Updated: Apr 26
As Covid-19 is keeping people home and gyms and studios temporarily closed, loads of live-streamed and video-on-demand (VOD) fitness offerings are popping up all over social media via various platforms. The amount of hourly notifications I’m getting that there’s a “LIVE” boxing or bootcamp class about to begin (from multiple clubs and studios that I follow) is starting to get a bit overwhelming. There is so much out there on the “airwaves” I’m not sure who to watch or which class to take. My inbox is also full of video quick clips and tips about what I should be eating or supplements I should consider to help ward off the Corona virus. With the vast amount of fitness classes and wellness education being bombarded at me, I’ve never felt fitter or healthier – who knew there would be a silver lining to a global pandemic and #socialdistancing.
The fitness industry eats up and spits out music at recording breaking speeds. Its rhythm welcomes members who they first walk in, and then its loud, heart pumping beats motivate a packed class. It’s literally the heartbeat of our trade. But music doesn’t come without a price.
Let’s start at the beginning. Music licensing was created to pay song writers and publishers for the usage of their copyrighted music. When you buy private licensed music on Spotify or iTunes, it gives you permission to play that music for personal use only. In order to play music for commercial use, in your fitness club or a public arena where people are paying to participate in events or group fitness classes, you must purchase a public performance license. If businesses are charging a fee and benefiting from the use of copyrighted music, they must pay a performance royalty to the composer, song writer or lyricist.
How do these music creators get paid? That’s where Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) enter the picture. PROs like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, GMR and SOCAN (in Canada) collect the performance royalties and pay their affiliated song writers and publishers. It’s important for fitness brands to become licensed to play music and comply with the law to ensure these creators are fairly compensated. They help enhance the experience and will continue to create if supported. If gyms and studios are not doing direct licensing deals with labels or working with the “PROs” and companies like feed.fm, they will need to find a way to stay in compliance with the rules and regulations of the music industry for BOTH in-club and online music.
Due to our #newreality, the focus is now on virtual fitness. What types of music can we use for online consumption? The answer is Royalty Free Music. What is Royalty Free Music? According to Premium Beat by shutterstock, “In a nutshell Royalty Free Music refers to a type of music licensing that allows the purchaser to pay for the music license only once and to use the music for as long as desired”. Although it’s free of royalties, you will most likely still have to pay for it. You will only need to pay once, and then can use it as many times as you want. This is the easiest route to go as the legal work to acquire and use copyrighted music is cumbersome and expensive. Music companies like Dynamix Music have “paid for the right to obtain a master-recording, and duplicate that recording for public sale”. You as a fitness company or professional, can simply purchase these recordings and legally use for your virtual or live-streamed classes.
Another option is a Rights Managed model or “per usage”. This model is based on how many times the song is used. According to tech101 “Rights managed music is a requirement that a license should be obtained both for the sound recording and composition of music. Right managed music will earn royalties in the event it’s used in a revenue-generating entity such as the broadcasting sector or a YouTube program. The fee, length of use, in this case, is negotiable.” The pricing will be affected by how and how much the track is used. Royalties are paid for each use.
Another type of license to be aware of is a Synchronization License or a Sync License. This is a license offer by the owner or composer of a song. A licensee or buyer can purchase the right to use this music for video or other uses. The rights to this music in most cases belong to the publishing house that represents the artist. The copyright in this case is split between the record label and the composer or songwriter. This is typically presented as a fee for one-time use. The benefit of this license is usually for up and coming artists who can use this for a major revenue stream and allow their work to be exposed to new audiences to help build their brand.
You may have heard about sync licensing after Peloton was exposed to a sync licensing gap because they push out so much weekly content with new classes combined with the latest music. Their turn-a-round was so fast, it was cumbersome for them to pay the rights for each individual song (as required) and they got flagged. Innovation is exciting and often catapults above current expectations, so the red tape and time it takes to comply with the tricky music laws and restrictions can set back this quick pace. Looks like Peloton and others are starting to work with artists and musicians to come up with a collaborative relationship and unique agreement outside of the constraints of music copyright law. We’ll keep our eye on this!
To keep this simple and easier for you to digest, I’ve listed a few “Royalty-Free” Music Companies you can purchase music from to use for your live-streamed and VOD classes right now. Browse their collections and genres and double check their licensing options so you are in full compliance and know what you’re paying for and rules of use.
Now that you have the quick 101 of music licensing, you can now pick your top tracks and virtually motivate through moves and music – legally! Don’t forget about the rules and regulations for playing music inside of your club and studio as well. Once we are all re-opened and doing BOTH “Virtual” and “LIVE” offerings, double-check with the PROs to ensure you’re complying with the music copyright laws for in-club usage as well.
Stay safe and keep virtually interacting with your members during this trying time. Your members and clients need you now more than ever. We are lucky to be in a technology driven eco-system where we can immediately trigger a digital reach and keep inspiring our fanbase through movement from the safety of our homes to theirs.
This blog was also written as an article for ENDOROPHINZ. Endorphinz is building the fitness services company of tomorrow, to empower brands and fitness creators in the digital age. It's is the first full-service fitness streaming agency offering fully integrated services from media production, publishing, merchandising, marketing and more. Please follow what we are doing at Endrophinz on LinkendIn & FB.