To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, ” Are you Using Music Legally?” by ASOMAssageMusic’s Schroeder Nordholt, in the March 2012 issue. Article summary: Most massage practitioners use music during sessions to enhance the overall relaxation and therapeutic value of their clients’ experiences; however, many practitioners may be unaware that when we combine our business practice—massage or spa services—and employ the use of music, there are copyright laws that take effect and can impact the business.

Most massage practitioners use music during sessions to enhance the overall relaxation and therapeutic value of their clients’ experiences. Music carries innate healing qualities scientists are only now beginning to understand, but even without the research, most clients would agree the average clinic or spa with no music is a pretty dull place.

However, many practitioners may be unaware that when we combine our business practice—massage or spa services—and employ the use of music, there are copyright laws that take effect and can impact the business, whether or not the owner is aware of them.

When we buy CDs or downloads for our own personal enjoyment, the cost of the music itself pays for our right to listen to it. However, as soon as we bring this music into our place of business, it becomes known as a public performance of someone’s intellectual property.

Business owners are expected to pay a separate yearly licensing fee, known as a background music license, in order to comply with international copyright laws. The fee is paid out to performing rights organizations, which collect and distribute licensing fees on behalf of music creators for the public performances of their copyrighted material.

Largely, the health-and-wellness industries have fallen under the radar of the performing rights organizations. But with the ballooning demand for massage and other wellness modalities in recent years, spas and individual therapists are not so invisible anymore.

In fact, performing rights organizations have begun sending their licensing managers to these business owners to collect fees in just the same way they have secured the entire restaurant and bar scene.

The concept is simple: Wherever there are profits being generated and music is being used to enhance an environment, then whoever created the music should stand to benefit from these profits. If music creators aren’t treated with the same respect for their craft or service as massage therapists are, then they won’t be as inclined to create more music. When that happens, we’ll all be relying on amateur composers and producers who are happy to give their stuff away.

In order to enjoy good quality music every day, we want to ensure those responsible for creating the music are being compensated. These music industry professionals rely largely on licensing fees for their livelihood.

The problem is this: How can any performing rights organization know exactly which CDs or downloads you happened to use today for your treatments, and thus which artists to allocate your license fee dollars? How about tomorrow or three months from now? Do you see how impossible it would be for the performing rights organizations to track this?

Although they may try, much of your licensing fee ends up in the performing rights organizations’ pool and then distributed largely to radio artists and film-or-television composers. That’s not what you’re paying for.

The other aspect to the performing rights organization license that is more than slightly annoying for spa owners and massage practitioners in the U.S. is, according to American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Senior Account Manager Valerie Champion, they are expected to secure a license from all three performing rights organizations in the U.S.: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.

This is just in case the copyright to one of the CDs in your library belongs to an ASCAP artist and the digital downloads on your iPod belong to a producer under the BMI umbrella, for example.

At a minimum fee of $200 per year per license, you’re now looking at $600 yearly, just to pay for your music license fee—which obviously doesn’t pay for the music itself.

Massage therapists are encouraged to look at their options in obtaining compliance with copyright law, and make the best choice to suit their needs. Traditional radio is exempt from needing a license, yet listeners are subject to ads. Satellite radio is also exempt, but users report finding it frustrating with the repetition of music and lack of control over music in general.

Other background-music providers are available to help you avoid performing rights organizations licensing.

Schroeder Nordholt is COO and artist manager with ASOMAssageMusic (www.asomassagemusic.com), a complete massage-music and music-licensing package.

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