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Musicians Bring E-Cards to Life

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Musicians Bring E-Cards to Life

Business

Musicians Bring E-Cards to Life

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

What did you think we'd play coming out of that story? Valentine's Day has come and come. Time to sweep away the fallen rose petals, toss the stale candy hearts and maybe listen one, perhaps last, time to your e-valentine.

These video-and-music-packed e-cards are increasingly replacing the paper, red foil and lace valentine, as well as birthday cards and other greetings.

At one major card company based in Cleveland, a pair of musicians now work full time composing original material for singing monkeys and dancing babies.

From member station WKSU, Kevin Niedermier reports.

KEVIN NIEDERMIER: Artists and writers at American Greetings still work on new ways to say merry Christmas or happy birthday on traditional paper cards, but just down the hall behind the closed door of a windowless converted laundry room, Mike Murray and Dave Padrutt are busy bringing e-cards to life. Padrutt is writing music for a birthday card featuring an animated dancing baby.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DAVE PADRUTT (Musician, American Greetings): He's coming up through the crowd, and then…

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PADRUTT: I was thinking about adding something like…

NIEDERMIER: Both Padrutt and Murray used to work in the creative writing wing of American Greeting But when company officials discovered the pair's guitar and keyboard playing abilities, they were reassigned as full-time e-card content producers. Both say this isn't where they expected their love of music to take them and creating e-card material is far from serious musical work.

But Padrutt hopes some day maybe an e-card song he's written, like this one, could become an iTune hit.

Mr. PADRUTT: (Singing) Today is your birthday, time for a soiree, hip-hip-hooray, it's a birthday rock.

NIEDERMEIER: Americans still mail about seven billion paper cards a year, according to the Greeting Card Association. While that figure hasn't changed much in recent years, e-cards keep growing. This e-card popularity irritates people like Peter Hartlaub, who writes about pop culture for the San Francisco Chronicle. Hartlaub considers e-cards a form of online spam.

Mr. PETER HARTLAUB (Journalist, San Francisco Chronicle): You know, if people are receiving this and they're enjoying it then that's great, more power to them. I just wonder if this type of thing, how many people really enjoy it and how many people kind of get it and click it and move on to the next thing as opposed to sending someone a letter that they're going to keep and maybe care about a little more.

NIEDERMEIER: Even e-card musician Mike Murray admits he gets grief from fellow musicians because of his day job composing music for such cards.

Mr. MIKE MURRAY (Musician): Sometimes they turn their noses up a little bit but it comes with the territory. I mean, when you're composing music such as we are and it can often be cutesy and kind of slap-sticky, sometimes people tend to laugh. But at the same time I'm pretty proud of doing this for a living so, you know, I can only say, hey, I'm getting a paycheck for this and you're not.

NIEDERMEIER: Meanwhile in the greeting card business, new and old are merging. American Greetings now has paper cards featuring moving images with musical messages, and Padrutt and Murray and providing the content.

Mr. MURRAY: You open up the card and it plays a little ditty.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MURRAY: You know, in this case a monkey that just wants a bike for Christmas.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) A monkey wants a bike for Christmas, gosh you'd be so proud of me…

NIEDERMEIER: Meanwhile American Greetings is looking to add another full-time musician to its staff, a classically trained pianist to compose more sedate-y card messages.

For NPR News, I'm Kevin Niedermeier in Cleveland.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) …and the bell is ring-a-linging, well you know it would be a treat.

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