Career & Education

The pursuit of a singing career

Marsha J's story — Part 2

Sunday, November 04, 2018

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Starting a career in the music industry — where jobs range from the technical to the creative, from business and legal to therapy and coaching — can be daunting, but it can also be as fulfilling, awe-inspiring, profitable, and purpose-driven as any other career choice. It requires the same level of commitment, training and investment as the pursuit of careers in law, medicine, customer care, and any other.

Gospel artiste Marsha J, who is launching her first album, Favor, this month, sat down with Career & Education to discuss her path into the industry and all things related. She advises that, “Every singer needs a business model if he or she wants to become a recording artiste.” Below is the second part of our conversation with the newly ordained minister.

Career & Education: How has your life changed since winning the JCDC gospel competition?

Marsha J: My life has changed in a few ways since winning JCDC gospel competition. For one, it brought about my national introduction, which increased my popularity. I have had to be more aware of who I am as I go throughout my daily life. My singing career has taken off as I have had more doors open and platforms created for me to minister locally and internationally. I have had to be intentional and develop a tunnel vision as I move forward.

I have also had to develop a business model, a message and a strategic approach. JCDC is a viable avenue to achieve career goals in Kingdom ministry entertainment primarily because of the training, exposure, networking and more that can be had through it. Regardless of these great benefits, however, you have to approach this as a career, and not just a gig.

C&E: What do you mean by that?

Marsha J: I know a number of talented singers and musicians. I am not unique in my talent of singing. However, in order to earn from it and show my parents, siblings and youth groups that look up to me that singing is a viable career option, I have to treat it like a business; like any other job and not merely just me doing gigs here and there. This is not plan 'B' for me. It is my only plan. I have a responsibility to my label and my team that works for me. Therefore, I got myself a career coach. First, we completed my authentic vocation profile where she helped me examine whether this is really my life purpose and if I will be highly motivated in this field. This process led to my career design. Then we created a job-marketing plan where we created a plan of action for networking, collaboration and earning outcomes. From my career coaching sessions we created a performance management appraisal system customised for an entrepreneur, which I am, so I am intentionally operating as a brand, a business. Businesstry, as I dub it.

Now I can truly call myself a CEO, and career artiste, because we made it tangible. I became my own 'BAE' (Boss and Entrepreneur — coined by Jody Murdock)

C&E: Did you have any fears and doubts at the outset?

Marsha J: I did have some fears and doubts as it relates to my particular sound as an artiste, meaning: whether or not it would be acceptable. Transitioning to music and self-employment from a nine-to-five was tedious. I needed a lot of advice and support and I had that. I had to put in a lot of work — early mornings and late nights — asking questions, watching a lot of videos on YouTube, reading books, listening to podcasts, having coaching sessions, sacrificing things I enjoyed to unlearn and relearn. I made errors, failed, won, felt discouraged, had motivation, lost it at some points, then got it back. It has been a roller-coaster ride, but it is all worth it.

C&E: At what point did you know with certainty that your ministry business had taken off?

Marsha J: When I felt it inside. I was certain that my business had taken off when testimonies of the effectiveness of the music started to come in. Also, when the requests for my ministry started to increase outside of my local area, when radio stations continued to play my music, when everyone asks when the next single is coming out. Also, when I completed my business plan and I realised I had four brands within my ministry. I have the Marsha J Ministries Band that produces uplifting and wholesome entertainment for public consumption; Royal Events — I am a certified event planner with over 10 years of successful service; Royalty Travel — my work-from-home travel agency; and Royal Queen Collection. After my hair loss, I needed quality hair replacement that was protective, seamless, durable, modern and stylish.

C&E: How many live performances have you done since launching your career?

Marsha J: I have done more than 100 live performances locally and in the US.

C&E: What would you say are the top three challenges you had to overcome?

Marsha J: Dealing with rejection. I personally believe there should be no competition in ministry and kingdom work, but competition is in everything and it is not necessarily a bad thing. Would I like more support? Yes. Nevertheless, I understand also that I have to create my own opportunities. When I try to get advice from seasoned artistes, some of them don't even reply so I just move on to the next. Then there are my health issues. It was confirmed that I have PCOS — polycystic ovarian syndrome. I bled for an entire year, non-stop. There was a lot of pain and even accidents that occurred while I was on stage. You would think I am the modern-day woman with the issue of blood. (St Matthew 9:20-22). It was terribly embarrassing.

