
“The rider is largely the same as a ‘rock’ rider, although we don’t expect beer for the 10 a.m. shows,” Selz added. “We do insist on both stroller parking and 15 feet of clearspace directly in front of the stage, with seats unbolted and pulled if necessary, to accommodate the inevitable ‘kiddie mosh pit.’”
Early on, Selz had to educate the buyers – enthusiastic parents who weren’t experienced in the ways of backline and stage requirements. Red Ryder’s client roster includes acts like Andrew Bird and The Magnetic Fields, so Ralph’s World is unique: Instead of running an ad in the local weekly alternative newspaper, Selz posters the distribution locations of the local parenting mag.
Sometimes buyers need persuading, so Selz drags out the box office numbers from the current HoB / Live Nation tour but, really, “The best way to cement the deal is if the buyer is a parent because they appreciate the need for, and the potential of, hard-ticket kids shows.”
Buena Vista Music Group GM David Agnew, who signed Ralph’s World to Walt Disney Records, was well aware of Covert because of his status in Chicago as the man behind The Bad Examples.
“Ralph does very well on the road so he doesn’t need any sort of traditional tour support,” Agnew told Pollstar. “With that said, we’re always happy to work with him regarding anything he needs, from onstage signage to local press coverage, to support his tour efforts.”
As for the father in this article, he lives in Pollstar’s headquarters of Fresno, Calif. – so he would not be aware of the fun his peers are having in the big cities. Covert agrees that his act is like an indie band and there are still markets to build.
But when acts like Ralph’s World do visit the new markets, the parents and their kids get an experience unlike the big-production kid shows that roll through the arenas.
“Many kid events are excruciating for the parents,” Covert said. “But I’ll see a kid rockin’ out and behind him, his parent is rockin’ out. The kid will look behind him, see that, and his energy will double. The kid is actually modeling the parent’s excitement and engagement.”