Saturday, January 25, 2020

Why High Schoolers Should Consider Massage Training

This post was originally published in October 2014 on a now-defunct version of this site. It has been edited for clarity, but the tone is... more like the bright-eyed, 26-year-old massage school graduate that I once was. I was younger then, and full of hope.

My mom, Laurel; me in my high school graduation cap and gown; and my dad, David.

I graduated high school in 2006, and I remember very keenly all the buzz and options that surrounded the question, “What will you be doing after high school?”

College wasn’t exactly my dream, but I figured it was expected of me: my mother had her Bachelor’s and my dad was on his way to earning his second doctorate shortly before he passed away. I had a lot to live up to! I was in the top 10% of my class!

Well. My experience with my one year of private, out-of-state college did not go so smoothly. I’m still paying for it in many ways, including financially.

One of my passions right now is talking to teenagers about going into massage therapy. Like anything else, it has it upsides and down, so let me quickly go through them:

The Best Things About Massage Schooling

— Timing. My program was 600-hours long. I could choose between going full time, 8:00-5:00, a few days a week, and finish it within six months — or I could go part-time, in the evenings, and spread it out within a year. I went with the latter because I had my kiddo during the day and family could watch him at night. Some programs require 900-hours or more, so it’ll take you a little bit longer. It’s still better than having to wait four+ years for a piece of paper that says, “Hey, I know stuff! (You should hire me!)” Which leads me to...

— Certification. As soon as you graduate your program and get your state licensing and insurance and whatever else your state might require, you’re all set to start working as a massage therapist. The sooner you start working, the sooner you can start socking away money to pay your student loans. Speaking of...

— Cost. When I went, it was just over $13,000 for those 600-hours, and it paid for my tuition, books, and my own portable massage table. My school was federally accredited, so I qualified for Federal Stafford Loans. The school also provided private funding. Compare the cost of this program to one year of private college — even some in-state, public colleges can get pricey.

The Not-So-Great Things About Massage Schooling

— Portability. This has less to do about the schooling itself and more to do with the varied standards throughout the country. Unfortunately, because I only received 600-hours of schooling, I can’t practice in, say, New Hampshire, because they require more than that. To get around this, you could look into taking the MBLEx, which costs money for taking it (and retaking it if you fail) and isn’t recognized by all 50 states at this time.

— Dealing With Clients. You will meet all sorts of people from all walks of life. They will have varying hygiene practices and standards and you are likely to see them in varying states of undress. Some will be demanding; others will fall asleep. Yes, you will probably have to deal with at least one inappropriate client. Yes, some clients will get erections at inopportune times, and yes, sometimes other clients will fart when you’re working on their backsides. If you’re uncomfortable with nudity or natural bodily functions and hair, massage therapy may not be for you.

— Travel & Living. I was lucky in that my massage school was a half-hour away from where I was living, I had reliable transportation, and I had low-cost childcare. You might have to do some research to find a school that is close to you that best meets all of your needs. The ones I know of in Maine don’t offer on-campus housing; a few students I knew during my training actually stayed in a nearby hotel because driving home every day would have been too much.

— Other Costs. You’re going to have to buy linens, your own lotions and supplies, and possibly invest in Continuing Education after you graduate. Maine doesn’t require CEUs, but other states do; it’s just a good idea, anyway, so as to keep your work fresh and to help you learn new techniques and modalities.

There are two big prerequisites for attending the massage school I chose: you have to be 18 or older, and you have to have your high school diploma or GED. The rest is just gravy — writing skills and knowledge of anatomy and physiology will be a big help. CPR and first aid training is not only helpful, it's required for graduation and certification in Maine. Get massages: keep track of your "why" for going into massage therapy and what things you would do differently.

If you ever have any other questions about getting into massage school or massage therapy as a career, definitely get in touch with me! It’s something I could babble about for hours.

(Oh, and if you’re out of high school but you’re thinking about trying massage therapy? That’s totally cool, too. High-five!)

(2020-Bethany adds: ... For reference, this photo is 2014-me with my son and my mom.)

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Music Legalities

(No affiliate links were included in the writing of this blog post. None of this should be taken as legal advice. Dang it, Jim, I’m a massage therapist —- not a lawyer.)

Many of us strive to act and to run our businesses in an ethical manner by following personal and societal mores and norms. Ethics not only relate to how you interact with clients and peers -- it also can include obligations imposed by law.

The use of music in your office or massage space is governed by your country's laws surrounding copyright: protections given to authors for their original works. If you play copyrighted music "in public" without proper licensing, you could be hit with statutory damages of $750 at minimum to a maximum of $150,000 per song (depending on whether or not you knowingly/willingly violated the law).
The reason behind this being illegal is that when licensed music is played in a commercial space, it is played with the intention of creating an experience for customers that is conducive to the interests of the business (getting customers to pay money for the goods and services on offer). The business gains from the music being played. For that reason, the law says that the creators of the music should get a piece of the profit being made.
-- Can I Play Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, or Other Music Services in My Business? from Cloud Cover Music.

"But I've bought copies of my music and/or pay for a consumer-level streaming service!"

