Talking about my generation: Michael Keefe, 11, hits the right note with his Zeamu pop song catalogue aimed at pre-teen music fans - News - Music - The Independent

Talking about my generation: Michael Keefe, 11, hits the right note with his Zeamu pop song catalogue aimed at pre-teen music fans

 

Michael Keefe isn’t your ordinary CEO. For a start, he’s only 11 and his board-level title actually stands for Children’s Executive Officer rather than Chief Executive Officer.

But he has the self-assurance of a new media entrepreneur and seems confident he can change the soundtrack of his peer group and their younger siblings by plugging a gap in the music market. His record company, Zeamu, makes polished pop songs with lyrics that are sung by and targeted at primary-school children.

Parents who squirm over One Direction singing “what a mess I made upon your innocence”, and who are intrigued by the promise of tunes which are less mind-numbing than toddlers’ usual fare, might have a lot to thank young Michael for.

The same might not apply to his own father, who is the subject of the song “Doing the Robot”, a tale of child excruciation at the sight of dad dancing. “He feels the need to prove, that he’s still got those dance moves,” goes the lyric, sung by Michael under the name “Aki”, a spiky-haired avatar.

While a market for representing a child’s view of the world is well-established in television and book publishing, it’s an area where the music industry has struggled. Instead, young children are drawn to pop songs which, if they are not explicit in their lyrics, are not written for kids.

Meanwhile, technology has made it easy for children to obtain music without the knowledge of adults.

Home from school in Knebworth, Hertfordshire, Michael talked of the company’s mission.

“It’s an alternative to mainstream pop that’s completely innocent and children can relate to,” he said. His role is to identify “the best type of genre to go for, that children of my age like”.

He also hopes to discover primary-school-age songwriters to build on Zeamu’s catalogue of songs, which encapsulate such themes as falling out with a best friend or feeling isolated in the playground. The tracks are written by producers from the music industry.

Paul Sumpter, who has previously produced music for commercial clients including Nike and Mercedes, is the composer of Zeamu’s best-selling track on iTunes, “It’s the Weekend!”.

He said: “It’s trying to get kids excited about it being the weekend, seeing their friends and not having to go to school – but not basing it on a saccharine backing track. A lot of kids’ music tends to underestimate how astute they are as listeners.”

Michael was brought into Zeamu by his aunt, Natalie Barowitz, the company’s head of music.

“He’s very mature and very musical,” she said. “It has been amazing to have his input.”

Fionn King, a child psychologist, warned that a full diet of such controlled content was not ideal because adult messaging suggested to children they should conform.

“You are showing the child how you and your cultural group manage these situations,” she said. “But I can see there is an enormous gap in the market and concerned parents who want the best for their children will just leap on this.”

She said she would also encourage primary-school children to listen to some adult music.

Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week