3 Common Music Copyright Questions From Gym Owners Like You

Music can set the mood in your club, but music could cost you more than you initially planned if you aren’t careful.

A good playlist can be just the motivation your members need to run that extra mile or push themselves a little bit harder during that group work out; however, playing that perfect Beyoncé song is not as easy as turning on the radio. That's why we talked to Helen Durkin, IHRSA’s executive vice president of public policy. She answered the three most common music copyright questions that she receives from health club owners just like you when it comes to playing music in gyms.

Why do gyms need to pay for music in the club?

So, it's hard for club operators to hear for the first time that they have to pay any kind of fee for music. ‘Cause music's like air. Why do you have to pay for air, right? The problem is under U.S. Copyright Law there is a music copyright that's granted to the composers of songs and they have the right by law to be paid and compensated for that. There is this thing, organizations called performing rights organizations or PROs, and you know them as BMI and ASCAP primarily. PROs are the organizations that combine all the copyright licenses together and then sell you one so that you can play copyrighted music legally in your club.

Do gyms need to pay multiple copyright organizations?

So the copyright is owned by multiple organizations. So that if I'm Bob Dylan, I could be with BMI and if you have an ASCAP license then you don't have a legal right to play Bob Dylan. It's become more complicated recently. Let's say that a very famous song, let’s just say Happy Birthday—Happy Birthday might actually have 10 composers and five of those composers are licensed with BMI and five of them are licensed with ASCAP, therefore in order to play that one song—which has multiple composers—you have to pay both.

Is there a way gyms can save money on music copyright?

There is. One way to save money music copyright is not to use music. I don't think most clubs are gonna think that's a viable alternative, but you can also look at it and say do you need background music? Maybe you don't need background music. If you don't need background music, you don't have to pay it. Or there are services that provide background music and that's already paid for. Another way to save money on music copyright is for IHRSA members, we've negotiated with both BMI and ASCAP for a discount. So if you're an IHRSA member the first year that you sign your license agreement with BMI and ASCAP you would get 10% off each fee and then each subsequent year you get 5% off.

Music copyright can be a complicated, tricky topic. Honestly, we could talk about it for hours. So for more information, download the music copyright briefing paper and be sure to check out the full music copyright interview with Helen.

Related Articles & Publications

Author avatar

Kaitlynn Anderson Fernandez @IHRSA_Advocate

Kaitlynn Anderson Fernandez is IHRSA's Advocacy Content Manager. She uses her experience as a multimedia journalist to tell the story of IHRSA's advocacy and public policy efforts. Kaitlynn spends her free time watching sci-fi movies, boxing, or working towards her goal of being able to do five pull-ups (a skill that would come in handy in the event of a sci-fi-like apocalypse).