Spotlight on #SocialMedia: Music Man Mikey Rukus

Meet Mikey Rukus.  Not familiar with him?  You will be soon.  Mr. Rukus (not his real name) is a new breed of musician.  He doesn’t write and produce tracks for himself – no – he writes and produces custom music for combat sports organizations, fighters, and personalities.  One of Mikey’s most unique qualities?  He’s almost exclusively “blown up” in MMA due to his online presence.  Having worked with over 150 different clients in the MMA industry to date and continuing to raise brand awareness for companies and fighters through custom music, Mikey landed a record deal with DeBar Recordings this past September (2013).

Before I let Mikey steal the show, as he’s notorious for doing so well, I want to personally thank him once again.  Rukus Fun Fact:  Mikey is the introductory voice to my radio show “Punch Drunk Radio.”  While he’s known for working with fighters for theme and walk-out music, he’s definitely not limited himself exclusively to that.  Here’s a quick example of his work.  Listen closely – it showcases his tenacity, talent, sense of humor, and attention to detail.


Q:  Dude.  The short version of the story is that you scored a record deal after your worked your way up the musical ranks online.  You used social media to your advantage at every turn.  Take us way back – what got you started?  

A:   As an artist, social media is the greatest weapon to ever come along, dare I say more than raw talent.  Before the internet, artists, rappers, bands etc., were forced to push their demos on CD to [people in] their immediate area.  They would have to get the money together and either learn to burn their own CDs, or send them off for replication.  So problem #1 was budget; some simply didn’t have it.  I went through those years of putting three songs on a CD, handwriting the names of the songs, my name and phone number on them, and walking up and down the streets of “the Bottom” in Richmond, VA, going into area businesses, handing my disk to anyone who would take it.  At the end of four or five hours, you would have covered a small section of one city.  Which, in proportion to the world of music, is extremely frustrating.  So problem #2 was reach.  When the internet/social media finally came into being, it put the world right in front of you. It gave you the opportunity, for little to no money at all, to not only create “virtual demos”, but reach as many people as humanly possible.  An artist/musician in today’s world must utilize this tool.

Q:  In your case, you ARE your own brand.  How has social media helped with your brand building?

A:  In my path of assisting others in building their brand, it’s turned the identity of my brand into being.  This was my specific plan: to be known as the one who is the ultimate storyteller of our time in our sport.  But I didn’t want to go out there just telling everyone “Hey I’m the Fight Music Producer guy.”  I wanted others who experienced working with me firsthand to go out there and say “HEY, THAT’S THE FIGHT MUSIC PRODUCER GUY!”  It’s much more effective that way.

Mikey Rukus

Q:  What makes social media so different from any other traditional marketing/advertising/PR tools?

A:   Piggy-backing off of the last answer, budget plays a huge factor.  Back when I was performing live, pre-dating social media use (which really wasn’t that long ago, so don’t get it too twisted!), I can remember putting flyers together with just black writing, some basic hand drawn logos, running off to the nearest Xerox place and printing a bunch of flyers, handing them out, stapling them to telephone poles and light poles, and again, just reaching a small vicinity after hours of work.  Now, with a Photoshop program, making a pretty decent POSTER, and sharing it with literally hundreds if not thousands of people, within a matter of minutes.  Maximize your reach while minimizing your time used and your budget.

Q:  How has social media affected your image?

A:  One great thing about me going full force into the use of social media over the last 3 years, is that people have been able to see my progression over time.  All of the companies that I reached out to years ago who declined my services have since seen my presence grow. They see my client roster grow – along with it, my quality of work and the level of high-profile clients as well.  With them seeing this, they see that my brand began to represent consistency, dependability and durability.  Soon after, those very clients who turned me down previously would come back and acquire my services.

Q:  Social media is all about sharing and engaging – but what should be kept OFF off social media?

A:  Well… people use social media for different reasons.  Some use it for business purposes, while others use it for personal reasons.  I’m sure if you surf about for about a good 2 minutes you will come across something that will offend you.  The best thing I can say is:  the only thing that should be kept off social media is anything that promotes illegal activity.  Other than that, it’s pretty much fair game.  If I am offended by something a person has posted in relation to their own opinions, I have the option to not look at it. 

Q:  What are you favorite platforms and which have been most successful for you? Facebook

A:  Hands down, Facebook has been my biggest weapon.  I think the reason I have been successful where others have fallen flat is because people have a tendency to spam on FB – they think sending out mass emails hoping to get a response generates revenue.  The point of Facebook is to connect with people!  In the beginning, while some would do the mass spamming emails, I simply began reaching out to people individually.  Instead of sending a blanket email, I would ask every person the same question “Have you ever thought about having your very own theme song? One that is made specifically about YOU and tells YOUR story?” I left it open, every single one of them, and I allowed people the chance to respond.  Slowly I began to realize that I was educating the mixed martial arts community on the importance of branding strategies.  The point though, was that I personalized it for each and ever single person I spoke to. Every story was different, and I allowed them the space to tell their story, and when I showed them that I was invested in their story, then they were willing to invest in me.  By far, Facebook gives you the opportunity to pinpoint your market and reach out to the individuals within that market.

