A family radio phenomenon.
– Austin Chronicle
Remember how kids used to wake up on Saturday morning excited to watch cartoons? My kids wake up Saturday morning excited for the first strains of TMBG singing “It’s Spare The Rock…with Bill & Ella…and sometimes Liam!!”
Since we started carrying the show, it has become a local cultural phenomenon. I hear stories from families all the time about how their weekend begins with a family dance around the kitchen making pancakes and listening to Spare The Rock. Plus, Bill Childs is a nerd. So are his kids. And nerd is the new cool. Do you think they are going to let crappy kids music hit the airwaves? I’ve heard everything from Rush to Dan Zanes, The Pixies to Brady Rymer. Pete Seeger to The F****** Muppets. Yeah, I said it in a thing about kids music. I f****** love this show.
– Monte Belmonte, Program Director, WRSI (93.9 The River)
Spare the Rock doesn’t, and that’s why everybody loves it.
– John Flansburgh, They Might Be Giants
(Note: In accordance with FCC regulations, neither Mr. Belmonte nor the staff of Spare the Rock say any swears on the air. Promise.)
For nearly a decade, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child has been providing the soundtrack to thousands of childhoods in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts and southern Vermont and around the country. The show plays “indie music for indie kids,” including the best of music aimed at kids (like Dan Zanes, Moona Luna, Ella Jenkins, Elizabeth Mitchell, Lunch Money, Caspar Babypants, and They Might Be Giants) right along side kid-friendly tracks from the likes of The Ramones, Mike Doughty, Ella Fitzgerald, Brian Eno, Pizzicato Five, Andrew Bird, Fishbone, and more.
Throw in book reviews and exclusive in-studios from dozens of artists, including the likes of Mates of State, Jonathan Coulton, Asylum Street Spankers, Dan Zanes, Dog on Fleas, Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, Elizabeth Mitchell, They Might Be Giants, and many more, and you’ve got an idea of what the show is about. One thing it’s not is your typical kids’ programming.
We’re radio nerds, and we want to raise another generation of radio nerds. That means a set that starts with Elvis Costello, switches to Brooklyn history-oriented family rock band the Deedle Deedle Dees, and then pivots to Guided By Voices, or one that starts with British folk punker Frank Turner, then family hip-hop artist Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, and finishes up with Earth Wind & Fire. Check out some recent playlists and you’ll get the idea. It’s Kidz Bop- and condescension-free, and genuinely curated, not randomly generated. It is good radio, period, not just good-for-kids.
Now from our new flagship station, 98.9 KUTX, Spare the Rock is available at PRX.org in a one-hour format in syndication for any radio station that wishes to air it, commercial or non-commercial, anywhere in the world. We’re on the air now from Alaska to Virginia, on commercial and noncommercial stations.
Here’s a little sampler of what you’ll hear:
As described below, the show has been based for years at a heritage commercial AAA station, WRSI (93.9 The River), and attracts audiences far beyond kids. It’s a show that can work on many formats, commercial and non-commercial.
We launched Spare the Rock on Valley Free Radio in August of 2005. In February 2008, we moved to 93.9 The River (101.5 in southern Vermont) and have, since then, aired on both stations. We also helped bring a lot of family entertainment to the Pioneer Valley, including the No Nap Happy Hour series at the Iron Horse and at Flywheel and the NCMC series at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, along with co-producing the River’s Meltdown, an annual family music and book festival that draws thousands. I also booked and ran the family stage at the Green River Festival. I also was a weekend and fill-in DJ on the River for several years.
Spare the Rock is a family production, with me (Bill Childs) and my kids Ella and Liam hosting and producing. I also have written about family music for various media outlets (including Parenting and Valley Kids) and co-founded KindieFest, a yearly family music conference,which ran for five years through 2013. And in 2010, I founded Spare the Rock Records to release Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti, which has so far raised over $75,000 for Haitian relief efforts. The label’s second CD, Science Fair, was released in July 2012, themed around and benefiting science education for girls. Our third release, Keep Hoping Machine Running, featured Woody Guthrie covers in a digital-only release. In all, the label has raised over $100,000 for non-profits as of the end of 2013.
In August 2012, we moved to Austin, Texas, and the show switched to one hour, recorded in a broadcast-quality home studio. It remains on the River, but is also available to other stations via syndication. We’ve produced wildly successful events during South by Southwest, including the Family Music Meltdown at the Thinkery in 2014, drawing well over 500 attendees. Our 2015 SXSW events drew thousands and have quickly become annual family traditions.
I don’t think you should throw rocks at kids:
About the name: no, we are neither encouraging stoning children, nor are we advocating the use of music as punishment. It’s just a play on words, suggesting that a kid without rock will be ruined for life. I only kind of believe that.
Some people have written nice things about us:
- Examiner.com’s “No Growing Pains…”
- The Valley Advocate: “Childs’ Play”
- Zooglobble’s Interview
- Interview with Yosi on Indie Kids Rock
- The Valley Advocate: Halos & Horns (we got a Halo)
About the syndicated show:
The show is delivered in three segments (averaging 15-18 minutes each) to fit in a one-hour timeslot with whatever the station wishes to put in the middle — advertisements, PSAs, etc. (I’m also happy to provide it in all one file, roughly 48-54 minutes long, or one 59-minute file.) The segments may include brief sponsorship/underwriting announcements; those announcements will comply with all non-commercial radio regulations and must be included in the show’s broadcast. Commercial stations may eventually be asked to air an agreed-upon number of 30-second advertisements as well. Stations are welcome to obtain their own sponsors for the program.
The program is distributed in high-quality MP3s via a private URL on sparetherock.com and via PRX.org. Upon request, we’ll also provide local events updates in a separate segment. The segments will be available by Wednesday of each week. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. All licenses and reporting are the responsibility of the stations that air the show; playlists are posted on sparetherock.com weekly.