Aug 7, 2014

Playing at Umbria Jazz

Just a personal update today.

I played with my quartet at Umbria Jazz for the second time in a row. This was part of a contest we won both last year and this year and it has been an incredible experience to play in such a fun, jazzy environment.

This year I’ve been also awarded the Berklee Summer School Scholarship 2015 and I’ll be studying at the Umbria Jazz Clinics which will be held in Perugia next year.

The quartet played original compositions both times and the feedback has been fantastic.

Mike Rubini Extensive quartet is:
Mike Rubini (lead, alto, compositions)
Marino Cordasco (piano)
Pasquale Gadaleta (cbass)
Gianlivio Liberti (drums)

I’ll leave you with some photos from last year and this year.

Thank you,

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Jul 24, 2014

Questions on meaning in music

Does music have meaning?
If so, why?
If so, what would it be?

When we play something in a way rather than another, do we attempt to follow a particular meaning? If so, what meaning do we follow? Do we follow the meaning that is in music or, do we follow our meaning?

Is there only one meaning in music or are there multiple meanings? Is there a wrong musical meaning and a right musical meaning? Is there a meaning which is better than the others?

How much of what we play is the meaning of the music and how much does our personality affect that meaning? In what percentage are our decisions as performers conceived? Is there a way to bring performer’s personality to zero influence?

These questions led to an interesting discussion on Facebook and I hope they will help you reflect on the subject.

Please comment below, I read every message.

Thank you,

Book suggestions on the subject:
- Arcana VI, curated by John Zorn;
- Feeling and Form, S. Langer;
- D. Temperley, Music and Probability, MIT Press, 2007;
- D. Gaita, Il pensiero del cuore, Tascabili Bompiani, 2000;
- N. Cook, Music: a very short introduction, Oxford University Press, 1998.

Articles on the subject:

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Dec 9, 2013

Why musicians should consider non-traditional marketing

[ This article appeared on Medium and Music Think Tank. ]

Let’s face it: when it comes to sell whatever we do, most of us feel uncomfortable. That is very true for musicians, too. Virtuoso jazz violinist Christian Howes address this problem in this interview with Jonathan Fields at 25:40 as “fear of self-promotion”.

What do we do to overcome this fear? In most cases, we delegate. We hire somebody and hope he/she will increase sales, secure more gigs and do the dirty job of finding venues, calling club owners and more. Musicians call this person a manager (PR). In the worse scenario musicians even hire an agency to procure interviews and press.

That’s traditional marketing. In other words: (1) we hire somebody full time, (2) pay them a commission on sales, and (3) have them go out in the field and sell.

It is good to have a person who promote your music on the field but I think that today there is a relatively new way to market your music and yourself (yes, I said it!) which involves new media. I think today we can operate in two directions: locally and globally. We have to coordinate these two assets, but I will explain this idea more in detail later in this article.

Also, today we have to consider that everybody is in sales.
Daniel Pink has recently written a new book, “To Sell is Human, The Surprising Truth about Motivating Others”. In this book he argues that now everything we do is related to sales, not necessarily door to door sales however. He looks at how to convincing people to run with idea’s and persuading people to your way of thinking is selling, yes it is indeed selling yourself.

This involves more and more to refine your skills and grow your ability to promote yourself. An agency can give you contacts or some press, but what if you can approach potential gigs or writers with a systematic process?

These are other things that I think are important and can support traditional marketing:

a) building teams; b) branding; c) marketing; d) testing;

Building Teams

I always try to act locally but think globally. That means I want to support the territory where I live, local artists, local musicians, local food, local businesses, etc.: my own band is made up of wonderful musicians who live around my area; the music I play is somehow influenced by the place where I live, the air I’m breathing, the people I’m hanging with and more. And, I try to promote all these things to a global audience.

That’s true also when it comes to market our music. I’m trying to build a team where local people and global people support each other. Of course, I do traditional marketing but I support it with Facebook ads, blog posts, Twitter strategies, images and more. I am still a musician who practice several hours a day, but I control my marketing strategy by outsourcing the things I don’t have time to do to a person who lives far away from where I live.

Rebecca is my global manager. She does everything from updating my calendar and show schedule to manage my Twitter account and researching a particular niche. She will now describe her job here:

Enter Rebecca: “I really enjoy working with Mike, his communication and leadership are first class. My job involves variety and responsibility which I love. I get to communicate with Mike’s followers on Twitter, keep Mike organized and keep his Facebook feed up to date with interesting posts. I also get to write, which is a passion of mine. All in all, I love my job!”

She actually wrote and proof-read part of this article, too. (She did a great job, didn’t she? )

By doing this I was able to maximize my impact and my productivity by 60%. My team marketing efforts provide me astonishing results: +10% gigs, +10% press, +10% sales. (I’ll share more results in another post, so make sure you follow me.)

