Is music your talent and your passion? If so, I’m here to tell you that it IS feasible to make money as a musician. From playing weddings on up to recording and selling your own albums, it’s all possible. And it’s our featured “make more” segment of this podcast. My guest is Rebecca De La Torre, a singer, songwriter, pianist and savvy business woman. Welcome to Easy Money, Rebecca.
Since you’re a performer, let’s set the stage. You come from a musical family and yet you were encouraged to be more practical in your career. Do I have this right?
I was always a singer. Started to read music in preschool. My grandmother is piano teacher and professional pianist. Everyone in my family plays an instrument or did at one time. I played trombone in hs and wanted to go to school for music but was encouraged to do that as hobby. I was good at computers and so I went into computer science/engineering.
In fact, you got your degree in electrical engineering and you landed a prestigious job at a major defense contractor, right?
Ten years ago I left a full time engineering job making $102,000 to do music full time. I was working on my PhD in electrical engineering at the time and only making about $600 a month playing piano and singing at churches in town. I realized if I was a full time scientist then music will always be my hobby and that scared me. So I dropped everything and decided I wanted to do music full time. I started planning how to get out.
Don’t tell us yet how much you make now in music. We’ll save that for later. But do tell us the first job you got in music and what it paid.
I speak Spanish and decided to get a job at a church. There was a church 7 miles from me in Mesa, AZ. Music Director job became available. Job paid $36,000 – went from $102,000. But I did it.
It may sound to people like you leaped before you looked, but that’s not the case at all. You had a plan. What was it?
The first year I made $40,000 but then I kept growing it. I realized I needed private events and to advertise and put videos and recordings online so people would see what I could do. I still made about $40k my first year as a musician because I set a BUDGET and had a PLAN that I stuck to.
A strict budget is important for you and something you would recommend to other musicians and creatives, am I right?
I have no debt besides my mortgage and I NEVER buy something I don’t have cash for. This is SO crucial to being a successful business?person. One time I had $20,000 in credit card debt. I DID used to have debt, but I paid it off BEFORE leaving engineering – so I’ve made that mistake, too. Back in the day I bought stuff I didn’t have money for. Not any more! I don’t have the latest fashion. I cook rather than eat out. I don’t live extravagantly. I don’t spend what I don’t have.
In fact, because you’re frugal AND because you’ve learned ways to make money as a musician, today you own several properties and have the luxury of splitting your time between 2 different cities, right?
As of right now I own 4 properties in 3 states. My job and the money I make allows me to leave town for the summer. It allows me to be a sunbird and get out of this heat in the summer. It allows me to make my own schedule but I work a lot.
We’ve got their attention now! So what are your revenue streams as a musician?
- I still have my small salary as music director at a church, which pays the mortgage and groceries.
- I perform at private events.
- I do live shows
- I sell albums at my live shows all the time.
- I have also sold albums online but I’m still trying to figure all that out.
- I write music for other people’s lyrics.
- I perform at wedding ceremonies and receptions. At one times weddings were 30% of my business. Now about 20%.
I know you love it, but is it easy or hard to make a living as a musician?
It’s not easy money. It’s not easy. You have to hustle. It’s not for everyone. I think there are certain personality types that are good for it. You need to be resourceful. You need to be outgoing or have someone on your team who is outgoing. If you can do anything else, anything else in the world to make a living and be happy then do that because music is that hard. But if you have to do something with music, then be ready to work every day, master your instruments. Be humble. And always promote yourself.
How do you promote yourself as a musician?
I mainly use the internet and social media for building up my community of fans, promoting my gigs, and advertising for private events. In this day and age it’s all about the connection economy. People want to feel connected to where they spend their time.
So you’ve stitched together a career combining your own music and other people’s music, your own gigs and gigs for hire. Now, the big question: What kind of money are you able to make at it, Rebecca? And, thank you in advance, for being direct about this because it’s an inspiration to others.
Five years in I started making over six figures gross. Las year I grossed $106,000 with my music business.
Wow, 6 making 6 figures as a working musician, that is going to be a revelation to people. And yet, you say, try NOT to be a musician! Why?
If you can do anything else, anything else in the world to make a living and be happy then do that because music is that hard. But if you have to do something with music, then be ready to work every day, master your instruments. Be humble. But always promote yourself.
Well, Rebecca De La Torre, singer, songwriter, pianist and musician who actually makes money at it, it’s been my pleasure to promote you a little bit. And thank you for sharing your knowledge with my listeners on Easy Money! And folks, I will link you to Rebecca’s website, her You Tube Channel and so on, where you can hear more of her music. Just go to EasyMoneyShow.com/58 for those links.