Peloton’s music licensing problem
In March of 2019, Peloton, the fitness brand that offers subscription-based online classes and in-home exercise equipment, was slapped with a $300 million lawsuit over copyright violations for allegedly failing to obtain synchronization rights for more than 1,000 songs it has used in its online classes.
Peloton filed a countersuit claiming they’ve collaborated with key players in the music publishing industry and paid “tens of millions of dollars” to remain copyright compliant.
Since the lawsuit, Peloton’s 1.4 million members have probably noticed a significant dip in the quality of music driving their high-intensity workout sessions. With no definitive outcome in sight, it’s a waiting game to see how this will affect music licensing for companies like Peloton and fitness studios alike.
Why you need to license your music
Music artists deserve compensation for their work. It’s as simple as that. Music is an integral component of setting the tone of your studio; the right tunes can keep your members engaged and motivated. Good music can also attract new faces and help your business grow.
In order to legally play music in your studio, you need to go through one of the following recording rights organizations: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or GMR. These guys allow you to purchase a license to play music in your studio. They also protect you from any legal ramifications from the copyright holders of the songs.
Each recording rights organization represents a different catalog of composers. While you do not have to pay for all four it’ll be hard to tell if all the songs you’re playing have rights represented by just one license. We recommend playing it safe and purchasing all four licenses.
What happens if you fail to obtain a license? Up to $30,000 in fines, per song, per instance it’s played. Yikes! But wait, what about Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, etc.? Unfortunately, those services are for non-commercial use only. They do not cover your licensing fees, and we don’t recommend using them in your business.
So, you’re ready to purchase a license to begin playing some sweet tunes in your studio. What’s next?
Choosing the right license for your business
Your studio operates differently from most businesses and because of this a standard overhead music license provided by a performance rights organization likely won’t suffice. Why? If you are incorporating music as an integral part of your studio activities as opposed to using it solely for background ambiance your standard overhead license is null and void. In addition, you cannot use a standard license if your studio charges a membership fee or admission price. An exception to this rule is if you were to play music only in a locker room or lobby; in that case, your standard license would cover that usage. However, the music played during your classes requires a special license: a public performance license.
A public performance license allows you to play music integral to the structure of your classes. If you have a playlist in mind for your pilates instructor, a tranquil mantra for your vinyasa flow, or an energetic, high-intensity soundtrack for your spin class, a public performance license would be required in all of these scenarios. Public performance licenses are essential for activities where music is a must, such as Zumba or dance. It’s important to note that this license is entirely separate from the standard license you’d acquire to use music in your changing rooms or studio lobby.
There are key differences between music licensing for physical fitness clubs and traditional retail business. However, the basic principle remains, you’re using someone’s creative work to enhance the experience you’re selling and profiting from it. The artist responsible for creating those songs should earn a cut for helping make your business successful, right?
Retail Radio can provide music licensing for your business and keep you safe from landing in legal hot water. We also recommend Gym Radio, a music service specially catered for gyms. They allow subscribers to monetize the airtime with custom jingles and studio announcements.