How Social Networking Has Been A Game Changer For Musicians

DC Cardwell with Aria FA71 guitarDC Cardwell is a singer-songwriter, originally from Northern Ireland, now based in Melbourne, Australia. This part-universal, part-personal post was prompted by a question from a friend on “how social media has helped musicians”.


I believe that social networking has had the most profound impact on the relationship between musician and listener since the twin-pronged technological advances of recording and broadcasting in the early 20th century.

Both of those inventions allowed musicians to reach the listener without having to be in the same physical place and time. Before they came along, almost the only ways for an artist to propagate their music were by printed sheet music or by the folk process of memorization and repetition.

But the entire game has been changed again with the advent of social networking (and its close relative social media)

Unrecorded: How it used to be.

Old Graphophone (Gramophone, Phonograph) with horn

This record player is even older than me.

The value of social networking for music-makers is perhaps most starkly illustrated when we’re talking about a particular class of artists, of which I am one.

I’m referring to that large set of creative musicians who have learned to play music in their youth, been incredibly passionate about it, but never done it seriously or professionally. Instead, they’ve put the bulk of their resources and energies into other careers, marriage, raising children, other non-musical pursuits, or less creative musical occupations.

I found myself firmly entrenched in this position during the  “noughties”. Any chance of a music career had slipped away many years previously. I’d married young and my children were already well on their way towards adulthood. I’d had a perfectly good career in pathology for many years, but, for me, it had simply been a way of putting food on the table.

However, during those years just after the new millenium began, I acquired some computer recording software and a few microphones and started to make the kind of music that I’d been developing in my head over the years. Primarily a guitarist, I even learned to sing a bit, just to make things more interesting, and I began writing songs that I thought were reasonably OK.

Screenshot from DC Cardwell's Adobe Audition session for his song Birthday Present

My multitrack session for “Birthday Present”

I was astounded to find that I could record tracks that were of near-studio quality. Due to digital technology and decreasing costs, I could make music that, twenty years previously, would have required the finances and resources of a large record company and an expensive recording studio.

But who was going to hear this music? Sure, I could burn a few CDs and pass them around to friends. I could do some gigs around town, but it was far-fetched for a middle-aged family man with a mortgage to pack his gear into a van and hit the road, widening his audience by traveling the length and breadth of the country playing to whomever would listen.

It was also a long-shot to expect any record company to be interested in a distinctly unglamorous looking forty-something.

Tom Is Everybody’s Friend: MySpace changes everything!

WARNING: stuff about me for a while here!

But around 2004-05 I started hearing about MySpace. I was fortunate to be one of the computer-literate people who was already very comfortable with the Internet, and had even had some experience of primitive social networking. For example, by playing an online word-game I’d found that I could easily make friends with people from around the world. MySpace amplified this ability a hundredfold, also adding images and music to the mix.

I uploaded one or two of my songs to that pioneering network, and to my surprise and considerable delight, discovered that some people actually quite

DC Cardwell's Tom Song in Myspace player - screenshot

My Tom Song in the old Myspace player (screenshot)

liked my songs and even my hitherto unknown singing voice.

I even wrote a song about the network’s founder, “MySpace Tom” Anderson – not a joke song, but a wry 60s/70s-style pop song which answered a question I was often asked by newcomers: “Who is this Tom guy on my friend list?”

My song was called Tom Is Everybody’s Friend and, for a few days after it got mentioned on Tom’s own page, it went viral (or, at, least semi-viral) before the term was even known. I watched my friend count shoot up rapidly and had to field a huge amount of comments and messages. Suddenly I could really see the power of this new social network to get my music out to people all over the world. It was pretty amazing!

Meet The Author: How has social networking helped my music career?

That was the real birth of my new career. Since then I haven’t been one of those lucky enough to make large amounts of money from my music, but I’ve released my first album, Some Hope, recorded some songs in Los Angeles for a film, won a song contest, played a fair number of live shows in my own city of Melbourne, and, above all, developed a faithful, far-flung following of fans all over the world!

I’ve even gone one step further and quit my lifelong career in pathology to do music full-time.

(I’ve been very fortunate in that my wife, Marjorie Cardwell (now there’s a singer!) began a new career after several years of study, and now she supports me as I previously did her. With my new-found skills I was also able to record an album for her, release it and do the bulk of the necessary social networking required to build a fan base for her.)

