The Value of Asynchronous Communication, or Don’t Call My Home.

By now, many of you realize that I operate over a dozen web pages, some as much as 21 years old. All of them have contact pages for e-mailing me directly from the site, and several have discussion forums. Yes, I get a lot of spam, but I try to respond to most coherent questions from actual people within 24 hours. When I respond, I provide an e-mail address folks can use to add attachments or other questions to the conversation.

Asynchronous means that we don’t have to be sitting at the computer at the same time for this to work. If you try to have an actual conversation via, say Facebook Messaging, Phone Messaging, or just talking on the phone, both of you have to be at the computer or near the phone as long as the conversation goes on. Which is fine if you don’t have anyplace urgent to be or anything urgent to be doing. That’s called “synchronous” communication.

Asynchronous communication, such as e-mail, is better, especially for people like me who are constantly doing something. You contact me at your convenience and I contact you back at my convenience. But for some reason, there are folks who DON’T GET THAT.

When I first started my first web site (back in 1995), I included my telephone number, only to discover that people too lazy to read were calling me with questions that my articles answered. And, ironically, many of the callers were very rude.

These strangers seemed to think that it was somehow my “job” to be available almost 24/7 to answer random questions – even ones that I had already explained to death on the very same web page they had used to track me down. (When someone tells you there’s no such thing as a dumb question, that just proves that no one has ever looked to them for answers.)

Getting tired of phone calls at inopportune times, I took my phone number back off the site and have never put it back up. Of course anyone can find my name and city and find my phone number, but I’ll address that in a moment.

Since then, I’ve had several “urgent” e-mail messages from people who “really need help” with something I discuss on one of my sites, so could I call them as soon as possible? (Keep in mind that I don’t write about medical procedures; I write about things like folk songs, model trains, and banjos, so how urgent can these questions REALLY be?) Nevertheless, I usually try to call people who leave me their phone number.

Guess what? No matter what time I call, they are almost always too busy right then to take the call. Several have made it clear that my phone call was an unwelcome interruption of something more important they had going on at the time. (“Why are you bothering me with this now?” “Because you asked me to.” “I don’t have time for this.” You get the idea.)

At least two people had read the related articles on the web site, not liked the information I provided, and were apparently hoping that I would have a better answer on the phone than I have in writing. They were disappointed and – you guessed it – rude when I said, “No, the ways I described that in the article are the only ways I’ve found to get consistently good results.” Did they think I had a magic “door number three” somewhere that they were going to open by talking to me on the phone?

Now here’s the “Don’t Call My Home” part of this message.

Please don’t call my house phone unless:

  • You’re a friend or family member, even an old or distant friend or an estranged family member.
  • You’re lining up acts for a gig, festival, or concert series that pays its artists.
  • You’re a record producer for a major record company willing to invest in my career at your expense as an advance against future CD sales.
  • You’re a radio DJ interested in interviewing me on the air.
  • You want to hire me full-time for a good paying position that has something to do with Music or Literature or Composition or Home Recording or Model Trains (I’m not all that picky, you see).

Everybody else, please use the contact information on my pages. If you need me to call you back about something, tell me a good time to call. And I will call you from my CELL PHONE, not my house phone; and that way you’ll have a number that actually makes it easier to get ahold of me.

Now, is that so hard? What question could you possibly have about Folk music or Jesus Music or banjos or model trains that can’t wait until I have time to sit down and send you a considered response?

Why do I sound a little “put out” in this article? Because people have been calling my house with stupid questions and worse. Like yesterday, Sunday, August 14 at 12:30 PM, when most people are sitting down to Sunday dinner.

The phone rang with a blocked number. I answered it anyway, because during election season, the robocalls always have blocked numbers and the automated systems always wind up leaving messages on my voicemail that I have to waste time going back and erasing.

To my surprise, a man asked for me by name. Who is this? He gave me a name I didn’t recognize at all and was surprised that I didn’t recognize his name. He told me he was a producer, then he started asking me questions about one of my web page articles (A Brief History of Contemporary Christian Music).

Now, when you’re talking about the music industry and you throw out the word “producer,” the first connection I make is “record producer.” But after a few seconds of rather strange questions, I realize he’s not in the music industry at all. So what kind of producer is he?

I’m from an agricultural state. For all I know at this point, he produces pork bellies. I let him ramble on for a second, though. He says he’s read my article about the rise of Jesus Music and its eventual replacement by the more commercial “CCM,” which fell on hard times in turn and is now largely being underwritten by “Worship music” spinoffs.

At one point he complimented me on having a surprisingly accurate account of the genre’s history. He said, “Where did you get your facts?” I said, “I’m 64 years old. I lived through it.” I didn’t tell him I am also an experienced researcher and fact-checker, since he seemed to have another question on his mind, or at least a comment.

