Legalities of music use in fitness classes and particularly using music for our online classes is quite a minefield!
Here is an overview to help you understand the basics and do checkout my How to Teach Fitness Classes Online course for more on how to make the most of the online teaching revolution without breaking the bank, or the law!
Music is a powerful motivator and for many of us, music is the soul of our fitness classes.
We spend endless hours finding musical inspiration and creating choreography to match the music beat, style and nuances.
However, music legalities for public performance use, which means where you are playing it for customers or employees is complicated and different to that for personal use at home.
For use in fitness classes, it is also different for traditional live classes and online classes where online use has traditionally been classed as ‘broadcasting’.
The rules and procedures also appear different in some countries than others and in my experience, UK is stricter on this than most.
In the UK, music licencing falls into 2 parts.
These are called the Phonographic Performance Limited licence, or PPL for short and the Performing Rights Society licence, or PRS for short.
The PPL website describes the differences and roles as:
“PPL collects and distributes money on behalf of performers and record companies for the use of their recorded music.
PRS for Music collects and distributes money on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers, for the use of their musical compositions and lyrics.
This ensures that the people who create music are fairly rewarded for their talent and work.”
PPL and PRS used to be two separate agencies, but combined in 2018 to provide a single, combined PPL and PRS licence called The Music Licence.
This means you can play original music in your traditional live classes, so long as the venue (or you) have a PPL licence and the venue has a PRS licence.
What about PPL free music?
PPL-free music is music that can be played without having a PPL licence.
It does not contain original artists you would recognise, but is often cover versions of original/well known original artists.
It has traditionally been seen by many as not as good as the original, but that is subjective and PPL free music is legal to use in LIVE classes without a PPL licence.
Before COVID-19, PPL free was often referred to as 'licence free', but this term is confusing as it is not completely licence free. PPL free music is NOT legal for online use without additional and somewhat complicated licencing.
PPL free does not necessarily mean PRS free, so there are limits to using this type of PPL free or ’licence free’ music.
This means you cannot use it online, or in a venue which does not have a PRS licence.
When using music for your online sessions, you are essentially ‘broadcasting’ it, which moves you into a completely different licensing area.
In short, if you play ANY music you have purchased, in either your live or online fitness classes without having appropriate licenses in place, you will be breaking copyright rules.
If found doing this in live classes, you could be fined and online you could be removed from the platform you are using, or sued, or both.
Can I use Spotify for my live, or online classes?
In short NO! Spotify is for personal use only, see more at Spotify site here
Can I use Spotify for Business for my live, or online classes?
Yes for live (potentially), NO for online.
Sportify for Business, now called Soundtrack your Brand allows businesses to play original music in public areas such as gyms, but the licencing is only partial and complicated and does NOT allow any use online. See more at Soundtrackyourbrand.com here
So, what can we use legally for our online fitness classes?
For online use we need music which is free of PPL and PRS, often called Royalty Free Music, or copyright free.
Royalty free (RF) music is free of PPL and PRS and CAN be used for our online classes - Hurray we shout!
BUT there are two main limitations to royalty free music:
1. MOTIVATION - If music is a really big part of your classes, you will likely find it hard to find much royalty free music which inspires you in the same way as the music you are used to using.
I hope this brief outline and top tips help you get started and avoid getting sued or other problems down the line when using music for your fitness classes, live or online!
For more details on music licencing, (including providers without limiting small print) and making the most of the online teaching revolution, without breaking the bank or the law, checkout our ‘How to Teach Fitness Classes Online’ course.
It includes useful discounts worth more than the cost of the course too and it's on-demand online, so you can start today!
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