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Music and Your Fitness Business

By Meredith Simmons

If you’re like most fitness professionals, you probably use music to help give your clients a good workout. 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 your students. 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 is played. In the fitness world, these earnings come from the licenses that gyms like yours pay. If you aren’t paying a license fee, you’re essentially using the music creators’ works for free in your fitness classes—and you could be sued for damages. The $150 million copyright lawsuit filed in federal court against Peloton in March 2019 is an example of this.

This doesn’t mean that you should stop playing music in your classes, though that is an option that some studios take. However, if you do use music to supplement your classes, you’ll need to determine if you need to obtain the appropriate licensing and public performance rights.

Think your streaming service covers you? It may not. For example, Pandora, Apple Music, and Spotify only offer licenses for personal, non-commercial use. And while Pandora and Spotify both offer business solutions, they don’t allow you to pick specific songs. In order to play your painstakingly curated playlist for your class, 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 located). These licensing fees pay the artists, composers, and publishers who make and release the music you use in class.

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.

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.

Research has shown music to have a positive impact on exercise, so don’t feel like you have to abandon that playlist for your next Tabata, yoga, or group fitness class. If you have 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.

This information contained herein does not constitute financial, legal, or other professional advice and is meant to be used solely for informational purposes. It does not take into account your specific circumstances and should be not acted on without full understanding of your current situation, future goals and/or objectives by a qualified professional. MINDBODY assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

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About the author:

Meredith Simmons

Senior Content Marketing Specialist and Certified Group Fitness Instructor


Meredith is an avid sports fan and group fitness addict, which lead to her becoming a certified fitness instructor in 2019. A long-time Mindbodyian, Meredith helps tell the stories of the thousands of businesses using Mindbody to make the world a happier and healthier place.


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