Successful Musicians Podcast Episode 17
Interviewee: Isabella Bedoya
Interviewer: Jason Tonioli
Hey, this is Jason Tonioli. I’m a piano player that grew up believing it wasn’t possible to earn a living and support a family with music. I’ve proven that idea was wrong, and I’ve met hundreds of other people who have found success with their music. This podcast features stories of musicians who have found their own personal version of success and fulfillment in both music and life. This podcast is meant to inspire musicians and help them believe in their abilities and motivate them to share their talents with others. This is the Successful Musicians Podcast.
Jason: Welcome to podcast today. I have a special guest with me, Isabella. She has a very unique story. She started out her professional career as a private chef and ended up in Beverly Hills and just kind of going down a very unique music path that is not the normal story that we hear from most people. Isabella, thanks for joining us on the show today.
Isabella: Thanks Jason for having me.
Jason: I love the food. So, tell us a little bit about this whole private chef and give us your story of how you grew up and your parents probably told you, don’t do music and we get all kinds of advice here, but how in the world did you end up in music as a private chef?
Isabella: So, it’s really a very creative story. So, when I graduated college, I couldn’t find a job anywhere and it was like my rock bottom because I couldn’t find a job anywhere. It was impossible like either I was under qualified or too qualified to work at local restaurants.
So, one day, I actually went and I ended up making dinner for my family. And they were just like, “Hey, what if you actually posted these on some Facebook group? Where like the locals are here, right? I was like, “Sure I’ll post this.”
I posted sauce that I made in a Facebook group and without even thinking too much about it, all these people started placing in all these like pre-orders. I was just like, “Whoa, what is happening?”
So, I was literally so broke, and I couldn’t even afford to put all the materials to put it together, so I asked my mom to lend me $20. Next day, I flipped it to like $125 and everywhere that I went, people asked me, “Do you do catering? Do you offer meal plan service and everything? I was like, “Yeah, yeah!” I run home, make the menu, send that out.
Then one week I turned this really awful scenario into like, I think it was like $2,500 or something like that. I kept doing that consistently, essentially just selling meal prep on Facebook groups. And a family in Beverly Hills found me and I had like two weeks to pack up my life in South Florida and become a living private chef in their house.
Jason: So, you went from Florida just trying to make ends meet to going to be a private chef with some fancy family there. And now you’re coaching. I know, you’ve taught over 300 musicians and artists in the music world. How do we get from a private chef to… Give us that story now?
Isabella: From there, the second that I touched down to LA, I knew that I wanted to have a career in music. I didn’t know exactly what I would do or anything like that. So, this was back when Facebook events were like actually a thing. I just started going through Facebook events and every single night I always find something and then I’m in industry and I would go into it, and I would just show up, like whatever it was I would show up show up and I would not work like crazy. So, I ended up becoming an A&R for a label under Sony and basically what I had to do now, the first thing that they taught us how to do was use social media to scout talent. They taught us the red flags, what to look for, what not to look for, like all these different things and that’s like I started having this epiphany like for an artist to make a notice really boils down to social media and this like back in 2016 or 2017.
So, social media is completely different now. But that’s when I started getting this epiphany like, “Okay, artists need to get really good at social media. They need to get really good at digital marketing.” And that’s what I should be realizing. You know, I went through like all these different career paths, and I realized that the best way to help artists is to actually help them build their personal brand on social media.
Jason: Interesting! Tell me, from a music standpoint, and you’re not necessarily a musician yourself so what was it that drew you to music as a career?
Isabella: That’s a really good question. I’ve always loved music even back in high school, I would be the person making CDs for all my friends. When I was in high school, before Spotify, you literally had to go out of your way to find unreleased music. Somehow, I always found music that was later on end up being played on the radio and my friends will be so shocked. How did you do that? And I would say, “I don’t know, it came natural to me.”
So, I didn’t really realize that that was a skill until later on. But I’ve always loved working with talents. I’ve always loved finding music and I’m not a big musician myself, but I do have musician’s tendencies, right? Like I’ve done my doodle and learning production and stuff like that, and I know this is something that I want to explore down the path. But right now, I’m just more focused on building Fame Hackers and building the community.
Jason: So, you mentioned earlier that you’re an A&R for Sony. So, for those who don’t know what an A&R is, please explain what A&R and what that role maybe was.
