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Why Don't People Listen to Your Music?

Mike Rubini By

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My name is Mike Rubini, and I'm pursuing a career in music. I have worked for All About Jazz as a social media consultant. This new column will focus heavily on a well-researched and thoughtful critique of major issues facing independent musicians and an in-depth analysis of the processes that can be used to understand the state of jazz music today.

This article was translated from Italian.

Music is communication. I believe communication is more valuable when it causes a change for all involved parties (in this particular case, musicians and their audiences). That is why I'm now interested in studying psychology and how behavior change works. I want to apply those concepts to find an alternative model to the music experience. We, as musicians, want exactly that—to use sound to convey an experience that moves others. That's our contribution to the world, in a way. When listeners leave after the concert, they should feel different, at least on a subconscious level. But to achieve that level of experience, listeners must truly listen and accept everything without any psychological barriers. How do we solve this problem? How can we make it a no-brainer for people to listen to our music?

Well, it turns out that there are different ways to do that. Our target behavior (that is, what we want people to do) is: listen to music. Having that in mind, there are two paths to this goal. The easy path is to make the target behavior easier to do. The hard path is to educate people, train people, and give them the skills to complete the target behavior.

Now, most of the musicians I know choose the easy path, but they walk through it in the wrong way. They choose not to make listening to music easier, but the music itself simpler. For me, music is everything, and making it easier to digest is not an acceptable solution. I feel that to adapt to the market, to trends, is wrong. Music shouldn't be about either making people have what they want or making people have what you want. It's not entertainment it's deeper than that. It's about sharing.

Therefore, we want to educate people with a step-by-step process, as pianist Bill Evans says in his documentary film, Universal Mind (Rhapsody Films, 1966). We want to facilitate the process of listening to music with baby steps for long-term changes.

So, why don't people attend our concerts? Why don't people listen deeply to music? I think it's about what it costs in terms of time, effort and money. Here are three factors that I'm working with to better reach listeners.

1. Time

Attending concerts takes time; listening to music takes time. Time is a really big issue in music because there are different times going on when we play. Let's understand how this factor works from the listener's perspective. We have to understand that time is value and we should motivate the listeners to keep listening. We are responsible, as composers and performers, for their time. Why should someone listen to you rather than doing something else?

Here are some ideas about how to maximize your impact in less time:

a) Get to the point. Leave out any speech before the beginning of the concert. Let the music be the words you would say to the audience. Just let the music flow;

b) Change the format. The CD format is becoming vintage; just pack a USB or make a digital package with one or two tracks, but treat it like a new CD release. Aim for perfection. Live performances should be in-the-moment and affected by drama; recordings should be perfect. For those of you who might think the CD format is not old, I have three questions: Do you actually use it? Do you like to use it? Is the company who makes it trying to make it better for you?

c) Leave the audience wanting more. Perform concerts of 30 to 40 minutes, not more;

d) Change the context. Make them feel your music in everyday life. Do you really think you'll need to be onstage? Do you think you'll need that expensive sound equipment? I believe it's actually better to connect with people in such a space where you can feel them—feel their breath—so I would say: no;

e) Choose your audience. Keep out of the game people who do not care; let go of your expectations. People are lazy; they want to be motivated. In my experience, a core motivator that works is social acceptance: many people go to concerts because by doing so they can elevate their social status—but wait! I don't want that kind of audience! So how do I filter?

f) Build credibility. Tell people exactly what you did and how you came up with certain ideas for the music you will be presenting at the concert. They want to know about you;

g) Give them a context. Tell them where you have been playing (if relevant). Tell them stories, but be concise;



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