At this point, you’re probably convinced of this strategy but wondering how to handle such a team.

The answer is simple: I crafted a system with simple but effective rules to follow in order to achieve a particular task. I organized all these rules in a document hosted on the cloud and have my team review it so that every time I need something they already know where to look for instructions.

They already know what do to and what not to do but most importantly, they know how to deliver extraordinary results and do an amazing job. The rules I provided are strictly but simple rules. Since they are break down into steps, they do not require much effort.

Why this work? Because people perform better when the job gives them a sense of autonomy, gives them meaning beyond just money and a chance to grow their skills and attain mastery. The Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has described this state as a state of “flow”.


Branding is a name, term, sign, symbol or a combination of all of these which makes you recognizable in the big wide world. It helps people to differentiate between sellers. Take Coca Cola and Pepsi, the drinks taste very similar, however the branding is key. Some people will never touch Pepsi, some people will never touch Coca Cola. I have had experiences where in a restaurant they have apologized and said they only have Pepsi and asked if this was OK. Branding therefore is a very strong way to communicate your image. As a musician it is even more important, there are so many people on this planet making, producing and creating music. There is not just one or two music artists, guarantee as you are reading this you can think of at least 10.

I hear you asking yourself, “how can I brand myself?” Well there are ways;

Creating a band/artist logo, this can be very beneficial as people see the logo and instantly relate the image to the brand. Bet you can think of 5 logo’s as we speak. The most recognized logo in the world is Nike. Having a logo also helps when it comes to selling merchandise, such as hats, t-shirts, pens even.

Think to yourself, what genre of music you cater to. I am a jazz musician, therefore to create my brand I could research other jazz musician’s and see how they brand themselves and make sure mine is different.

Social Media is another way you can brand yourself, using mediums such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. This helps to make you seem more approachable to your fans or followers. People like to feel a certain closeness and with social networking sites becoming more and more personal, that closeness is what it provides. Social Media allow you to post videos, tour dates, events, offers and so much more, all slightly influencing people and attracting people to you.

Other things that makes up a brand include your photos, your color palette, your fonts, your banners, your avatar, your tagline or slogan, your bio/story, your writing voice and more.


Copywriting is producing written copy for the purpose of marketing and advertising. This can be direct mail pieces, tag-lines, e-mails and internet content, web-page content, brochures and flyers. It can also be extended to tweets, blog posts and social network page posts. It also comes handy when you are branding yourself and telling your story.

Listeners want fresh, new and interesting content. They want the opportunity to listen and feel. I don’t mean feel by touch but music can introduce feeling. On your social media platform you could post videos, either yours or another influential musician. Keep your listeners updated. If there is big gap between posts people may lose interest. If there is a big gap between songs, listeners will start to wonder where you have gone, what has happened, keeping them informed will make sure you don’t lose them.

Every musician should build a mailing list for that purpose, keeping your listeners updated, with tours, breaks, new pieces and much more. There is a lot of information you could put in your newsletter, which can be weekly, fortnightly or even monthly.


I like to build systems to test things as well. In fact, I am continuously testing every aspect of my carrer including:

Gigging: Am I talking to the right people? Is this my audience? Is my proposal as good as it could be? My shows: Am I making the best out of them? How can I impact more people? My communications: Is this email too long or too short? What can I do to improve my relationship with the venue owner? Broad career: Am I making a big enough impact? What are my peers doing?

How do you conduct these tests? That’s easy with all the technology we have.

One method is A/B testing on Facebook, this method allows artists to try out various options in an advertising campaign. You may have already tried this by asking friends and family, band members or fans what song they liked best out of a choice of songs to then put as a download on your site. Listen to the numbers, they don’t lie. One song may not be getting a lot of “likes” or “clicks” so you can then change it.

Another way of testing is test subject lines in your emails. There are several ways you can make the subject lines of emails more eye-catching so they don’t end up in the SPAM boxes of people. You can use mind-blowing statistics to build intrigue or you can personalize the email by using the person’s first name, this amplifies the feeling of missing out on something. No one wants to miss out.

Lastly testing at shows, you can see what type of response you receive if you dress one way for one show, then dress differently for another. Also you can also change the set list order to see what type of response you get. They might be only slight changes to you but they really allow you to test your audience.

So now I hope that you would consider using non-traditional marketing techniques to differentiate yourself from the normality of adverts. I sincerely hope this article helps you grasp social media advertising and making your page successful on a social media site. Build yourself a brand and run with it.

Thank you for reading,

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I strive to make music that moves people and hope to make an impact in the music scene as an open-minded and innovative musician. Please visit the about page on the blog or head over to my website for further info about me.