About that Spotify Playlist You’re Using in Your Classes

Covid-19 happened and you thought, no big deal.  I can take my classes online.  You’ll just tell your students to find you on IGTV or YouTube.  Or maybe even before all of this social distancing and shelter in place started happening, you dreamed of taking your amazing barre class to the masses on-line, dreaming of becoming the next big fitness star.

You set yourself up, you hit play on your favorite Spotify playlist and you gave it your all.

And YouTube took it down.  Instagram won’t let you save it to IGTV.  What’s going on?

Music licensing.  The original artist and the recording label have copyrights in that music and that means you’ve got to pay more than your Spotify subscription fee to play that music, even if you’re just offering it for free on Instagram.  How do they know? Well, when a song is recorded, what’s called an ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) was embedded into the master recording as a sort of digital fingerprint and today’s technology makes your use of T-Swift’s latest during your leg sequence discoverable before you can get to that killer second set of lunges.

So when you were rocking it out to the beat in a studio or at a live class, the studio (or hopefully you if you’re an independent instructor) have payed a little bit extra for a Public Performance License. Shopping centers and restaurants should be paying for this as well if they want the good background music.  

And although you may be thinking that your small local in-person classes are not going to be discovered by the publishers, think again.  If you’re interested in getting this type of license, you’ll need to pay around $275 per year to SESAC, ASCAP and BMI.  (Yep, all three).  SESAC’s FAQ page is probably one of the better resources to understand all of this.  

But, this only allows the music to be played live.  Nothing can be recorded and played later on those licenses–even just background music that can hardly be heard.   That ISRC can be detected and YouTube and Instagram will take it down.  You could even have your entire account shut down with no warning.  (Cough cough, that’s why you need to be building an email list and not relying entirely on social media, cough cough).  Like speeding down a highway at 90 m.p.h., you might be able to get away with it, a copyright holder might let it slide, you might get pulled over and given a warning, or you could face a financial penalty and lose your social media account. 

If you’ve already got a password protected on-demand website (first of all, good job!) you might be able to get away with it longer, but if you’re caught monetizing on their copyrighted intellectual property, there’s a good chance you will face a pretty big penalty.  Peloton learned this the hard way when it was slapped with a $150 million lawsuit from nine publishers who alleged it was using their music without the proper licensing.  As a result, the popular at-home spinning and fitness giant had to take down more than half of its on-demand library.  

To play a top 40 hit in a recorded on demand class, even just YouTube, you’ll have to pay, and it’s pretty expensive.  Like hundreds of dollars (maybe more) for one song expensive.  So that’s where we get into royalty-free music or music that is under the creative commons license.  Sometimes you can find some free stuff, but it’s never as good and it’s not going to give you the same vibe as your in-person killer spin class.  (If you’ve watched enough workout videos on YouTube, you probably will detect the same background jingles).  There are some decent for-pay services, but even for those you’re looking at about $49 per song.  My personal favorite for royalty free workout music is Audio Jungle.  Another good one is Epidemic Sound, though which you can pay a monthly fee for a personal account (YouTube Live and IGTV Live) or commercial account for on-demand videos.  See their pricing here.

So what’s going through your head right now?  Are you thinking your dreams of taking that amazing HIIT class online were just crushed?  Were you wanting to start that website with your on-demand classes and monetize it, but there’s no way you can pay for those extra licensing fees and you CANNOT teach it with an annoying jingle in the background.  No way.  Or maybe you’re thinking you’ll still take it online, with fingers crossed that you won’t get caught?

Why are you letting the music stop you?  This isn’t a game of musical chairs.  Just because the music stops doesn’t mean you have to sit down.  You’re thinking you need music, and by music you mean you’re completely killer playlist, to teach your class.  You think that’s a fact, but it’s not.  That’s just your thought.  What if I told you that, you don’t need music.

Cue the record scratch and mic drop .

You’re thinking, no you don’t understand, Megan.  You need music for a barre class or a spin class or a boxing class.  No, I totally understand. I’ve been to those classes.  I may have been to yours and I agree your playlists are awesome.  But seriously, to teach online, you don’t need the music, even for barre and spin.  One of my favorite online barre instructors, Andrea Rogers on OpenFit, teaches all of her barre classes with absolutely no music and they’re so good I don’t even notice.  Personally, from a user/student perspective, I think teaching it this way is so much better than hearing an annoying jingle or barely audible cover song in the background.  It’s just her and her vocal cadence and it’s awesome. Read it again.  You don’t need music.

This is what coaching is all about.  When you start dreaming big about taking your career to the next level, your brain is going to go into overdrive to tell you all of the reasons why you can’t, why you need to stay small, only teach in-person classes and stay an employee at a studio.  Are you thinking that music licensing laws are going to get in your way and stop you before you even get started?  But those are only thoughts.  Thoughts are optional.  You can challenge those thoughts, feel more determined and committed to your dreams, take action and still reach that goal.

If you’ve got limiting beliefs that are holding you back and need help challenging that thought, sign up for a free 30 minute call with me and let’s talk about it.  Now get back to your playlist and those lunges.

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