How to Find the Perfect Music Playlists for Your Gym

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People come to your fitness center to push their bodies to the limit. Whether they are climbing your rock wall, jumping through an aerobics class, or sweating it out on machines, they are in your company in order to grow stronger, slimmer, and healthier.

An intense workout can leave your customers feeling exhilarated, and that could keep them coming back for more. Here's what you need to know to create and play the perfect workout playlists.

The Psychology of Workout Music

Music has the power to help your customers reach their goals.

According to research cited by The New York Times, researchers have proven that music can help people do more within a workout. In one study, researchers upped the tempo of the music by just 10%, and participants covered more miles on a stationary bike than they did while listening to slower music, and they enjoyed the faster music 36% more too.

Researchers also say that music can distract people from pain and fatigue, and it can reduce how hard you think you’re working out. When you’re listening to music, you’re slightly distracted and more likely to work hard without even realizing it. Music is so effective, in fact, that people say it’s a type of performance-enhancing drug.

While music can be very effective, the right playlist is critical. Research suggests that music can only make workouts more effective if people actually like it. If you don’t enjoy the songs you hear, you’re more likely to focus on your discomfort. Your workout will be less effective and a lot less enjoyable.

What Genre Should You Use?

It’s important to match the music you play to your customers’ expectations of a gym. That means it might be unusual for you to play songs in these genres even if those songs come with a quick tempo:

  • Opera
  • Classical music
  • Nature sounds
  • Folk music
  • Traditional Native American music

Walk into any gym in America, and you are likely to hear modern music that has a fast pace and a deep reliance on percussion. EDM, pop, and rock dominate the genres played.

How Loud Should the Music Play?

Gyms also tend to be loud spaces, and it can be tempting to crank up the music to enhance the workout results. This is an especially common technique in shared fitness classes. As The Washington Post uncovered, some fitness instructors play music at 99 decibels, which is loud enough to damage human hearing.

It’s important to protect the health of your patrons, and that means ensuring the music isn’t loud enough to harm them. Talk to your staff about how loud they’re playing music, and set clear expectations about the upper and lower volume levels you will allow.

If you find that your instructors are pushing the volume to the limit, switching musical genres might be wise. Perhaps moving from pop to EDM would help give the class the punch the instructor is looking for without adding hearing loss to the menu of services you offer.

You may also have spaces in which your customers prefer to listen to their own music. As research from the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture points out, people tend to enjoy music they play on personal players more than they enjoy the music they hear in public spaces.

If you have patrons that grunt or cheer or scream through their workouts. Headphones can protect your customers from those distractions, and if your overhead music is a little quieter, these customers won't need to play their headphones at an intensely high volume.

What About Tempo?

When it comes to choosing music for a gym or fitness center, tempo matters more than genre. According to research sponsored by the American Council on Exercise, cyclists moved faster to up-tempo music regardless of whether or not they knew or liked the music. They performed well while cycling to polka, for example.

This makes intuitive sense. When we hear music with a quick beat, we are motivated to tap our toes to the rhythm. The faster that beat, the faster the tap. Playing music that is speedy seems like a very efficient way to ensure that your customers get the sweaty workouts they want.

However, many workouts involve distinct phases, such as a warmup, full effort, and cool down. If you play songs of the same tempo through all of these phases, your clients may not get the experience they need.

How to Craft the Perfect Playlist

We’ve provided plenty of tips about what you should and should not do to share music in a gym. How can you put those tips to good use while you’re creating a playlist? The following tips may help.

Use these steps as you’re working on a playlist:

  • Consider the setting. Are you creating a playlist that will sit in the background of a shared space, like a weight room? If so, modifying the tempo by workout stage is nearly impossible. You never know where people will be in their individual workouts. However, if you’re making a playlist for a specific class, ensure you’re using music to guide people through their workouts by starting and ending slow with fast beats in the middle.
  • Listen to the lyrics. Sometimes, the words we hear alongside the beats can keep us moving when we’re tired and ready to go home. Before you put a song on rotation, listen to every word and ensure that your clients will feel inspired (and not offended).
  • Update regularly. Don’t pick the same songs and just leave them there. Mix up the rotation regularly and ensure that your regular visitors aren’t bored by your choices.

