I got a call from a massage therapist in NJ who had accepted a job through an agency for a 6-hour stint at Madison Square Garden this week, providing massages for the crew and members of a rock band. The deal is worthless to anyone who isn’t a big fan of the rock group. I’ve heard of him, he was the front man at one point for a major rock group that’s been going for 30+ years. In fact, if we were still together, my ex-husband would give up crossdressing for a year just to carry my table in and out.
Crappy Terms on Offer
I don’t know if the arrangement on offer is the agency’s standard one, or one requested by the concert manager, but it’s truly pathetic. Even strapped-for-cash dance companies and off-Broadway theater productions wouldn’t attempt to lowball this low.
- $1 per minute. In NYC, that’s what untrained Chinese slave spas charge.
- You have to hardsell – there is nothing lined up or guaranteed.
- Bring your own table ($20 for cab fares + too much carrying).
- And my personal favorite: Pay the agency $50 for the privilege.
What “6 hours of massage” realistically looks like
So I’d be there for 360 minutes but let’s get real for a moment – finishing at 8pm, concert kick-off time, who’s going to be in the mood for a massage in that last hour before performing, as things get more – not less – energetic? So now we’re down to, at best, 320 potential minutes. The earnings from the first 70 just get you to break even. And don’t give me “but they tip!” I’ve worked on unfamous band members and back-up guys for big names – and not only do they not tip, they make it clear that they expect a discount. With just one very noteworthy exception circa 2005, they behaved abominably – pushing nonstop for freebies/bargains, sexual servitude and fawning admiration (yeah, good luck). I much prefer my Broadway stagehand guys whose back and legs are such a mess that it doesn’t cross their minds to step out of line.
Let’s run the numbers
The woman on the phone says the events are usually good for $200-300 and some make $500 (no doubt the smart ones who avidly pursue the actual stars and their close entourage). Now, every massage given will require a few minutes in between to wash hands, change linens or Fantastik the table, and then hustle for the next client. So by my calculations, out of 360 minutes realistically reduced to 320 minutes, minus gaps of 3-5 mins to clean, prepare and hawk your wares, you’ve got maybe 260 viable massage minutes at best if they’re lining up … maximum gross income of $260 – $70 in expenses = $190 net profit for 6 hours. “Plus tips”. So based on her relatively sunnier pre-expenses guidelines, my assessment of how this job would go down are bang-on. Reality check: I make $200 for a 90-minute outcall after 9pm *without* that godawful 35-lb table.
In summary, the average self-employed female no-hanky-panky massage therapist in Manhattan charges $90-$130/hr for incalls and $150-200/hr for outcalls. We are not going to pay $50 + expenses for the possibility – not even a guarantee! – of making $40/hr or if we schmooze our asses off, as much as $80/hr. Screw that, say we.
Dear Dumbass Agency
This is Manhattan. This is 2010. Put that rate at no less than $7 per 5 minutes minimum. Better yet, $22 for 15 minutes and then $7 for each additional 5 mins, leaving a convenient $3 of wiggle room for those who might be feeling generous. Then that 260 viable minutes could yield 17 mini-massages for $380 gross instead of $260. If that price is beyond the means of the client(s), then they can make a different arrangement or not engage the service. I suggest no fee to the therapist (honestly, wtf?? that’s a strip club practice!) plus $20-$30/hr subsidy at tour management level to offer it for $1 per minute. Then you have a shot at generating more than a smidgen of interest from a professional.