Isabella: Yeah, so I know for everyone that they have different experiences. For the expense that I had, I basically have to scout talents, find talents. Somewhat, they look like they’re putting in the part, their effort, they have found a solid brand and all that. We will then bring them to the studio and based on wherever they were in their career, and it would be like more of an artist development and then figuring out if they’re actually gonna get signed, or whatever the case is.
So generally speaking, A&R is basically the middleman between the label and the artists. I know the rules had changed so much since back then and I know it continues to change, so it was a really cool experience and that’s pretty much what made me understand how to actually help an artist better on what to focus on.
Jason: So, for those that are new to the business, A&R stands for what?
Isabella: Artists and Repertoire.
Jason: Got it! Perfect. So really, you’re just kind of coaching and helping find these individuals to help them be successful. So, the whole premise of how we started this podcast was to just try and help people recognize musicians of all kinds. I know for me growing up, I never looked at music as a career. I was just one of those that said “Okay, you need to go get a real job and music is something you could do in your spare time or for fun.” The more you get into the music business, the more you realize, “oh my gosh, it’s always like there were the types of things you can do with music. So, what advice would you have? Did your parents say, hey music is a bad idea? Do you have any advice to those thinking that a music career is something they wanted to kind of explore?
Isabella: Yeah, absolutely. The whole reason why we started Fame Hackers was to kind of eliminate that whole narrative. My parents of course, they have the best intentions. They were very supportive, but they also didn’t see how you can make a living with music. Right? So, my parents will say, go to med school or do whatever but just don’t do the music side.
And nowadays, we are like in such a beautiful period of history and period of life because we can actually monetize our passions. So as long as we actually know how to create a personal brand on social media and create an offer that the people that follow you are gonna be interested in purchasing. They can really monetize anything that you do nowadays. It’s not like it used to move forward. We have to be signed, like discovered and signed and now you can actually make a lot of money not from the music itself, but from like music like related offers to your music, to your brand, to your artist culture and stuff like that.
Jason: As you worked with all these artists, over the years now, what would you say is success for somebody who really feels like they found that happiness and fulfillment and whatever they’re doing with their art?
Isabella: Success can be defined in so many ways. The way that I define success is to actually be able to live life on your terms, where you have complete ownership of your art, you have complete control of how you generate an income, and just not compromising your own values for what you actually want so if you can focus on how to create a culture, how to attract your fans that are in it not just for the music but for the culture that you’re building. I think that truly defines success as we continue moving the creator’s economy.
Jason: If you got a younger musician or even let’s say you got a brand-new artist that comes and starts working with you, what are some of the things that you do with those people and just give us an idea of what it would maybe look like when they come in and they work with you?
Isabella: Yeah. Very first step was actually to first figure out the messaging like what is the messaging behind the lyrics, stories and stuff like that. And then the second part is actually figuring out what kind of content can be created or documented around that. If we focus on the subjectivity of the music then we can actually amplify the message a lot bigger than focusing on the track itself, because generally speaking, people, listeners, they don’t really care about… I mean, they care about the producer once the producer is big. They don’t really care about what you’re using. They don’t really care about your plugins. Listeners just want to figure out something that sounds cool that they relate to. And then who actually created it – the actual person.
Jason: And what does it usually feel like to connect with artists? Do you got examples of anybody you’ve dealt with where you’re like okay, we need to do that again.
Isabella: So, it’s been a few. For example, let’s say that your music stars, for example, his whole brand, his whole vibe is all about meaning music, positive music. So, when it comes down to creating an experience or anything like that, it’s gonna be focused around positivity and bringing in people that are actually looking for more positive outlets and people with positive communities and stuff like that, like a digital offer.
The album, for example called Green Bay, so the digital offer is not just a song, but it’s like an affirmation booklet that goes with it. He goes on a lot of hiking trails and stuff like that. So, there’s a booklet with all these pictures from the hiking trails. And I’m like a journal prompt and a journal entry. So, it’s targeting those people that are actually into positivity and finding more like mindfulness in their life. That’s pretty much like when you create marketing as we call the emotional triggers where the pain points when you can focus on what those are for actual music, then you can really create like a bigger brand around it.
Jason: What would you say are some of the biggest mistakes that you see these artists just in general make? There’s a lot of independent artists that are trying their best. They put their songs or two out there, multiple songs even. Sometimes you just don’t get traction. It’s frustrating as an artist. I think it’s happened to everybody, even all successful people, but what are some of those common mistakes you see as a coach?
