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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Days High: Drug-free musician experiences Ketamine for the first time – will DC Cardwell’s next album be a psychedelic trip-out?

I’ve never talked publicly about my problems with a peculiar kind of back pain. I didn’t want to be known as “the guy with the back trouble”, as I’m actually pretty normal and if you see me I’m really pretty agile and not at all weak or dottery or ill-looking! I don’t usually walk around with a stoop or a limp and I can still lift a guitar amp if I need to. (Although I’m happy if I can get someone else to do it for me as it just might “put my back out.”) And I’m not depressed or even unhappy – not in the slightest.

But I do suffer a lot of pain, and when I stand up for a while it really gets out of control. It’s restricts my day-to-day life quite badly and there are a lot of things I can’t do because of it. I don’t, for example, do

three-hour Bruce Springsteen-style marathon sets, leaping around off monitor speakers and stuff like that. Not usually anyway.

And just so you know, I’m going into hospital tomorrow (18th Sept, 2013) for a major drug trip. It’s a Five-Day Ketamine Infusion and, well, it should be interesting, to say the least. Ketamine (AKA “Special-K”) is becoming increasingly well-known as a recreational drug, but it has been used as for medical purposes since the 1960s, as treatment for very strong pain and as a general anaesthetic on the battlefield. My pain specialist was telling me that they used it in Vietnam as one anaesthetist could look after up to a dozen patients at one time while they were undergoing surgery.

It’s my first time as an in-patient since I had kidney cancer (Wilms’ Tumour) as a small child and that freaks me out a little as I don’t generally like to be restricted or confined. Even at home I rarely sit down and watch TV for hours or anything like that. I have to be up and about and doing something. And I can’t lie down for long periods without a lot of pain. I almost never sleep through the night – I wake up many times and have to get up and walk around a bit.

My back pain is a complicated thing but it’s almost certainly a result of my childhood surgery and treatment. My pain specialist thinks I might have “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome” brought on by the trauma of the surgery (“They would have cut through a lot of nerves!”, was what he said) and the radiation therapy afterwards, which was pretty coarse back in those days.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (or CRPS) is usually accompanied by weird skin changes and I don’t have that. But it’s now believed that it can happen inside the body as well as on the surface, so maybe that’s what I’ve got. Who knows what I look like in there! (Actually, I have a bit of an idea.)

This “ketamine infusion” lark is supposed to bring significant relief to up to 80% of chronic pain sufferers, so there’s a fairly good chance it will help a bit. And the risk is supposedly quite low. It’s not like ketamine coma therapy which is a bit more controversial and only carried out, as far as I know, in Mexico and Germany.

My doctor tells me I may experience hallucinations for most of the time, but that they’re usually not bad, scary hallucinations, but “good hallucinations” (Sunlit meadows covered in wildflowers? Beautiful women? The latest iPhone? Fancy pre-amps? Doughnuts?) I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get, at the very least, one Sgt Pepper out of it.

I’m also hoping that the ketamine will make me not care about the restrictions of hospitalization. If I can lie down for five days without discomfort it will be doing its job in the short term at least. I might beg them not to send me home!

Watch this space for news about how it goes. If you pray, my main request is that the treatment does indeed help me. And of course, I’d like there to be no bad side-effects. But I’m really not worried about it. It’s not like I have a life threatening illness or I’m going for some major surgery.

I don’t think I’ll be online during the procedure but to tell you the truth, I’m not sure exactly how spaced out I will be. And I’m told that my vision will be seriously impaired after the first 24 hours or so. I probably won’t be allowed, or able, to go online at all. Or who knows, I might be fairly alert and normal and able to use my phone or laptop to communicate with the outside world, like Marjorie did after her brain surgery last year. If it’s somewhere in between, you might see some very strange posts on Facebook and Twitter over the next five days, so just disregard them. The doctor said that a patient once escaped and was found walking down the road with no clothes on. If you see me, please take me back to the hospital.

~ DC Cardwell, 17th September, 2013

 

Marjorie Cardwell creates beautiful animated iPad music video for her song “Hole In My Head”

There’s a brand new video for Marjorie‘s beautiful song “Hole In My Head!”

iPad Animation

And she’s made the most gorgeous animation on her iPad to illustrate the song.