Some music streaming companies have playlists that are designed for gyms with music that rotates regularly. If yours doesn’t, follow these tips.


1. EDM:

Song: Levels - Radio Edit

Artist(s): Avicii

Song: One More Time - Radio Edit

Artist(s): Daft Punk

Song: Angel on My Shoulder

Artist(s): Kaskade, Tamra Keenan

Song: Icarus

Artist(s): Madeon

Song: Control

Artist(s): Oliver

Song: Illmerica

Artist(s): Wolfgang Gartner

Song: Next Order

Artist(s): Dog Blood

Song: SeeSaw - Club Version

Artist(s): Jamie xx, Four Tet, Romy

Song: Language

Artist(s): Porter Robinson

Song: Take Me Home (feat. Bebe Rexha)

Artist(s): Cash Cash, Bebe Rexha

Song: Never Come Back

Artist(s): Caribou

2. Rock:

Song: (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - Mono Version

Artist(s): The Rolling Stones

Song: All Day and All of the Night

Artist(s): The Kinks

Song: Another One Bites The Dust - Remastered 2011

Artist(s): Queen

Song: Any Way You Want It

Artist(s): Journey

Song: Are You Gonna Go My Way

Artist(s): Lenny Kravitz

Song: Barracuda

Artist(s): Heart

Song: Born to Run

Artist(s): Bruce Springsteen

Song: Call Me

Artist(s): Blondie

Song: Danger Zone - From "Top Gun" Original Soundtrack

Artist(s): Kenny Loggins

Song: Hungry Like the Wolf - 2009 Remaster

Artist(s): Duran Duran

3. Pop:

Song: King

Artist(s): Years & Years

Song: Born To Be Yours

Artist(s): Kygo, Imagine Dragons

Song: Dreams

Artist(s): Alex Ross, Dakota, T-Pain

Song: Feels Like Home

Artist(s): Sigala, Fuse ODG, Sean Paul, Kent Jones

Song: Go With It (feat. Chromeo)

Artist(s): Oliver, Chromeo

Song: All This Time

Artist(s): Deorro

Song: Better With You - Kastra & twoDB Remix

Artist(s): 3LAU, Justin Caruso, Iselin, twoDB, Kastra

Song: Broken & Beautiful (from the movie UGLYDOLLS)

