Fitness Apps Are Using Indie Music to Revolutionize Workouts — With Additional Growth and Licensing Opportunities Forthcoming

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The smart-exercise revolution — and its emphasis on music — appears poised to continue even as fitness enthusiasts resume their normal routines. Photo Credit: Jonathan Borba

As exercisers traded their gym memberships for at-home workout solutions during the pandemic, the fitness sector experienced unprecedented growth and far-reaching changes. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these changes, however, was the industry-wide embrace of music – and the associated career opportunities for creators. 

The following was created in collaboration with Songtradr, part of a broader partnership focused on the sync licensing space.  Be sure to check our ongoing coverage of this fast-growing sector here.

U.S. health club revenues suffered a 58 percent year-over-year dip in 2020 due to widespread lockdown measures and COVID-related restrictions, according to the IHRSA. At the same time, though, the home fitness equipment industry enjoyed double-digit growth, and sources have forecasted that the sector’s market size will further improve from over $10 billion in 2020 to $14.74 billion in 2028. 

Predictably, the latter figure represents relatively modest growth (compared to that of 2020) for the home fitness equipment sphere, as gyms seem poised to reopen and regain their financial footing. But that doesn’t mean fitness apps – and the companies behind them – will disappear. 

On the contrary, the pandemic-prompted boost to “smart” exercise equipment, cutting-edge apps, and interactive health solutions seems set to have a lasting impact on workouts in the gym and at home – even if the scope changes slightly as normal routines resume. 

“We believe this space will continue to grow and augment brick-and-mortar businesses,” music licensing and distribution platform Songtradr’s Director of Partnerships, Chris Strickland, and SVP of Global Platform Sales, Nick Woollard, told Digital Music News.

“Having made the investment, we believe many business owners recognize the importance of diverse revenue streams and customer relationships that are less geographically dependent. As people start leaving their homes again, we do anticipate a shift away from live classes to a more video-on-demand offering,” the sync professionals continued.  

And for indie artists, the space will still encompass potentially career-changing licensing opportunities, as music plays a key role in cutting-edge workouts and remains a major area of focus for fitness-app developers and exercise-equipment companies. 

Decidedly expensive licensing woes in the rearview, Peloton inked a series of notable direct deals in 2020 – including enlisting Chromeo, Big Boi, and Dillon Francis to record Elvis remixes – and finalized a years-long partnership with Triller’s Verzuz in late March of this year. 

Similarly, Endeavor’s Ultimate Fighting Championship last year debuted a dedicated streaming platform, UFC Ultimate Sound – built with the support of Tuned Global, which has quietly provided app-development services to an array of high-profile clients – whereas Arcade Fire created a 45-minute-long track in April of 2021 for meditation and exercise app Headspace. 

In short, all manner of fitness apps and home exercise equipment manufacturers are continuing to leverage music to solidify their market positioning, attract new followers, and deliver the best possible workout experiences. As mentioned, this means that creators – and particularly indie creators – have more chances to secure the paychecks and exposure that come with placements in today’s decidedly personalized fitness sphere. 

To be sure, Songtradr has seen a roughly 500 percent uptick in workout-related projects during the last year, Strickland and Woollard told DMN, with a clear-cut emphasis on and preference for independent music. 

“We’ve definitely recognized a growing focus on independent music,” Strickland and Woollard said. “Many platforms are using music to stand out from the competition, and the flexibility and cost effectiveness offered by independent catalogs and intermediaries like Songtradr are major selling points as well.” 

On this front, to the advantage of artists and clients alike, Songtradr can promptly provide carefully curated (and fully licensed) playlists for fitness apps. Needless to say, for professionals who’re looking to add music sooner rather than later – while avoiding the legal headaches and expenses associated with licensing shortcuts – the benefit can prove decidedly appealing. 

There’s something to be said, the Songtradr higher-ups continued, for operating in the space between pricey commercial music (which clients are unable to tailor) and wholly accessible (but decidedly less effective) stock music. The point aids clients as well as artists, who have a better chance of introducing their music to high-engagement micro-communities within the fitness world. 

“A lot of clients are working with us because they have to choose between expensive and inflexible commercial music on one side and the limited creative choice of stock music catalogs on the other,” explained Strickland and Woollard. 

“Songtradr exists between these two points, and our fitness and wellness clients tell us that they love the combination of authentic global music that resonates with their audiences and the value and flexibility offered by our licensing terms,” they concluded. 

With continued opportunities available to creators – and further industry growth seemingly on the horizon – the fitness sector’s future looks promising. Especially considering the comprehensive changes delivered by recent years, artists stand to gain from following and capitalizing upon the space moving forward.