He then proceeded to tell me something like (pardon the paraphrase, but this is the way I remember it): “Well, the more I look into it, the more I figure these early Jesus bands didn’t really do anybody much good. Sure they sold some records and did some tours, but they sold out to the Big Three as soon as they got a chance.”

Not only am I from an agricultural state. I’m also from a rust-belt state. To me the Big Three are Chrysler, General Motors, and Ford. There was no “big three” in the music industry until 2013, some thirty years after commercial CCM began filling the role previously held by the independent Jesus Music scene and over fifteen years after the major labels bailed on CCM. So, if nothing else, the guy’s chronology was sideways. (Also, to answer the question he didn’t quite ask, the Jesus Musicians didn’t sell out to anybody. In most cases their independent touring band lifestyle was costly and unsustainable. By the time big record companies like Sony started investing in CCM, many, if not most of the first-generation Jesus musicians had gone back to day jobs, on to other ministries, and so on. Sadly, a few even left their faith behind. Very few transitioned in any meaningful way into the CCM industry, and I couldn’t even characterize that as “selling out” in any way.)

Trying to figure out where these comments were coming from, I said, “Wait, I’m confused. Who are you and what do you do?”

He repeated his name. Then he stressed his first name and last initial and said, “Just google that and you’ll know everything you need to know.” (I did later, and nothing came up, by the way. Of course I may have misremembered his name, since he called during lunchtime and I wasn’t exactly sitting at the table with a Daytimer in my hand. Pity.)

There followed an increasingly surreal conversation during which kept telling me how important he was and insisting that I block out the next 45 minutes to answer his questions. (Here’s an aside: people who really are important never feel the need to tell you how important they are.)

But A: It was still lunchtime, and B: I had a thousand things better to do than to argue with a “very important” stranger’s uninformed opinions on a topic I lived through and he obviously hadn’t. I tried one more time to restore some balance or logic to our interaction.

“Listen,” I said, “I really don’t have time to talk right now. Can you send me an e-mail with your contact information and some context for why you’re interested in having this discussion, and I’ll work out a time to call you back?”

He protested that I wasn’t being cooperative, and it was urgent that we have this discussion real-time right now. (He offered to do it through a messaging app, as though somehow that would be less disruptive to my day.) He was also sounding angrier and more frustrated all the time.

In return, I became more insistent that I was going to end the conversation one way or the other. Finally he asked for my e-mail address, which I gave him.

Now that I think about it, I shouldn’t have since there’s a CONTACT PAGE on every one of my web sites, including the page with the article he called me about.

And, since we’re in the woulda shoulda coulda mode, when he started talking to me, I should have told him to call back from an unblocked number. Put THAT under “lessons learned.”

I ended the conversation by saying I was looking forward to his e-mail so we could schedule a good time for the talk he wanted to have.

Over 48 hours later, I still haven’t heard from him. At this point I doubt I will. I’m guessing that he didn’t want me to have his e-mail address any more than he wanted me to know his phone number. And I’m supposed to trust HIM when he calls me out of the blue?

If YOU are the fellow that called me and insisted I answer all of your questions RIGHT THEN without even telling me why we were having this conversation, please feel free to use the CONTACT BUTTON on this page to reply to me privately and clear up any misconceptions I have as a result of your call.

Or if you want your public to see your reply to me, please reply to this comment, and I’ll approve your reply as long as it is coherent and family-friendly.

Or if you’d rather pretend I was uncooperative and tell your followers that I refused to answer your questions or that your questions were too hard for me or whatever, go right ahead. I’ve been called worse by better people.

If you don’t want to do any of those things, please at least work on your “people skills” so the next person you ambush on the phone has at least some chance of having an intelligent conversation with you.

Also, dear reader, if you’re one of the “followers” this man bragged about having, and you stumble across this and recognize your hero’s modus operandi, please feel free to use the CONTACT link to straighten me out. Or if you want your comments to be public, please reply to this comment from this page, and I’ll approve your reply as long as it is coherent and family-friendly.

But whatever you do, DON’T CALL ME ON THE PHONE TO COMPLAIN ABOUT SOMETHING I WROTE JUST BECAUSE IT INCLUDES FACTS YOU DON’T LIKE! 🙂

Especially at mealtime.

Have a great and blessed day, all,

Paul Race

Paul

About Paul

Paul Race has been writing and playing all kinds of music since the 1960s, though he tends to favor acoustic and traditional songs. He has created resources like CreekDontRise.com, ClassicTrainSongs.com, and SchoolOfTheRock.com to help other musicians get a good start on their own journeys.

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