Eight letters. Two syllables. It takes less than two seconds to say or type them. And yet, getting someone to say those words often seems a bit like trying to remove a bear’s teeth with your bare hands while your fingers are slathered in peanut butter and rats are gnawing at your genitals.
The awe-inspiring elusiveness of a simple “thank you” is something that’s only started to bother me over the past few years. For the longest time I didn’t really notice it at all. But it all starts to add up. I try to make a point of thanking people when they do something kind or thoughtful for me, even if it’s something very small. It’s always felt like the appropriate response. When you’re the one on the receiving end of the thanks, it’s a nice feeling.
So you’d think it would be pretty simple. But no. A lot of people almost seem to be allergic to saying thank you.
I don’t think this registered for me until I started to build up a visible audience for my music. Suddenly more than a handful of people were interested in what I was doing. More than a few of them didn’t live anywhere near Windsor, so I would say, “Give me your address, and I’ll send you some music.” Some of them offered to pay me and were very appreciative when I insisted I didn’t want any money.
Once someone made their way onto my mailing list, they generally stayed there unless they ended up taking a giant dump on me at some point and no longer seemed worthy of being on the list. And whenever I had new music to share, I would write them a letter and send them a copy of whatever the new album was at the time.
I still do this, though not as many people take me up on the offer as you might think.
One day it hit me that I was sending music to quite a few different people and the process had become a lot more expensive and time-consuming. That doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind spending the money. I don’t mind taking the time to write every single person a handwritten letter, cutting and taping bubble wrap to protect the CDs, going to the post office with boxes full of bubble mailers. I enjoy keeping the whole thing on a small enough scale so I can do this and there’s some sort of personal connection with the people I’m sending albums to.
I don’t think I’ll ever give in and start putting up full albums online here or anywhere else, even if it would save a lot of time and money. There’s nothing personal about that to me. It would defeat the whole purpose of what I’ve worked toward doing here. An email and a link to some MP3s just doesn’t cut it. But we’ve been over this before.
As I said, the time and costs involved have never been an issue for me. I look at that stuff as the nature of the beast. If you’re going to cut money out of the equation where your audience is concerned, you’re going to have to eat it.
It’s getting a lot more expensive to eat it these days, now that I put more work into the packaging side of things. But I deal with that. I have strong teeth.
What’s started to bother me is just how few people will go to the trouble of saying “thank you”. Some people don’t even acknowledge getting mail from me at all. It’s one thing to order a CD from Amazon and have it delivered to you in some sort of generic brown cardboard package. There’s nothing personal about that. I put an effort into making it personal when it comes to my music. You don’t pay for the album. You don’t pay for shipping. You don’t pay for anything. You don’t even have to do anything. When I have a new album finished, I write you a letter and send you a copy.
For a long time I didn’t think much of it. But does anyone else do anything like this? Anywhere? At all? Ever? I’ve never heard of such a thing in all my life.
I’m not saying I should be celebrated for being crazy enough to do this. But you’d think the least you should get, after doing all of that for someone, is a quick email letting you know the mail got where it was going safe and sound, and maybe after the person has had a chance to absorb the music they could let you know if they like it or not. Even something as terse as, “Thanks for the CD, look forward to listening,” is enough.
You know how often that actually happens? Almost never. Maybe one in twenty people will say thanks or let me know they got the new CD. If I’m really lucky, someone will go to the trouble of typing more than eight words in an email and tell me a little something about what they think, or what songs they especially like. But that’s very rare.
I don’t think I’m asking for much here when you weigh it against what I’m doing. You don’t even have to say thanks, though it would be nice to hear once in a while. Just letting me know you get my mail is more than enough. You can bet if I liked someone’s music and they were thoughtful enough to send me every new album they released for the entirety of their life or “career” (or at least as much of it was I was around for), unsolicited, free of charge, with a handwritten letter to go with every new CD, at some point I would take two seconds to sit down and let that person know I appreciated it.
And then I would probably have to wash my clothes. Because if someone took the time to do something like that for me on anything even approaching a consistent basis, I would probably piss my pants.
Again, I don’t mean to imply that what I’m doing here is amazing or groundbreaking. I’ve never thought it was. I’m just tired of not even getting the slightest acknowledgment from most of the people for whom I go above and beyond the call of duty. Maybe most people assume I know they’re thankful because they thanked me once two years ago or something, so of course it still holds true and carries over to every new album. I don’t know that. I don’t even know if half of the people I send CDs to bother to listen to them.
Of course, there are people who are exceptions to the rule, some of whom have reciprocated in ways I never expected. They know who they are. Those people remind me how rewarding it can be when you’re able to form a genuine connection with someone, and how nice it is to have someone else go to the trouble of doing something for you.
As for everyone else, well…I just put up a little message on Facebook. I couldn’t say everything I wanted to, because Facebook is still pathetic and only allows you to use a little over four hundred characters in a status update. The gist of it was, “If you would like to continue to receive new music from me in the future, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know that you actually listen to the music I send you. Otherwise, I think I’m going to stop writing all these letters and drastically shorten my mailing list. It’s expensive and time-consuming to do this all out-of-pocket, and if people can’t take two seconds to say ‘thank you’ or even just let me know they got my mail, I don’t really see the point in putting the effort in anymore.”
I was going to add, “At least when I talk to myself, my self talks back sometimes.” But like I said, Facebook is stupid and would only let me say so much.
I think maybe two people have responded, and they not only live close enough that I’m able to give them CDs in person, but they’re people who already acknowledge me on the regular and aren’t one of those “ghosts” I’ve been talking about. I take this to mean one of three things:
1. My hunch that the majority of people don’t bother acknowledging getting the music I send them because they don’t listen to it and really don’t give a shit is right on the money. They’ve only been taking/accepting the stuff because it’s free and have never had any real interest in it.
2. No one really reads or responds to what anyone else says on Facebook unless it involves a quiz with sexy pictures, an embarrassing celebrity mishap, a wedding, a baby being born, or a birthday, because none of those discussions require much thought at all and all you need to do is come up with some empty platitudes in order to contribute an appropriate comment.
3. I’m wasting my time.
Or maybe it’s all of the above.
Well, I gave people the opportunity to prove me wrong. For the most part they didn’t do much of anything at all. So the next time I have anew album to share (which will probably happen a few months from now), there will be far fewer packages going out in the mail. I alluded to this in a previous blog post, but now my plan is to at least cut my mailing list in half.
It’s not about “punishing” anyone for not being appreciative enough, and it doesn’t come from a place of bitterness. I don’t have an over-inflated sense of entitlement, and I’m not digging for praise. I simply don’t have the time or the energy to keep doing this for people who don’t care either way.
If you’re a friend and you acknowledge me from time to time, you can consider yourself exempt from all of this and expect to keep receiving mail from me until I die. Hell, some of the most thoughtful and appreciative people I’ve ever known live very far away, lead busy lives, and have never once met me in the flesh, while some of the people who don’t seem to care live mere blocks away from me, and some of them probably wouldn’t say two words to thank me for all the music I’ve shared with them even if they heard I was dying of some aggressive form of cancer and had only days to live.
What does that tell you?
It kind of goes back to the whole reason I stopped sending CDs to record labels years ago, and why I won’t ever waste my time with that again. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The more you taunt the substitute teacher, the more she needs to shave her mane.