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"If I can't build my playlist, I think I'll die"

Posted by Rob Kenkel on Aug 7, 2020 5:45:53 PM

The process and tools used to create workout soundtracks have evolved over the years right alongside the way we consume music in general. Early VHS tapes had background music recorded in studio, workout compilation CDs blasted from speakers in aerobics room, and most recently, streaming from personal Spotify/Apple Music accounts has taken over.

In the last 5 years, we’ve seen a huge uptick in both specialized boutique fitness studios and at-home fitness apps. When the pandemic hit the US in March, there was suddenly a massive need to find a way to combine the boutique experience with the convenience of working out at home. I've spoken with over 100 different fitness brands in 3 months and they are all passionate about what they do and the impact they can have on the health and wellness of people like me that are suddenly stuck at home.

By the time they speak with Feed.fm, music is often the key missing ingredient. The proliferation of direct-to-consumer music services sets the expectation that adding music to streamed workouts should be as easy as starting a subscription with Spotify. Unfortunately, licensing, technology, curation, and royalty tracking/payments for music is much more complicated than most people anticipate.

After explaining how Feed.fm works with dozens of premier fitness brands to make adding popular music easy and legal, you can feel the excitement on their side of Zoom. The initial question that follows is almost always:

"This sounds great! So how do my trainers use Feed.fm to build playlists for these workouts?"

This is my cue to start the explanation of Interactive (choosing your playlists) versus Non-Interactive (choosing a set of music that is shuffled for the end user) licensing. Interactive rights require payments to both Publishers (the songwriters responsible for lyrics and music) and Record Labels (for the actual recordings).

The bad news? For any given song there are at least two sets of rights holders that require licenses and compensation. If your instructors want to build their own playlists, then your attorneys need to start conversations with Warner, Sony, and Universal and about a dozen publishers. Visions of $300M Peloton lawsuits (with a $50M settlement) should now dance in your head.

The good news? You can still have all the variety you need, create an amazing end user experience, and keep instructors happy. While instructors cannot build playlists, they CAN incorporate a mix of familiar songs and the freshest chart toppers into workouts, which is what your subscribers want in the first place. And Feed.fm can take you through the entire music selection and tech setup process in just 2-4 weeks.

Unless you have extensive capital and a year to get it right, here is how you should think about your business music strategy:

Type of Music

  • Recognizable music is key to emotional connections
  • People seldom have emotional connections to stock/production music
  • Starting with stock music to see how things go when you launch is not a strategy that retains users...especially when many of your competitors use today’s hit songs

Music Costs

  • Music licensing shouldn't cost you $50K in legal fees and 6-figure upfront royalty payments
  • Many deals with rights holders require a revenue share as well, which quickly adds up
  • Spotify/Apple Music integrations transfer music cost to your customers, but using these services in commercial use cases violates their terms of service
  • Embedded and curated music with royalty payments that scale with your business trajectory is critical (again: see Peloton)

Curation Style

  • Unless you are teaching dance choreography, your trainers don't actually need to build playlists
  • Tempo is key and Feed.fm's curation team has this dialed in, with 50 years collective experience as DJs and curators
  • While you may think your ear for music is better than everyone else, the reality is people have different tastes and like a variety of songs, artists, and musical styles
Opportunity Cost
  • Fitness is your business
  • Music is ours
  • When launching, work with our curation team to build the framework for your music needs, but allow us to take this workload off your plate month after month (pop music and tastes can change pretty quickly)
  • Continue to build great fitness-related features and allow us to adapt as your needs grow
We understand the desire to directly share your music style with the world, and we continue to expand our product lines to meet this demand. In the meantime, the key thing to understand is that Feed.fm is ready to power your workouts with the music your subscribers want to hear right here, right now.

Brands who have invested in their music strategy with Feed.fm retain more customers, lower customer acquisition costs, and free up resources to build world-class fitness products. While some music lovers like me might suggest you heavily program your stations with Madonna, Foreigner and Pearl Jam, our curation team combines experience with empirical data to deliver the variety proven to tap into your subscribers' emotions across the board.

Topics: Music streaming, Music as a Service, legal music, Customer Engagment, Fitness, Music Licensing