Q:  What drives engagement?  Anyone can put content out there.  How do you get responses?  How does interacting work in your favor?

A:  Invoking the emotions of the recipient is what drives engagement.  Depending on what you are trying to do, whether it be to cause people to ask questions about social issues, [hitting] political hot buttons, or simply educating them on how to cook something that you’ve come to enjoy and you want to share with others ;)* , it all comes down to the content you release that touches someone internally and, in turn, causes them to feel the need to respond.

*(Editor’s note: that was a wink at my efforts to enthrall my fellow foodies by posting videos.  Check out AmyActually on YouTube to see what you’ve missed.)

Q:  How important is it to have a social media policy in place for employees of a larger company?

Photo: CU Solutions Group

Photo: CU Solutions Group

A:  Before moving into music full-time, I was a manager for a Best Buy store.  I was responsible for a store that did $25 million annually, with 100 employees that reported to me daily.  I can’t tell you the Facebook and Twitter fights that would go on between employees outside the store that would spill over into the work place.  There were also situations where hourly employees would post negatively about managers, and vice versa. We would have to worry about product reviews being given by employees prior to the release of products.  It was a nightmare.  Social media policies are essential in today’s world – they keep the peace at work, prevent misrepresentation of a company, and protect shareholders from potential damages.

Q:  How do you set social media goals?  What might they include?

A:  The goals that I set will vary depending on what I am working on at that particular time.  Sometimes I set goals for actual reach.  For example: How many people saw a particular post?  How many more do I want to see that particular post?   While, at other times, when releasing free music, how many spins or downloads did I receive after a social media push?  How many did I want?  Other times, I set financial goals that usually tie into what I need to survive.

Q:  What is your biggest (social media) pet peeve? 

A:  As an artist, my biggest pet peeve is when I work to get other people to share my work, and EVERY TIME, without fail, somewhere, another artist will post their work to try to piggyback on my stuff.  Some people don’t put in the time necessary to build an online presence, and they don’t put out the content to invoke interaction.  When they see someone talking about another artist, the first thing they do is “Well HEY, I do that stuff too! Look at my stuff”. I get it, happens all the time, but it’s definitely an annoyance.

Q:  How does the average person/student/business get started?  Aren’t there barriers to entry?

A:  The best thing to do to get started is to have a plan.  Some people do well with an A-Z written out plan, others just say “I’m going to do this”, and do it.  I did a little of both. I knew exactly what I was going to do, and what I wanted to do, so I did it.  Along the way I started to see where some things would need a bit more planning and prioritization so that’s when the written planning came in.  I spent so much time talking to people, that once the business started to come in, I found myself having trouble between prospecting, pitching, closing a deal, writing and recording the music, and prospecting before my plate was cleared in order to have continuous work – not to mention the studying and trial and error of learning new recording techniques in order continue growing! None of this includes having time with the wife and dealing with all of the extracurricular things that come with having 8 children (yes, 8).  I began figuring out a business rhythm that worked for me.  Some days it works better than others, but at least I have a guideline, and I make sure that there is no idle time.   Every minute is a minute devoted to moving forward; there is no stationary place, only progression and completion.

I can hear your chants from here, actually.  “More Mikey! More Mikey!  More Mikey!”  Hey, I’m here for you.  I bring you an encore presentation:

Q:  If you could be any kind of dinosaur, what kind would you be? (Just seeing if you’re still paying attention.)

A:  I would be a Dinobot (Transformers- Google it if necessary 😉 )

Q:  After embracing social media, what has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to teach yourself (or unlearn)?

A:  I am always a fan first when it comes to mixed martial arts.  So when I begin working with a high-profile client, I always want to tell everyone!  It took me a few “trial and error” lessons to learn to keep certain things under wraps until they can be announced at the right time.

Q:  Has using social media taken away time normally spent on something else?

A:  Absolutely.  The thing about social media is that it almost becomes a borderline obsession.  Without even realizing it, I find myself “checking all my stuff” constantly – on my laptop, on my desktop, my tablet, on my phone at a stop light, whatever and wherever I have the chance.  There has to be a clear, conscious effort to put it down from time to time to handle other things.

Q:  Is social media really a critical tool for any organization in today’s marketplace?

A:  Yes! It is the way of the world now. It would be foolish for a business in today’s world to turn a blind eye to  a place that houses their target market in literally any category, at their fingertips.


mikeyblockTwitter: @MikeyRukus 


SoundClick:  Mikey Rukus

YouTube:  Mikey Ruckus LLC

Blog:  The Rukus Perspective: Fat Ninja Media and MMA Uncaged Magazine

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