Some of you will know that the song was inspired by her experience last year of being diagnosed with a brain tumour. (Don’t worry – she’s fine now. The tumour was benign and even though she had very major brain surgery she has recovered very well.) She actually wrote most of the song while she was in the MRI machine getting her pre-op scan. We recorded it quickly right before her operation and I (almost) finished it off with some overdubs.

But I couldn’t figure out a good solo to put over the instrumental section. In the car one day, on the way to one of her appointments, I asked Marjorie for ideas. She said, “How about a euphonium?”

And, to our everlasting delight, one of our musical heroes, Don McGlashan (of legendary New Zealand band The Mutton Birds) agreed to play a sublime euphonium solo on it, as only he can do! (I think Marjorie secretly had this in mind.) He recorded the solo in the boatshed on the New Zealand coast that he uses to write his own songs, and sent it to us by email. It’s everything we hoped for and more.

If you enjoy it, please leave a comment underneath the video on Youtube (or here!) and PLEASE share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter etc. 🙂

 

DC Cardwell covers Nick Lowe


I’ve entered another contest. This time all you have to do is go to my new video on YouTube and click LIKE. It’s me covering Nick Lowe‘s venerable classic “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?” and it’s a contest run by his record company, the ultra-cool Yep Roc Records. It’s called the Yep Roc 15 Minutes Of Fame contest, or YR15MINUTESOFFAME for short.

There’s a nice prize, a trip to their 15th year anniversary concert series in North Carolina. But the main thing is the exposure.

So if you want to help me win, please LIKE my video!

And if you want to help even more, share it on your Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Cheers!

~ DC

[Postscript: The three videos with the most votes went into the final and, sadly, I came 4th!]

Marjorie Cardwell’s new album on Madcar Records!

Hi, DC here,

I just wanted to mention that we’ve sent Marjorie‘s album off to the plant for pressing. Quite exciting! We haven’t set an exact release date yet but it will be available to you sometime in the next 4-8 weeks, maybe even sooner. The sleeve design was painted by Marjorie and it’s very beautiful. If you’re on Facebook, she could use a few “LIKES” on her Facebook Fan Page at facebook.com/marjoriecardwellmusic

I’m pretty confident that if you like my music you’ll also like hers, so I hope you don’t mind me simply including her news in my news. I’m heavily involved and the instruments are almost all played by Marjorie, me and our sons, Samuel & Joel. She wrote all the songs except one, which is a cover of one of my songs (I feel honoured!) and we produced the album together. This is the logo of our new record label… Madcar Records!

Madcar Records logo

There are also two very special guest musicians, one of whom, drummer Chris Haylock very sadly died of cancer just over a week ago. Chris was a very good friend and this has been very heartbreaking for us. He leaves behind his wonderful wife Cath and three children, two of whom are just little toddlers. Some of us are working on some kind of fund-raising CD to help his family – probably an album of songs that he played on.

One of those songs might be this Sam Phillips song, “I Need Love” we recorded in my studio a few years ago. It’s just a jam where I hit “record”, but it came out quite well. Chris, as always, held things together beautifully – that’s him on the photo. Just click on the picture to hear the song.

The other guest musician on Marjorie’s album is actually quite famous and one of our greatest musical heroes, so we’re naturally very thrilled about that! More news soon…

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But enough about Marjorie! I will be going back to work on my own album very soon and it will be out later this year. We don’t have room under our bed for 2000 CDs so we’re going to have to come up with some genius way of parting with them!

I’ve been working hard to rebuild my lost Youtube channels. Since my last email I’ve started a “covers” channel at youtube.com/DCCardwellsCovers so please visit, subscribe, comment, rate, and (best of all for me) SHARE my videos on Facebook!

Actually, speaking of sharing, there’s nothing better you can do for us than share our music. For example, you can click the “SHARE” button on a Youtube video and pass it along to your Facebook wall, or to individual friends, or to Twitter, or in an email.

I try to make my web addresses easy to remember, so you can easily share my website (www.dccardwell.com) or my online store (MadcarRecords.com) on Facebook or wherever you like.

Thanks for reading!

~ DC

PS: I had just listened to a very long “webinar” and when they said that far more music sales are made through emails than through social networking, I decided it was time for another email newsletter. But I forgot say anywhere “Please buy my music!” But try to imagine those 2000 CDs (plus many unsold copies of Some Hope) cluttering up Madcar Records, AKA “our house” 😉

Or there’s always iTunes – if you think some record company is eating up all the profits, let me assure that, for us, Apple gets 30% and we get the rest, so every sale really does help!

