Letter from a Fan

March Newsletter’s Final Thought…
AN EMAIL EXCHANGE…

I have been in the act of promoting this fundraising project for over two months now. I received this email from Jonathan (in the US) in response to my thank you note for his $20 pre-purchase of my new album. I asked his permission to share this with you and it was granted. Deciding to adopt this fundraising model wasn’t easy, but Jonathan’s note made me realize how important having the courage to ask for help is. Below is his message and my response follows.

>>>>

Ember,

Thank you for your thoughtful thank you letter. I’m continually amazed by you: your talents, your insights, your courage, your accessibility. I’ve been reading your final thoughts for the last seven years, ever since I signed up for your mailing list after a show you did at the House of Blues in Boston. Do you know how few mailing lists I’ve stayed on that long? Very few. Once you sent out a final thought about suicide and I responded. To my surprise you responded [back]… I didn’t own any of your music at the time.

A couple of years ago I made a musical portrait of myself to give out to friends and family before I moved out of the area. Having been a vegetarian for some time I wanted to include a song that spoke to that. “Include my Food” was a perfect fit. I don’t remember how I came about the song, but I’m sure I didn’t pay for it… once I used “Include my Food” as part of one of my own creative endeavors, the guilt of my theft grew.

By American standards I’ve been scraping by most of my life, with little money to spend on non-essentials, but recently I’ve settled into a somewhat stable situation and I can afford to “support the arts” as I like to call it. I still remember when Napster came on the scene while I was in college. In the 10 years since my relationship to music as a commodity has changed forever. I still buy CDs, but primarily used or as gifts. To buy new music these days it has to be either difficult to find, or connected to something larger than the music itself. I think that’s why I’ve decided to pre-purchase your next CD. No offense, but I’m not too concerned about the content of the CD itself. First of all, I have complete confidence it will be a work of art, because of what I know about you and your past body of work, but also because you’ve already given me what I wanted most of all; to feel a part of something, to feel like a co-creator, to feel that my money has purpose and is supporting a worthy cause.

Music, as a material commodity, has for me plummeted in value. But community and purpose are as strong as ever. I believe in you Ember, and that’s why I’m supporting you with my measly $20. I wish you the best of luck and I’ll be passively checking in on your progress over the next several months/year.

Take care,
Yours,
Jonathan

And this was my response:

>>>>

Jonathan,

I was really moved by this note. It was so touching to receive and I want to really thank you for taking the time to write it.

Sometimes in this industry, when I live so far away from people and tend to have most of my contact with my fan base be digital, it makes me wonder whether or not there’s anyone out there. I really appreciate a note like yours that reminds me that there are thinking people out there willing to have a conversation using the “old-fashioned” form of communication called “e-mail”! Thanks again for writing.

Your words precicely embody the point of my extension to people. I wanted people “to feel a part of something, to feel like a co-creator, to feel that [their] money has purpose and is supporting a worthy cause.” It’s about people and not commodity. I wanted to remind everyone that I am a person here and I am scraping by like everyone else and I want to give back, but in a sustainable way, so that everyone gets something and no one loses and we all feel like it’s been a collective effort to get a project off the ground. I believe we’ve become too detached from music as a material commodity (not unlike food) and have forgotten where it comes from: the artist. Thank you so much for putting that into words and for pressing “send.” Thanks even more, though, for caring enough to be a part of the effort as an “Ambassador.” That’s the most golden of all.

And finally, I never feel that people who possess and share and listen to my music who haven’t purchased it are part of a culture of thievery. To me, the art is not trapped on a spinning piece of plastic or in a digital file on iTunes. It’s an intangible thing that changes every moment. It’s organic. It’s part of me. Therefore, it’s best experienced live, but when an audio snapshot is taken in the form of a recording, it’s simply that: a snapshot; it’s not the art itself. If I felt that my art were being stolen whenever someone listened for free or copied my albums, I would be in a constant state of feeling exploited, victimized, violated, etc. We are all part of and responsible for and benefiting from these changing technologies. I, too, have copied and downloaded music for free. When I can support something on my limited means, I do. When I can’t, I try to support it in non-monetary ways such as by promoting it, etc. That’s what you were doing when you gave that musical portrait out to friends and family and I thank you for that. You helped distribute my music and that’s invaluable!!

Much warmth to you and thank you…
…for taking the time….
All the best,
Ember

All the best to you all this March, 2011.
-es

Spring in Beijing
Community Supported Agriculture

©2017 Ember Swift. All Rights Reserved.
Design by Janine Stoll Media.