Isabella: I think the most common mistake is…well, I have a couple. First one is when you say a new song out now checkout, you’re not really giving any kind of hint as to why people should check out that song. The second thing is when you ask an artist what your music is about, like what is your music, they usually will say, Oh, it’s about life experience. Again, your life experience is completely different than the next person. Having a little bit more clarity on what exactly that means, then you’re going to be able to attract more people. Let’s say that you are writing music about I don’t know about heartbreak like Taylor Swift. Her music is either about a hopeless romantic or heartbreak. And if you were to write a song where you’re talking about that you could actually just say, “If you just got dumped, I just wrote a song for you, check it out.”
Now, people actually want to like to listen, so I think just having more clarity on that will help a lot more people.
Jason: I’ve done a lot of these piano songs over the years. I’ve actually probably set a bad example of what not to do. I just released a new album and said, I should have done better. But I have almost a dozen songs in this book, and I tell stories on every one of them for my piano-playing people but when it comes to releasing the stuff on iTunes, I have done a very poor job of sharing those stories. Sometimes they’re great songs, but they don’t get as much traction. It is like you get to the end of the row and then you just gotta stop. Don’t put the gas pedal down the hill and there was a hump there.
Isabella: It is just a little shift in messaging that goes a long way.
Jason: I think the hard part is I think as artists in general I think we really enjoy that creation process. I am a marketer through and through but there’s so many musicians that just do not want to think about marketing. There are so many people I found that are so much more talented than me, but their stuff doesn’t ever catch on because they haven’t done it or aren’t willing to try to do the marketing piece.
So, when you run across artists like that, I know that there’s probably more people that don’t want to do the marketing, and just pretend that that’s a bad word, right? Or they’re like, I don’t want to sell my stuff, I don’t want to market my stuff, I just want to be…What is your advice for those individuals? Do they need to hire somebody to do that? Will they fail if they kind of neglect it? What do you recommend to those people?
Isabella: Yeah, it’s really a mindset shift. Because if you really think about it, even CEOs, even any kind of person that are going to business right now, if they’re not shifting into the role of a creator, they’re already getting left behind. So, it’s really challenging when someone’s like, I just don’t want to do it because it should be the opposite. We actually should be extremely grateful that we live in a generation where thanks to social media and marketing, we can do whatever we want, like people can literally go and sell things on TikTok. That’s the trending thing right now. It’s crazy.
It just goes to show that if you’re willing to show up online and you’re willing to actually be authentic, raw and vulnerable, then you’re going to be able to attract the right people. It’s not even about putting a facade, it’s just more of like your responsibility to show up because you never know your music could change the world, shift culture, heal people, can prevent suicide. You never know what’s going to happen on the other end. So really, it’s just about finding peace with it and understanding that it’s better than waiting to get discovered and then having to sign with a record label.
Jason: I think when you start thinking about marketing, it is really how do I serve these people? I think everybody who’s a creator wants to help somebody at some level. That seems to be a very common thing that exists, but I think when you started looking at like, Okay, how do I better serve and if I feel like I’m doing a disservice or hurting these people, if I don’t take the effort to share, help that person, I think you look at marketing a little bit different way. When you talk about being authentic and vulnerable, when you’re serving somebody and trying to help, you get that real person coming out, as you’re coming up with content or somebody’s doing a video or just speaking from the heart. It’s there. It’s real. I don’t think it can be faked. It’s really hard to fake it, right?
Isabella: Like you said, if you have a good intention, if you come from a place of service, then I think that can definitely empower people to show up. And this is one of the most challenging things that happens across the board, not just for musicians, but for all sorts of creators and entrepreneurs.
Jason: I remember a book from years ago, and it was training about being a great leader or CEO, but it was talking about being a servant leader. Some of your best leaders are the ones that they serve you. They’re there to serve and help and that makes a huge difference. And so, I think as a musician or an artist or whatever you are in life, being willing to serve and help others just goes so far. I’ve been in places where actually, I have a company down in Costa Rica, that’s made for vacations. We started as a humanitarian project to help some amazing guides to be able to come after mastermind trips and group trips but as I go down there, I am one of the founders, I guess that’s a big deal. But when we’re there, I’ll be in the jungle camp and all of the guides are there taking care of all of the people that are on these trips with us and what’s been so fun is basically they just did not expect this. It’s just who I am but I think it’s gone too far from a leadership standpoint. We’re cooking dinner in the middle of this jungle camp to do the dishes. So, intentionally I’ll make sure to pour drinks for people from our group. And they think, oh, we’re taking care of Big Boss and we’re the ones trying to serve and do the dishes for them. And they’re like, what’s going on? This is crazy, right?
