The right song can make or break a workout.

Researchers have found that music can help to inspire and motivate fitness class participants, as well as increase their energy, enjoyment and excitement during exercise.

As a Fitness Leader, preparing the perfect playlist for a fitness class in Canada requires more than good taste. You also need to know how to protect yourself under copyright laws and credit the musicians. They are, after all, playing a big role in supporting your fitness classes.

What is SOCAN and RE:SOUND? 

Close shot of person holding a smartphone that shows music genres
Whether or not you need a music license depends on where you work. Image via Pexels

SOCAN, or the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada, ensures musicians and artists are properly compensated for their work.

SOCAN collects money through music licenses and distributes it as royalties to the artists who have earned them in Canada and throughout the world.

RE:SOUND is a Canadian not-for-profit music licensing company that ensures artists and record labels that create the recorded music it licenses, are appropriately compensated through royalties.

How does SOCAN and RE: SOUND licensing work? 

The moment music is created, it begins to retain value. When you play a piece of music at a place of business, like a fitness class, it gives it more value.

Both SOCAN and RE:SOUND license your business to play music so that you’re covered under Canada’s Copyright Act, ensuring also that music composers, artists, and production companies are properly compensated for the accumulating value of their work.

Do I need to obtain a music license?

Whether or not you need a license depends on where you work.

If you’re currently employed by a municipality or local government as a Fitness Leader, you do not need a music license when instructing those classes.

If you’re currently employed by an employer that is not a local government, the chances are you’re covered under the establishment’s music license, but it’s always a good idea to double-check with your employer.

If you work independently or rent out a space for your fitness class, you will need to secure a music license yourself.

Continue reading for the easiest way to obtain a music license and legally source music for your fitness class.

A group yoga class leaning over to stretch with one arm raised in the air
Researchers have found that music can help inspire and motivate participants, as well as increase energy, enjoyment and excitement during exercise. Image via Pexels

Which music licenses do I need?

Both licenses are needed for playing recorded music during a Fitness class in Canada. Only SOCAN music licensing is required for live music.

You can obtain both SOCAN AND RE:SOUND licenses through Entandem, a one-time payment and licensing system.

Entandem is a joint venture between SOCAN and RE:SOUND that’s meant to simplify the licensing process, so you know you’re covered under Canada’s Copyright Act and music creators are properly compensated.

Which license do I need to play recorded music in my class?

To legally play music in a fitness class as an independent contractor, you must comply with Tariff 6.B, set by the Canadian government to determine and control the rate of royalties paid to artists.  

Tariff 6.B covers the use of recorded music in fitness and skating venues and music that accompanies fitness activities, including fitness and dance classes. 

To comply with Tariff 6.B, you need to obtain BOTH a SOCAN music license and a RE:SOUND music license.

How much are the fees for an annual music license?

An annual license breaks down to the following formula:

Tariff 19 (SOCAN license fee) + Tariff 6.B Royalty rate (RE:SOUND license fee) = annual license fee.

Tariff 19 – Physical Exercise and Dance Instruction Rate

Tariff 19 equals an annual fee of $2.50 for the average number of participants per week in the room. In all cases, a minimum fee of $74.72 applies.

For example, if you have 10 participants on average in a 16-week fitness program, your annual SOCAN fees will total $400.

10 participants x $2.50 x 16 weeks = $400.00.

Tariff 6.B Royalty Rate 

Tariff 6.B covers you if you are playing background music at a gym. The rate you will pay depends on the fitness facility.  

If a fitness facility subscribes to background music, but the music supplier does not pay its respective tariff, the venue must pay instead.  

The rate is 3.2 per cent of the amount paid to the music supplier, subject to a minimum of $2.15 per venue, per quarter.  

In the case where background music is not provided by a supplier, then the fitness facility is required to pay a flat royalty which depends on the number of members. This royalty ranges between $50 and $500 per year.  

For fitness classes, the tariff rate ranges between 41.6¢ and 46.7¢ per class according to the 2022 rates.  

Where can I source music easily?

It is important to remember that paying for a license to SOCAN and RE:SOUND only works for commercial music services, such as SoundMachine. Playing recorded music on a USB drive, CD or through Spotify/Apple Music in a business without a license is still illegal.

SoundMachine, which is a commercial service, covers the payment of the SOCAN and Re:SOUND license in its monthly price of CAD $26/month, and charges up to $34/month for more song availability and Spotify/Apple music synchronization.

SoundTrack your Brand is another commercial music licensing platform, with a fee starting at $50/month, with unlimited Spotify commercial use for $60/month.

What are safe decibel sound levels?

According to WorkSafeBC, the human ear can handle up to 85 decibels of exposure to noise for up to eight hours at a time before the effects of hearing loss can begin to take effect.

Eighty-five decibels of noise is comparable to a food blender at high speed, or a room-sized audience cheering after a performance.

Decibel metre at 70 decibels.
When deciding a safe level to play music at your fitness classes, make sure to take into account any background noise that may contribute to noise exposure

How to measure decibel levels for your fitness class

When deciding a safe level to play music at your fitness classes, make sure to take into account any background noise that may contribute to noise exposure (I.e., traffic, construction noise, neighbouring class noises).

Factor these noises into the 85-decibel level limit as you may need to lower your music to account for background noises as well.

Whether you are contracting a fitness class or run your own fitness studio, the need to accurately measure the level of decibel exposure may vary depending on how much responsibility you hold over the space itself.

While a general awareness of the noise level being like a food blender may suffice for teaching a 1-hour fitness class, measurements of noise during a facility’s hours of operation may need to be more accurately measured.

Decibel level measuring tools

You can measure your decibel level through the Noise app on Apple Watches. There are also more accurate devices called handheld digital sound meters that range in prices starting from $30 CAD.

There are also apps for smartphones that measure decibel levels, although they are not as accurate as a handheld device, they may be beneficial for general awareness. Look for apps such as Sound Meter Pro.

Now that you know how to ensure you are covered under Canada’s Copyright Act, the artists and musicians who you’re rocking out to are compensated, and your sound levels are correct, you can confidently blast your tunes to pump up participants.

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