two little words.

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 crocodile’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 has only really 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 started to register 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 people offered to pay me and were very thankful 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 additional bubblewrap 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 CDs to.

i don’t think i’ll ever give in and start putting up full albums digitally here or anywhere else, even if it would save a lot of money. there’s nothing personal about that to me. it would defeat the purpose of what i’ve worked toward doing here. an email and a link to some MP3s just doesn’t cut it. we’ve been over this before.

anyway, 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 time and effort 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 online 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 keeping 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 the album to you.

for a long time i didn’t think much of it. but does anyone else do anything like this? anywhere? at all? i’ve never heard of such a thing in all my life.

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.

you know how often that actually happens? almost never. maybe one in fifteen 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.

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”, completely unsolicited, completely free of charge, with a handwritten letter to go with every new CD, i would sure as hell 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.

i’m not saying what i’m doing here is amazing or groundbreaking. i’m just tired of not even getting the slightest acknowledgment from the people for whom i go above and beyond the call of duty. maybe some 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 pathetic and only allows you to use 420 characters in a status message. 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 personally, but they’re people who already acknowledge me pretty regularly and aren’t one of those “ghosts” i’ve been talking about. i take this to mean one of three things:

1. my hypothesis 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 correct.

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 any real 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 all of the above.

well, i gave people the opportunity to prove me wrong. they didn’t do much of anything, for the most part. so, when i have another new 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 i aim to at least cut my mailing list in half, and i’ll probably shave it down even more than that.

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 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 even say two words to thank me for all the music i’ve shared with them if they heard i was dying of testicular 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.

4 comments

  1. Dear Johnny,

    THANK YOU! Sorry I have been out of communication for a while. Looking forward to hearing your newest work. Proper feedback still to come on previous several albums …

    1. hey man…i hope you know you’re one of those people who fits into the “most thoughtful and appreciative” category. and i’m still indebted to you for bringing stina and john martyn to my attention. the new thing should get to you soon…i think i sent it off in the mail a week or so ago.

      i just kind of felt a need to rant and purge some stuff. i guess it’s been a while since i had a good old-fashioned rant here…i was probably overdue.

      and thanks for the thanks!

  2. oh man, I JUST got your package in the mail and I opened it instantly and looked at everything and read your letter, with my mom looking over my shoulder being thoroughly impressed with how professional your CDs are and how I even got a ~handwritten~ letter. She was completely blown away to say the least, especially when I reminded her that you have nothing to do with money whatsoever. so there are two great big thankyous coming from my mom and I right now : )

    I also wanted to come here to say “ahhhh I’m happy you like the words I write 😀 please feel free to play around with them with music!”
    I’ll write more of an in depth snail mail letter about poetry soon, but I just wanted to quickly let you know that I’m totally down with you experimenting with my words. I really like to write flowing lyrical prose, but I’m completely hopeless when it comes to music (which kind of breaks my heart).

    I’m super super excited to hear your new cd. I’m going to spend the afternoon making artist trading cards and listening to the new cd and the absence of sway (while reading along with the lyrics!!)

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