Isabella: That’s awesome.
Jason: But I think as an artist, as you apply those principles, that’s been in the business type of setting, but those individuals when they realize that you look at them as important, they’re what matters, they’re more important than the person and even so with the artists. If you’re trying to communicate with your people and you help your listeners realize, I’m doing this for you, this is to help you. That’s not so much about communication where you hear those artists, it’s like me, me, me… The narrative just changes. You’d be very hard pressed to find very successful artists out there that just want to talk about them in a positive way.
If you have other examples, you probably have a ton of stories. Maybe share another story of an artist where you really make an impact for them.
Isabella: So, not so much in the music experience side but on the other side of the coin, also selling your music skills. This is another thing that’s been really impactful. So, there’s an artist that ‘s super talented like an amazing singer, very amazing, like a producer and everything. And I think over the pandemic, he started discovering like all these like really creative ways to do productions, and it just started catching up. All these people that would always call him and they’re like big names in the industry. They always call him for advice. So, I helped him turn it into an actual coaching program. The whole concept in everything we do is like this three-part framework, which is like content strategy, launch a virtual event or a fan experience and then figure out what your main upsell offer is like somebody’s got a high ticket.
For him, it was a four- or five-day vocal mindset experience. Creative Vocal Mindset it is called. On the back end, he was able to sell this coaching for like $200 per person. And it was really cool because like in that one week, he was like, this is something that a lot of people already have skills to do. We have a lot of people in our network and there’s a lot of artists coming into the industry so a lot of people could actually turn that into a service but on his very first launch, he had a small turnout. I think he made around $2,200 or something in total and he just had someone redesign so that was really cool because he had monthly recurring revenue coming in from it. But if you have a skill like if you know how to produce the right songs, if you know how to coach someone to finish a song, these are skills that people can monetize right now. It doesn’t have to be like 1000 people, even if it’s the five people that will change your income.
Jason: I love the fact that it’s so fun to see people make it in so many different directions with music and I think the more we can help people realize like there’s really no traditional path to a career especially in the music industry. It’s one of those that want to do it or are hungry. Keep working at it. Those opportunities will come up if you’re really putting the time and really want to go for it.
So, thanks so much for taking time to chat with us today. And if people want to find more stuff about you or Fame Hackers or they’re looking for a coach, what does that look like? Where should they go to get more information?
Isabella: All socials are at the Fame Hackers website and my personal Instagram is izzword.
Jason: We’ll put some links on the show notes as well. So, I’m sure you’ve got several things that are like free giveaways and whatever. So, definitely take if you’re looking for a coach or looking for some tips on how to do some, especially the social media side. Isabella is amazing at that. Check it out.
Isabella: Thank you for having me.
Finding success and fulfillment in the music industry is possible. Looking forward to seeing you in our next episode.
How to Connect with the Featured Guest:
Our special guest today is Isabella Bedoya, founder of Fame Hackers, an artist accelerator that helps independent artists establish profitable and sustainable music careers so they can get paid doing what they love. As a former A&R for a label under Sony Music, and working for an award-winning social media marketing agency in the past, Isabella helps artists excel in the new music industry by using strategies that work in today’s social media.
Isabella has been invited to speak at the Musicians Institute, BoldTV, Ticker News, iHeartRadio, NBC, KCAA Radio, Beat The Clock Podcast, and published on Medium, Thrive Global, and many more!
What You’ll Learn
In this episode, Isabella shares her story about how she went from being a private chef in Beverly Hills to coaching celebrities, influencers, and award-winning industry professionals and making them online sensations.
Things We Discussed
“A&R” – Artists and Repertoire – is the division of a record label or music publishing company that is responsible for talent scouting and overseeing the artistic development of recording artists (singers, instrumentalists, bands, and so on) and songwriters.
Connect with Isabella Bedoya
Website (The Fame Hackers)
Connect with Jason Tonioli