PRS for Music – along with music publishers – has decided not to extend the sync license element of the Online Fitness Music Licence.
This licence, launched with EMD UK’s help in August 2020, allowed group exercise instructors to use original artist music in their online classes for a modest fee. Hundreds bought the licence through EMD UK and hundreds more did so through PRS for Music and other resellers.
A recent EMD UK survey showed that 61 per cent of group exercise instructors had used the Limited Online Music Licence (LOML/Sync) during the pandemic to pivot their business online.
Often spending upwards of £1,000, instructors were able to keep communities active while gyms and classes were shut, attracting many new participants along the way.
Online classes are an invaluable service to our nation, especially since the start of the pandemic and will be for the foreseeable future. They offer an active and sociable lifeline for many who could not leave the house due to self-isolation, caring responsibilities, or disabilities.
Over 60 per cent of those coming to online classes lived with a long-term health condition – they are in many cases the same people who have low confidence in returning to face-to-face classes.
A majority of instructors have said they will continue to run a hybrid business. On-demand content is a great way for instructors to create revenue, but also for participants to attend classes at times that are more convenient to them.
PRS for Music said the LOML/Sync wasn’t extended because there’s no demand now in-person classes have resumed, but think of essential workers – NHS staff on night shifts who can’t attend classes during the evenings but wish to do some yoga when their shift ends. Also those with long-term health conditions who want to continue their physical activity in the safety of their own home and parents who fit in a HIIT session around a baby’s nap times – just to give a few examples. There is clearly still a need.
Music is a key element to an excellent class experience, and removing it would mean some people will be less motivated to work out. Take into consideration that for many with learning disabilities and older people with memory impairments and dementia, listening to their favourite tunes while exercising is an important part of their care.
As things currently stand, without the Sync element of the licence, those instructors and participants won’t be able to work out to their favourite tracks.
There is a bigger picture too: the whole world of music licencing is incredibly complicated. It’s particularly difficult and expensive for a self-employed instructor to navigate. Venues need PRS licences to play music; the instructor needs PPL credits to use that music in their classes; if they go online they need a Limited Online Music Licence; then they need to negotiate a sync licence with individual publishers of each piece of music. To put this into perspective, with the number of writers, artists, and publishers in music tracks, sync licences can often reach thousands of pounds per track.
With the support of CIMSPA, Sport England and others, EMD UK continues to press PRS for Music and the publishers to reverse their decision. Our ask is two-fold: first, to reinstate the Online Music Fitness Licence. Second, to simplify the whole music licencing arrangements so that publishers and performers can get the royalties they deserve, while their fantastic music is used to help get the UK active. This couldn’t be more urgent as the population recovers from the lockdowns.
• EMD UK has won the ukactive 2020/21 Award for Digital Transformation for its Classfinder search engine. The system, which is powered by open data, supports instructors by ensuring virtual classes are promoted online, as well as being signposted by national physical activity campaigns such as This Girl Can.
EMD’s Jade Cation accepted the award on behalf of all group exercise instructors. More: www.classfinder.org.uk