There’s quite a bit of research that touts the benefits of working out with music. It can make the experience more enjoyable, easier, and people tend to work harder. Naturally we want these benefits for our clients and members. But, there may be some legal issues that you may not have considered.
I think we are all pretty aware that we can’t record an artist’s music and resell it. That would be piracy. That also applies to playing it for customers. Recently, I had a conversation with my ASCAP rep (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and we discussed how they represent the artist and how any use of music of the artists that they represent, for the purpose of entertaining members, customers, or clients must also compensate the artist (even if you are simply playing a radio channel in the background). This is true for fitness clubs and studios, as well as airlines, amusement parks, bars, restaurants & nightclubs, colleges & universities, concert presenters, music venues & clubs, convention & trade shows, hotels, local government entities, radio & television stations and networks, mobile entertainment, websites, retail stores and the list goes on.
We, as business owners, compensate the artists by paying a licensing fee through their representative agency. ASCAP is one of those agencies and they have over 600,000 artists that they represent. But, they’re not the only agency in town. There’s also BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc) and SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, although they now handle all types of music). You are required to pay the appropriate licensing fees to cover all artists music that you play in your space. This amounts to about $300/year to each of these organizations. Now, you could hand select music to play at your facility that is all from one agency, but that’s pretty labor intensive. My recommendation is to pay each of them and cover your bases.
If you want to use music for projects other than within your facility, such as an online or streaming video, these organizations offer separate licensing agreements for that type of music usage.
As much as we may have music as a part of our lives, free of charge (for us) on the radio, Pandora, at stores, the gym, etc, it was produced by artists. Like any product that has value, they should be compensated for that. It is our responsibility to pay the appropriate fees to them via their agencies. Think of the licensing fees as a thank you to the artists for sharing their creativity and talent.