Talking point: what is your Group Ex music policy in 2013 - PPCA-free or Original Artist?

In each issue of Group Exercise, Mind Body & Aqua Network we ask a selection of industry professionals to share their insights and experiences in the world of group exercise. Here we ask what effect the PPCA’s increased fee structure has had on club’s group exercise music policies.

Every group exercise instructor will agree that music is a key component to the class they are instructing. But as long as it has the effect of motivating participants, does it matter whether the recording being played is by the original artist or a cover version?

In 2011, after years of legal wrangling and changing demands pertaining to fee increases, Fitness Australia and the PPCA (Phonographic Performance Company of Australia) agreed on an outcome that was considered far more favourable to fitness facilities than that initially sought by the PPCA. Although class tariffs are now between a relatively modest $1.20 and $2.80 per class (dependant on class size and whether the club opts for the flat rate or two-tier tariff system), which is considerably less than the $31 per class originally sought by PPCA, the prolonged legal hearings caused clubs to reassess their music policies. While some have opted to pay the fees to continue playing original artist music, others have chosen to use only cover music, thereby avoiding paying PPCA fees altogether (although an APRA license is still necessary).

To gain an insight into what clubs and instructors around Australia are doing, Group Exercise, Mind Body & Aqua Network asks:

What is your facility’s music policy in 2013? Are you using PPCA-free music, or have you opted for original artist-only?

Alissa Hall

Group Programs Manager, Crunch Fitness, Hard Candy Fitness, UFC Gym

“The year 2013 is allowing us to bring some new club additions to the family, and with this comes a big focus on music. Finding the perfect music for working out to is a passion of mine, and that of my team: uplifting and energising music can be heard everywhere, from our offices to the studio floors, creating that ever-exciting atmosphere throughout each club.

Music can help creative people work effectively and explore new realms. It can also help create authenticity for your brand. For this reason, we play original artist music in all our clubs, which we believe affords a greater degree of freedom to the instructors – which I find makes them happy people. It also sets a scene for members to relate to songs they hear all the time on the radio, especially for those who have an appreciation for the artist and their vocals. For these reasons, we find it valuable to use original artist music.”

Marietta Mehanni

International presenter, Gymstick Master Trainer and instructor mentor,

“As a group exercise instructor, I work at clubs with both PPCA and PPCA-free policies. The music question is different for me for different programs. Land-based group exercise is easy for me to cater for regarding PPCA-free music options, as I have been using royalty-free music for years. Aqua workouts, however, pose a completely different challenge, as the client group generally has different music tastes than a land-based group exercise class. I am fortunate, therefore, that most of my aqua classes are conducted at YMCAs, which allow instructors to play original artist music.

For the PPCA-free clubs at which I teach land-based group exercise, I have found it relatively easy to find music to cater for participants’ tastes. There are music companies and online options that offer great cover versions and have the option to put together your own playlists.

Personally, my preference is to use original artist music, but I appreciate that some clubs I work for have chosen to not go down this path. I’m glad that I do work for different clubs that have different agreements and thus am not restricted to using only one type of music.”

Melissa Guest-Smith

National Group Fitness Manager, Goodlife Health Clubs
“At Goodlife we are currently PPCA-free and have been since 2010. While I understand and appreciate this can still be an emotive subject for some, as a business we have received minimal feedback from members during this time, and on average our class attendance has grown.

It is a very interesting time for music licensing globally, with the UK equivalent of the PPCA, the PPL, just about to increase its tariffs and other countries no doubt set to follow. Speaking with program owners, they are already in the process of moving to a license-free production, and other programs that are just starting out have chosen to use license-free music. So, perhaps the question we should be asking now is, will we be supplied PPCA-free music from program providers anyway in the next three to five years, whether we want it or not?”

Emily Gillies

Program Director, HUSH Fitness

“At HUSH Fitness we use music as a key driver to create a unique outdoor group fitness training environment unlike any other, where participants take part in park-based group ex classes wearing headphones – ‘silent disco’-style. To give our members the best experience possible, I believe in using the best quality music available to us, and in our opinion that means paying to use licensed music.

Music is said to be one of the top factors affecting people’s motivation to choose, and stay with, group exercise over other forms of training. We're committed to giving our members the best music possible to maximise their chance of sticking to their training and getting the results they come for! At HUSH Fitness our members are constantly giving positive feedback regarding our music, and I feel a big part of that is not just song/genre choice, but the fact we use originals or original remixes.

In terms of license-free music, there are some good options available for instructors and businesses out there these days, and I think the quality of covered music has improved significantly over the last few years. However, as a music lover myself, I feel there's nothing better than having an original tune pumping through your headphones, getting you to push to the next level of your training.”

Maria Albanes

Manager, North Adelaide Fitness Centre,

“The success of North Adelaide Fitness Centre is founded on a strong focus on group exercise, which has resulted in high member participation. With a range of 14 different types of class on offer, approximately 70 per cent of daily attendances are for group fitness. With this in mind, we have chosen to use a mix of original artists and PPCA-free music. This also helps us differentiate our classes from local competitors who use exclusively royalty-free music.

We use original artist music for Les Mills programs and a mix of both for freestyle classes, and the factors influencing the selection of music is based on whether it inspires us to move by creating energy, appropriate bpm, the genre of the music (i.e. top 40, dance, club, retro or theme), personal preference and the demographics of our classes.

Music plays a leading role, as the right track can help participants get through the toughest part of their workout as well as contributing to the overall experience. Therefore, it can be the source of both the most common complaint and most common compliment from participants.

Using music effectively, in conjunction with explaining the benefits and demonstrating exercises in a welcoming environment that is geared towards improving and maintaining health, creates a positive experience that keeps participants coming back for more.”

Sarah Josephsen

Manager, Climb-Fit,

“Our facility is predominantly an indoor climbing centre, but we do also have a group exercise schedule of around 10 classes per week and the participant numbers in the classes tend to be 10 or less. Because of this combination of a smaller number of classes and smaller number of participants, we have opted to pay the PPCA license fee. When you have a limited group exercise timetable, the tariff per class doesn’t equate to a great cost for us – whereas another independent club with lots of classes and higher class numbers might feel the pinch of PPCA fees.

We actually trialled some PPCA-free music early on, but member feedback was that they generally preferred original artist tracks. That said, we have purchased a few really pumpy dance re-mixes of some of the oldies which work well for our indoor cycling classes.”