Now that I have been diagnosed, it is much easier because I now know what the problem is. I am constantly testing medication. I remember having a dozen different pills I was taking three times daily. At one time I had to get iron directly injected into my blood daily for a week. It burned like putting pepper on broken flesh. I now have a huge bald spot on my head as a result of scalp injections. I am expected to get 10 of these injections every month, but I had to stop because I was no longer able to afford it after my then employer gave me an ultimatum to stop being sick or quit the job. I really want to thank my family and parents, especially my mom, as I became a baby to her many times over. Thanks also for the many prayers offered on my behalf by my church family and people at home and abroad. To my producer and team, you made it bearable.

Another major challenge has been converting to paid performance, and getting what my service is actually worth. The best way to support entrepreneurs and artistes is to pay them. When you pay them, they are able to improve, grow and advance in their career and life. I think the church needs to do better in that area. We must treat these entrepreneurs, performers of gospel, the same way we treat our electricity and utility bills. We bring value to worship. I had a gospel channel rep say to my manager when we offered to give them the music to play free for a while, “How do you know we will want to play your music?” Our local gospel stations play a lot of international music, but what about our music? The advertiser pays for slots to attract our consumer dollar, so our local talents should be the first to be played. I find it easier to get international channels to play my music free. Here, we have to pay even for interviews. We have to do better because our economy suffers when entrepreneurship is stifled.

C&E: Tell me about the album.

Marsha J: This album is a labour of love; honestly, I feel like a baby mother and this is my first child. It's called FAVOR. It has 15 tracks, and I think it is very diverse. There is also a wedding song on the album — Happiness Blooms In Red. There is also Favor (co-written by producer Karl Marrett), Triumph and Unconditional Lover, which I wrote. Others written by Karl include Grateful, I Know You, Victory, Mirror (rap written by my brother Clayton 'Que-J Flex' Jarrett), Jesus Prayed for me, It's a good day, Spiritual Food (written by Keith Marrett), Nothing But The Blood (cover), Slain For Me (written by Easton Marrett) and All About You. The reason I'm releasing it in November is that it's Youth Month and that's my target audience. All vocals were done by me, except for some background vocals in Happiness Blooms in Red. Karl did all the music, except for keyboards in Grateful and Happy, played by Gary Higgins, and drums on Jesus Prayed for me and Triumph by Triston Dailey.

It was recorded, mixed and mastered by Karl Marrett at Stile Studio in Bronx, New York.

C&E: Why did you title it Favor? Who or what influenced that title?

Marsha J: Simple. It was all ordained by His grace.

C&E: Why are you targeting the youth?

Marsha J: As an ordained minister — I was ordained last month, actually; something I am elated about — I have a responsibility and that is number one. Marsha J Ministries is a faith-based organisation anchored in love, leadership, worship and wellness. Our goal and mission is to empower people to strive for quality of life through worship, health care and harmonious relationships. Our core objectives are to organise and implement uplifting and wholesome entertainment for public consumption, empower millennials to increase self-confidence to influence their choices for better life outcomes, fostering strong, healthy and faith-based relationships among kings and queens for the kingdom and contributing to national development through charitable outreach with key stakeholders.

C&E: How important is it to align yourself with not only a team that can help you succeed, but also people in the industry?

Marsha J: It is very important to be strategically aligned. Choose your team wisely. Choose your associates wisely. Be selective. Have people around you who will fan your flames, as Will Smith would say. The right team should make the load lighter; and they help you to get farther. If you can acquire a dream team that understand the call, the purpose, know that the favour of God can take the cause further, and open any door that money cannot. The Bible says your gifts will make room for you, but start to prepare how to position yourself once you are in the room.

C&E: How can we go about finding the right people and getting their support?

Marsha J: Pray and ask God to align you and do your research. While you are seeking, they can also find you. Put yourself out there; feature your craft when doors open. If doors are closed, knock on them. Volunteer and humbly serve it is not always about money. It must be about purpose.

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