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If you’re like most fitness professionals, you probably use music to help give your clients a good workout, regardless of if you’re training online or in person. You may choreograph movement to music or have a playlist going in the background, but either way, the music you play can help push and motivate the people in your class. While you may know that research has shown that there is a link between music and physical performance, did you know how and where you’re playing music could be putting your business at risk?
Just like you earn money for every class and student you teach, musicians, composers, and publishers earn royalties each time a song plays. In the fitness world, these earnings come from the licenses that gyms and studios like yours pay for. If you’re using music in your classes without a license, you could be exposed to a copyright infringement claim and sued for damages by those who own the rights to the music. The $370 million copyright lawsuit filed in federal court against Peloton in March 2019 is an example of this. It gets even more complicated—a song could have multiple copyright holders, meaning you could be looking at obtaining rights from dozens of publishers for each song that you want to use in your class. And, even if you don’t own a gym, the laws around public performance may apply to you as an instructor. You may even owe royalties on the background music you play in your lobby or welcome areas to create a welcoming, upbeat atmosphere.
Music licenses should be used by small gyms and studios are not immune to this issue either. Cat Scott, owner of 502 Power Yoga in Louisville, Kentucky, is very familiar with the risks. After being asked to pay licensing fees for the music she and her teachers played in class, she thought it was a scam and ignored the calls and letters. A few months later, a representative from one of the licensing agencies took one of her yoga classes and cited the exact performance rights they needed to pay for. Realizing that the risk was very real, Cat began paying for a music license, and the situation was resolved.
If you use music in your classes, you’ll need a license that includes all necessary rights. Paying for a streaming service may not be enough. For example, Pandora, Apple Music, and Spotify only offer licenses for personal, non-commercial use. To play your playlists for your in-person classes, you’ll need to acquire commercial rights from a rights organization like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC (the organization will vary depending upon where your business is located). These licensing fees pay the artists, composers, and publishers who make and release the music you use in class.
One option is licensing music through Epidemic Sound. This license gets you unlimited access to a music library filled with over 30,000 tracks by emerging artists for one flat, monthly fee. That means, instead of managing hundreds of licenses separately, you can do it all with one subscription. Plus, Epidemic adds new tracks weekly so that you can keep your playlists as fresh as your moves.
If you have further questions or need help finding your licensing organization, talk to a trusted legal professional. You can also find more information on the federal government’s copyright website.