Most of my middle-aged peers don’t reach that stage of being able to quite their day job, but the point remains – they can still find (and be found by) fans and distribute their music to the four corners of the earth, largely by means of social networking.

Of course, other ancillary online tools, such as blogs, Tunecore, CD Baby, iTunes, FanBridge, Internet radio etc. are also important, but social networking is the human factor of the Internet by which the independent artist connects with existing and new fans.

And, as we all know, the scene doesn’t remain static. We’ve talked about MySpace, and that was the beginning for many of us slightly older folk. But MySpace suddenly lost ground to Facebook and Twitter.

YouTube has of course, become a major platform for people to find and listen to music, and I did go through a phase of serious networking on it, despite its inadequate social interface. However, a while back my YouTube channels were suddenly shut down, I lost all my followers and view counts, and I had to start all over again so that was a bit of a setback from which I haven’t yet recovered! Google has been making improvements to the YouTube interface but in my opinion it’s still, unfortunately, too clunky to be taken very seriously as a social network. Speaking as a video creator, I do hope that it improves in that regard. But I suspect most video consumers aren’t particularly hungry for a better social experience on YouTube. At present, Youtube’s main role is as a repository for our “product”. 

Similarly, Reverbnation and Soundcloud have bubbled along as perhaps the best frees platform for uploading pure music to be shared on Facebook, although, for me, their social value has been much less significant.

Right now (late 2013) my main social platform of choice is Instagram, which may surprise some. For some reason Twitter never quite clicked with me in a sustainable way, but the addition of photographs and removal of the 140 character limit just happens to sit well with my personality.

Way With Words: How does social networking work for musicians?

Social networking is, of course, mainly a verbal medium. Photographs, sounds and videos can be a part of it, but the glue that holds it together is words.

Screenshot of a comment on DC Cardwell's MySpace page

A comment on my MySpace page from the classic mid-noughties era (thanks Jess!)

I remember how, as a young music fan, I was hungry for any information about my musical heroes. I used to collect interviews and articles – physically cut them out of magazines (I can hear some of you young kids sniggering down at the back) – and file them away. You couldn’t just look stuff up. Articles and photographs came in a trickle and you had to be alert in case you missed anything.

If I ever got the chance to say one or two words to an artist I loved it was just unbelievable good fortune! Can you imagine how unlikely that was back in those days?

But that human factor is much more readily available these days, if the artist is savvy enough to use the social networks. I’ve had conversations online with many of my favourite artists. And I’ve also found myself chatting with people I didn’t know and only later discovering that they are brilliant singers, songwriters or musicians. It’s quite nice when friendship comes first and fanship comes afterwards.

Very often people get to know me, and I get to know them, and it’s quite some time before they even find out that I make music. I’ve always been very careful not to be mercenary or cynical in my approach. I really, genuinely, do make friends with the people I meet online! People are smart and, by and large, they know if you’re being disingenuous.

However, I suspect that even if you’re not that good at chatting with people online, you can still make good use of social networking to advance your music career. It isn’t all about lengthy heart-to-heart conversations. here are other ways of using your natural characteristics to attract friends/followers/fans online. If you’re blessed with pithy wit I’m sure you can use that to gather followers. (I suspect that kind of person is even more likely to find their true home on Twitter.) You might be very knowledgeable about some subject – perhaps your favourite band or music style. You might be very beautiful (or at least buff up really well for photographs.)

Social networking is a reflection of life so there is no set way to make things work for you or for me. If it’s not an organic, dynamic process it’s probably doomed to failure. And I know that some artists will just never get it – will never be able to sit at a computer, or stare at their smartphone and see it as a portal to real, living, breathing people. You have to admire people like that, you really do! And just hope that they find another way of getting their music noticed.

In A Thousand Years: What does the future hold for social networking?

It’s hard to imagine social networking going away. Like the post office or telephone they are simply a part of life now. Many websites and platforms that aren’t primarily social still have a social networking element to them. In a way, it’s simply another string to the technological bow. But in my opinion it’s a game changer (I know, we all hate that cliché!) for musicians, and for anyone who is creative and wishes to make their art findable.

We’ve all read about how some extremely famous artists (if I mention Justin Bieber will it put this post up the rankings?) have made their careers solely by virtue of social networking platforms. And sometimes it’s even true. But for every megastar who has shot meteorically to worldwide fame, there are a thousand creative musicians who have slowly and steadily gathered many friends and fans who are hungry for good music.