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A small disaster & how you can help

DC Cardwell Youtube Avatar

Hi, DC here – A small disaster has struck my music “career”.

Actually, it’s definitely a first world problem so I shouldn’t even call it a disaster but it’s an annoyance. Youtube has shut down all three of my channels, so all of my videos disappeared overnight! (June 2012) And the almost 90,000 views and thousands of lovely comments from people are just gone. Gone! GONE!

On top of that, my artist link on Youtube no longer works (as it leads to my old channels) and the iTune links are not on my videos any more.

It only takes one or two people to register some kind of complaint for Youtube to do this, and I’m remaining optimistic that they will review it, see that my original channels (dccardwell, dccardwellcovers and cardwellers) are clearly legitimate, and re-instate them. But I can’t count on that by any means so I’ve (sigh) started building a new channel and uploading my videos to it. Very, very tedious.

Anyway, you can do me a few HUGE favours if you’d like to help:

  1. Visit our NEW Youtube channels at:
    youtube.com/DCCardwellsMusic (DC’s originals)
    youtube.com/DCCardwellsCovers (DC’s covers)
    youtube.com/MadcarRecords (Marjorie’s songs)
  2. Subscribe to them!
  3. Share my videos wherever you can, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. It would be nice to get my view count up so I don’t look like a newbie!
  4. Comment on my videos, and also click on the LIKE, RATE & SHARE buttons. Also, adding my videos to your playlists helps a lot.

Much love & respect ~ DC

PS: Keep going back to my channel as I add more videos and do the same to my new ones… if you like them!

ADDENDUM, 14 Oct 2012: I never did get my old channels back and my views and comments don’t seem to be going up as fast as they had been before. It’s also left Youtube a bit confused. For example, when my name comes up as a link in the video titles and you click on it, it takes you to a dead page which would have led to my old videos.  And if you click on the automatically generated “Artist” links at the bottom of each video the same thing happens. And there are no iTunes links the way there were before. I tried filling in one of the automated contact forms but just received a form letter in reply. – DC

PS: Here’s one of the many videos I had to re-upload to my new channel. It’s a mini-documentary on my trip to Los Angeles to record with producer Jaymee Carpenter.

New Beatles solo covers – check ’em out!

Hi – DC here!

We came back from a trip to Ireland a few weeks ago and on my return I decided to focus on updating my Youtube channels and adding some more videos.

I have new original songs in the pipeline but people on Youtube seem to love covers so I’ve been knocking off a few and plan to do more as it’s kinda fun and easy 🙂

My latest two have both been Beatles’ solo songs.

Just yesterday I filmed this version of John Lennon’s “Love”

And last week, after seeing the George Harrison documentary by Martin Scorsese, I recorded this ukulele version of “Here Comes The Sun”.

I hope you like them. Please share on Facebook and via email. And if you’re on Youtube, I’d LOVE you to subscribe to my channels so you can hear about each new video I upload.

Here are the links to our three channels.

Thanks for watching & listening!

~ DC

PRESS
“Melbourne’s DC Cardwell is a singer-songwriter that should appeal to fans of Neil Finn and David Grahame, and he has the ability to excel on both the slower, acoustic numbers as well as the up-tempo pop gems. You’ll only need to go a few tracks into Some Hope to realize this as the beautiful, gentle opener “I Am Still the Same” and the lovely, spare “Birthday Present” are followed by the catchy power pop of “Peace and Love”. Aside from these three, there are plenty of instant classics to go around like the breezy “Way With Words”, the harmonica and handclaps of “A Minute of Your Time”, and the jangly “Tom is Everybody’s Friend”. 16 tracks in all here, so it’s quality and quantity.”  Steve, Absolute Powerpop

“DC Cardwell creates a heart felt acoustic gem here, full of wonderful melodic hooks and a Ray Davies styled vocal. The gentle minor chords and harmonies that open “I Am Still The Same” are both brilliant and poignant. “Birthday Present” is another example of solid composition and a revelatory Harrison styled guitar break. Some of the mid-tempo ballads (“The Quiet Ages”) are like magical combinations of both Paul Simon and McCartney.”  Aaron Kupferberg, Powerpopaholic

“I have a great respect for your songwriting and style. You have a unique delivery that for the uninitiated conjures the vocal prowess of Thom York blended with the edge of John Lennon and a tip of the hat to Bob Dylan.”  Doug Mitchell (Recording engineer/producer),

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