Sorry, no. You can't get around the copyright regulations if you've only paid for individual, personal services and products:
The law distinguishes between owning a copy of music, like a CD or a song saved on an iPod, and owning the rights to those songs, including the right to publicly perform them. When you purchase a CD or DVD or download an audio file, software, game or other product containing music, even those specifically marketed for business purposes, you are only buying a copy of the music and the right to play it “privately.”
... When music is streamed over the Internet, however, there is a distinct performance right with respect to the “sound recordings” of songs publicly performed via digital audio transmission. So, theoretically, streaming online music into shared spaces could also require a performance license from the sound recording copyright owners.
-- Music Licensing Basics for Apartments, by Cindy A. Tune, .PDF accessed 1/23/2020 11:00AM EST. 
There is one specific exception to be aware of:
There are exceptions to when a license is required to play copyrighted music; stores under 2,000 square feet, and restaurants and bars under 3,750 square feet, can play music over a radio, TV, or similar device [i.e. cable or satellite broadcast], but there have to be fewer than six speakers carrying the sound.
-- In-Store Music Laws in the U.S.: Licensing, Legalities, and Fines from Cloud Cover Music.
However, this exception strictly limits you to using those specific sources (radio, TV, cable or satellite broadcast) and only the music and visuals licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

For any other device or music source, you need to have a Public Performance License through one or more Performance Rights Organizations (PRO). Rather than go through the individual PROs (the costs of which can be over $1000 annually), there are services that will provide you the public performance licenses and access to music covered under those licenses. These services will cost more than your standard consumer subscriptions, but you will be able to rest easy in knowing that your butt (and your business) has been covered.

"Okay, what are my (cheapest) options?"

Here are three under $30/month services to consider:
  • Soundtrack Your Brand: high quality, wide variety, connection to Spotify and its playlists (as it was originally sponsored as "Spotify for Business"), and a free 30-day trial. After that, it's $26.99 a month.
  • Cloud Cover Music: not quite as robust as Soundtrack Your Brand, but if you're only needing licenses in the USA and Canada, the ~$17 a month price tag is a little easier to swallow.
  • SighTunes: specifically designed for massage therapists, providing 10-hours of royalty-free music, refreshed each month (so long as you're connected to WiFi... and remember to do it at the start of each month), for $9.99 a month. Plus, if you have a professional membership like ABMP, there is a discount code to take up to an additional 40% off. I have tried it... it's not my favorite due to the design of the app itself, the "blah" choices of music, and the aforementioned need to connect to the Internet before you drive out to a client's house on the first of the month and suddenly can't access the previous month's music. (ಠ_ಠ) (This may have changed since I last attempted to use it. I'm not holding my breath.)

Another option would be to actively look for music that is within the public domain (i.e. works written before copyright law was established, or the copyrights have expired/been lost, etc.), music that is considered royalty-free, or music where the copyright-holders have explicitly given their permission for public use. Artful Touch Music is one such resource:

Artful Touch Music was created for, and inspired by, the healing arts. We invite you to use this music in your professional bodywork offices and yoga studios.

These songs are effective as music therapy for all ages and are enjoyable as a soundtrack for massage therapy and yoga practice.

This music encourages relaxation, a resting heart rate, deeper breathing, a calm and centered mind, and a general sense of well-being.

-- Artful Touch

Other References:

I went down the rabbit hole so you don't have to.

"But wait! What about Pandora and SiriusXM?"

These companies are jointly owned by Liberty Media, the heads of which collectively gave $1 million to Trump’s 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee (currently under federal investigation). In 2016, Sirius moved to eliminate 80 percent of its Latin music channels. In 2017, they reintroduced Steve Bannon as a regular host on its Patriot channel until he stepped down in 2018. (Source: Pandora’s New Corporate Parents Gave Millions to Trump, GOP, Sam Lefebvre, January 2019,

Personal ethics are just as important as professional ethics. Therefore, I cannot and will not endorse these platforms.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Tips for Massage School Success

  • If you have a syllabus, write down the dates beside each class so that you know exactly when they're taking place. 
  • Related: write down the due dates next to assignments and projects. 
  • Also related: put all of these dates into your calendar(s). 
  • Work ahead when you can because life will happen and you can fall behind. 
  • Keep track of any missed classes and clinics: my suggestion is to have a column for the date, a column for what was missed and/or how many hours it was worth, why it was missed, and a column for the "Made Up" date. You can download mine or make your own.
  • Keep a Massage Journal.
  • Ask friends and family for gift certificates for local massage businesses. 
  • If you're having difficulty moving your body -- i.e. if you're lacking flexibility -- checking with your doctor, visiting a chiropractor, or taking up gentle yoga (such as yin yoga) can help you move easier and with less pain. 
  • Anatomical terminology (anterior, posterior, lateral, medial, etc.) and movement terminology (flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, etc.) are two different but very important things for you to study early on. 
  • Flashcards are your friends. 
  • Strong thighs save spines: more lunging, less reaching and leaning. 
  • Twin and Twin XL-sized sheets work great on massage tables. Keep your pillowcases to use as face cradle covers and for draping. Microfiber sheets are lighter and dry quicker, but higher thread counts last longer. 
  • When you are struggling, ask for help -- from friends and family, classmates, teachers, other staff members of your school. 
  • Make a Facebook group or an e-mail or text loop for you and your classmates.