Finding these kinds of releases alongside albums of traditional lullabies on the quest to find a suitable baby shower gift for her pregnant music-loving friend, Roth's idea for Rockabye Baby! came from the frustrating dearth of things she would want to give, or receive. She pitched getting into the baby business with covers of popular artists to the label where she was newly employed. "We have to create a baby product for the parent," she said. In 2006, the Rockabye Baby! imprint put out its first collection: Lullaby Renditions of Metallica.
The album was the first of its kind, unintentionally riding the fallout from new research that debunked the real effectiveness of ultra-successful brands like Baby Einstein, which capitalized on the pop psychology theory of the Mozart effect (boiled down: if you play your kid classical music, they'll end up being smarter). "If that's the case, why can't I make lullabies with a little more music to it than silverware in a drawer?" Ty Visconti recalled in the inspiration behind Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star, which now has 333 albums in its catalog. The industry is serving the innovation: Rockabye Baby! has had 200 million audio streams, 400,000 digital album downloads, 2 million digital track downloads, and 1.8 million physical album sales.
Rethinking the content and quality kids' music was already on the rise -- in the same year Rockabye Baby! launched, Beyoncé's father Matthew Knowles put out Kid’s Rap Radio, and a Disney imprint released an album of re-recorded kid-friendly Devo songs -- but nothing had bridged the gap between infancy and toddlerhood using source material already familiar to parents. In 12 years, the space has grown exponentially while remaining subversive to most anyone who doesn't have a new wailing baby on their hands. On top of recreating a back catalog spanning the Beatles to Bjork and staying on top of newer releases by artists like Lorde, Rihanna, and the cast of Hamilton, labels keep on a grueling production schedule. Early on, Visconti was releasing up to 12 albums a month; it's since slowed to three or four. Rockabye Baby! works on a similar timeline, farming out track listings to a handful of experienced producers who work with a brand-approved digital palate of "organic instruments," Roth said.
"We're looking to strike the perfect 'clunk and tinkle' lullaby that's enjoyable for a young baby but keeps the original intention of the artist." A record could go through the tricky mixing process 15 times before it's right. "We approach this in a very adult way," Roth said. "It's the irony of our brand." Her self-awareness is somewhat relieving considering the uncanniness of and earnestness behind the covers. "How seriously can you take lullaby renditions of Tool?"