Gym owners, dance studios and martial arts dojos, take note: the standard overhead license provided to play music in a business does NOT cover the music you use in your classes. What does this mean? It means that not obtaining the proper licensure to play songs as your clients go through their workouts can cost you big bucks — possibly putting you out of business.

gym workout music licensing

Why Do I Need Licensed Music?

Every song was written by and owned by someone. You wouldn’t steal a piece of workout equipment from the manufacturer. Even if you were just temporarily “borrowing it”, you’d still pay the owner or manufacturer a leasing fee. The same concept applies to music: every song is someone’s property, and to use it, you have to pay for it.

To get the right to play your favorite songs in your business, you’d need to go to one of the major recording rights organizations: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or GMR. You’d purchase a license that says you’re allowed to play the music at your business’s location and you’re absolved from legal action by these groups and the copyright holders for the songs.

Whether you realize it or not, music adds a lot to your business: it keeps people engaged, gets them excited, and even brings in newcomers. You benefit, financially, from playing music. It’s only fair to pay the people who created that music. Plus, if you fail to obtain a license, you can face up to $30,000 in fines, per song, per INSTANCE it’s played.

What’s Different for Physical Fitness Businesses?

Even though you’re a business, the use of music in your gym, dojo, club or center isn’t necessarily covered by a standard overhead license provided by a performance rights organization.

You’re using music to your benefit, providing classes or services that RELY on the music as an integral part of the activity, rather than services that simply use music to enhance the ambiance. Your performance fees (the money you pay toward licensing) doesn’t allow this.

Performance fees also don’t allow you to use your license in an establishment where an admission fee or membership fee is charged: even if you’re using songs for a one-day yoga class, if you’re charging for the class you just can’t play music licensed with an overhead license.

And not every song is covered by every organization. One compilation music CD, for example, may contain songs with licenses held by two or three different rights organizations. To play the whole CD in a class, you’d need to obtain licenses from every organization represented on that disc.

If you were playing music only in a locker room or lobby, your general overhead, blanket or business license would cover that usage. But music played during classes needs a special license: a public performance license.

What is a Public Performance License?

A public performance license allows you to play your favorite tunes in classes that rely on music. Whether you’re looking for the best soundtrack for your Zumba instructor, a peaceful narrative for your yoga classes or a high-powered playlist for your pilates instructor to peruse, you’d need to obtain a public performance license to use the music in classes. This license is separate from the one you’d obtain to use music in the background of your business (such as, for example, in the lobby or locker rooms).

The public performance license ensures that songwriters, bands and creators are properly compensated for their work. You’re getting paid for your services, which rely on the music they created and they deserve to be paid, too. Your class wouldn’t be nearly as interesting without them: it might not even exist in cases of activities where music is essential (like dance or Zumba).

Different rights organizations have different pricing tiers and licenses for public performance: ASCAP has one different than BMI. It’s almost always based upon pricing for comparable businesses, as well as the number of speakers, screens or audio/visual output in your business.

How Do I Get Music for My Fitness Business?

You know you need the license, but you probably have no idea how to start. Reaching out to a company that helps supply music for businesses, like Retail Radio, is a good first step. While we can’t obtain the license for you, we can guide you on your journey and — once you’ve obtained a public performance license — help you access the entire catalog of rights-secured music from the organization you’re licensing from.

We can also provide help crafting a rights-secured, performance licensed playlist so you and your staff can focus less on hitting “skip” on your media devices while playing DJ, and more on the task of getting your clients fit and fabulous.

Music Licensing for Fitness Clubs and Gyms

Music licensing for physical fitness clubs, businesses and establishments might be slightly different than the licensing required for a traditional retail business, but at its core, the principles remain the same: you’re using a creative work to enhance what you’re selling and profiting because of it. The person or persons who created those songs deserve a cut for helping make your business a hit.

Even though you may need to obtain multiple licenses to play your favorite workout compilation CD, once you have the licenses you’re free to use the catalog of the organization you’re leasing from. If you’re still not sure, a knowledgeable business, like Retail Radio, can help provide the best music for your gym, fitness classes or workout instructions and make sure you don’t land in hot water while doing it.