And the good news is that, unlike major record companies, unlike the press, unlike radio and TV, these social networks are available to all!

Of course, none of this applies solely to people who had previously considered themselves “past their use-by date”. It’s just as important for most younger musicians. But I feel that examples such as mine are illustrative of the power in social networking.

Social networking is (or can be) important for almost every artist today! And even more so for every one who doesn’t have a record company, agent, publisher or other corporate entity to spread their music for them.

But for the non-touring, day-job-working, family-raising, or just stay-at-home artist, it’s absolutely essential and it makes possible what was previously impossible.

Twenty years ago almost every truly independent artist was severely restricted in their reach. Yes, there were a few early pioneers who kicked down doors and walls through sheer force of will. But with the advent of social networking the world became smaller – a lot smaller – for those of us who want our music to be heard beyond our own four walls.

Know Me: True fulfillment as a musician.

DC Cardwell's Some Hope CD

It still blows me away that (at my age)  I have become a singer-songwriter who releases albums!

That connection with the listener, and therefore the realization that my music is being enjoyed and appreciated, is the single most important thing for me as an artist. It’s worth more than money, by far. It’s what tells me what I’m doing is worthwhile!

Yes – I’m enough of an artist that self-expression is absolutely essential to me. And my motivation is, as I often say, “to make the kind of music that I want to hear.”

But beyond the actual act of making music, the most gratifying moment for me is when someone says to me, “Your song means a lot to me!” Or “Those words made me cry because I can relate to what you’re saying.” Or, “I can’t get that riff of yours out of my head!”  

Or, perhaps best of all, that most profound of inarticulate phrases, “Your music rocks!”

And the true beauty of social networks to me is that I get this kind of affirmation almost every day!

Now THAT is a result!

DC Cardwell

Listen to DC’s music here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese!

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese” wrote G.K. Chesterton, and I’m not about to alter the situation as I’m not a poet, but I have been known to string a rhyme or two together in the course of my hobby-turned-career.

I’ve mulled this statement over in my mind for many, many years and wondered exactly why cheese was seemingly such a taboo for the poets to do. There are so many famed, and wonderfully named varieties of cheese that I felt that, with ease, I could come up with verse that just couldn’t be worse than the typical rhymes that we hear all the time.

So here are two offerings from me. One of them is semi-autobiographical, and the other is wholly autobiographical.

~~~

A man whose abode was not roomy
Developed a taste for Haloumi
He put on such weight
That he had to vacate
For he never would say, “That’ll do me.”

~~~

I only buy my Brie
When it is close to free,
Well past its sell by date
When some would say, “too late!”
My family tends to rue
When it smells worse than blue.

~~~

Food and Cheese-Notebook-Sanitatis-Casanatense-4182
Alimenti formaggi Taccuino Sanitatis Casanatense (4182)

Harpocrates – a Poem for Harpo Marx

Harpocrates

 How do I love Harpo Marx?
My word, the ways are many!
(Though words can’t tell the worth of him,
Who never needed any.)

 His language was a woman’s wig,
A pocketful of pasteboard –
That coat concealed a horn, a fish,
Three hundred knives, a washboard.

 His heart revealed his love for wife,
For life, for fun, for fairness,
For family, friends, for four bless’d kids:
All full of love’s awareness –

That every noise he made was smart
And every thing he touched was art.
Groucho wept when Harpo died,
But when he played, the angels cried.

by Marjorie Cardwell

A poem for Harpo Marx

2012

Harpo Marx of The Marx Brothers playing his favorite instrument, the harp.

When Harpo plays his harp…

Australian Customs

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No, I don’t mean it in the sense of “common Australian activities”, like peeing on the lemon tree.

I mean rules and regulations pertaining to the importation of goods into this country.

A very good Myspace friend of mine, Elizabeth from California has won a trip to Melbourne (yeah! – I think she only entered because she wanted to visit me) and I was advising her that Australian customs regulations are very strict and somewhat arcane.

So I looked up the rules on the government web site and I found these two examples of prohibited items next to each other in the alphabetical list:

  • Embryo clones – viable materials
  • Erasers – novelty

So, even if you *think* you can make a fair guess at the kind of things to leave behind, check the websites before you travel, OK?

What can’t I take into Australia?

Prohibited And Restricted Imports

Australian Customs

Happy traveling! ~ DC

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