Artist(s): Kelly Clarkson

Song: Forever - VAVO Remix

Artist(s): Disco Fries, Maline, VAVO

Song: Million Things

Artist(s): GATTÜSO, Disco Killerz

4. Country Workout:

Artist: Morgan Wallen

Song: Wasted on You

Artist: Luke Combs

Song: When it Rains it Pours

Artist: Elle King

Song: Tulsa

Artist Jon Pardi

Song: Night Shift

Artist: Chris Stapeton

Song: Parachute

Artist: Lainey Wilson

Song: Hold My Halo

Artist: Cole Swindell

Song: She Had Me at Heads Carolina

Artist: Dierks Bentley

Song: Gold

Artist: Luke Bryan

Song: That’s My Kind of Night

Artist: Jon Pardi

Song: Dirt On My Boots

5. HIIT Workout

Artist: Sound of Legend

Song: Maniac

Artist: Sam Smith, Kim Petras

Song: Unholy

Artist: Imanbek, BYOR

Song: Belly Dancer

Artist: Gaullin, Julian Perretta

Song: Seven Nation Army

Artist: Marnick, Naeleck, VINAI

Song: Boyz in Paris

Artist: Alan Walker, Imanbek

Song: Sweet Dreams

Artist: The Good Song, Aramis

Song: 2 Much

Artist: Tiesto, Ava Max

Song: The Motto

Artist: David Guetta, Bene Rexha

Song: I’m Good

Artist: VIZE, Tom Gregory

Song: Never Let Me Down

6. Smooth Jazz Workout Music

Artist: Thiago Sanchez Jazz Quartet

Song: Glorious Backdrops for Earthing Vibes

Artist: Funky DL

Song: Tell Me

Artist: The Lazy Bees

Song: Hot Summer

Artist: Bob Mete

Song: Cosmopolitans

Artist: Dea Sancta

Song: Higher and Higher

Artist: The Mellotones

Song: London Bridge

Artist: Jazz in the Kitchen

Song: Happy or Sad

Artist: J1gggs

Song: The Catmas Song

Artist: Hyper Creation

Song: Purple Interlude

Artist: New York Swing Lounge

Song: Popcorn

7. Latin Zumba

Artist: Sebastian Yatra

Song: Vagabundo

Artist: Illegales

Song: Mucho Flow

Artist: JLUIS

Song: Rayos del Sol

Artist: Marshmello, Manuel Turizo

Song: El Merengue

Artist: NAVSRMI, Real Nam

Song: Papasito

Artist: Lola Indigo

Song: La Santa

Artist: JLUIS

Song: Beautiful Life

Artist: Anitta

Song: Funk Rave

Artist: SuperFitness

Song: A Un Paso De La Luna

Artist: Joey Montana

Song: Tus Mentiras

Paying for the Music You Play

As a fitness professional, you probably have your own media player stuffed with ideal workout tunes and playlists. When you run, stretch, or climb, these are the tunes you play to keep you motivated.

There are all sorts of business-grade stereo equipment components that can interact with a personal media player, and they can allow you to play your own music for all of the customers who visit you.

It is important to note, however, that playing music in this manner is likely to get you into very deep trouble with large companies who have access to many lawyers.

Recorded music of the type you have on your personal player is protected by national copyright laws. Those laws might apply to the composition of the piece, the recording of it, or both.

Streaming services often provide "business accounts," which might seem as though they protect you from these copyright laws. Those that sign up for a business account are, seemingly, allowed to play their music in the context of a business.

But according to the Climbing Business Journal, streaming services often have a small disclaimer, buried deep in the fine print, about businesses that charge admission. Your gym likely charges admission for your patrons. If so, these business accounts will not protect you. They are not made for businesses like yours.

Gyms that try to ignore the rules and play the music they want to play can come under the scrutiny of the companies that administer copyright. When that happens, conversations can be uncomfortable.

One gym owner took to a CrossFit message board to talk about the more than 10 notices he had received from ASCAP, asking for payment for the music he was playing within his gym. The organization was threatening a lawsuit if the man did not either stop playing music or start paying a copyright fee.

If you choose to work with the copyright holders and come into compliance, the process can be complicated. As the American Council on Exercise points out, fees to these organizations can vary, based on:

  • The size of your gym.
  • The number of members you have.
  • The number of speakers you have in your gym.
  • The types of activities you offer.

There are multiple organizations that administer copyright fees, and they all work in slightly different ways. To be in compliance and play any music you want to play will mean making a connection with all of these organizations and negotiating the fees separately with each one.

As you might imagine, this can be an incredibly time-consuming process. Once the fees have been negotiated, you will need to stay in touch with each agency. If you add space to your gym, change your offerings, add a speaker, or otherwise make an amendment that changes your agreement, you will need to renegotiate your fees.

Ignoring this issue is not wise. The copyright holders have the law on their side, and they can sue for damages.

We can help. At Pandora CloudCover, we have background music that is just right for common areas of your fitness center. We can help you understand what music might be right for your audience and where you can play our music, and we can help you get set up with our app, so you can connect to your speakers quickly and efficiently.

We have negotiated fees with all copyright holders, so you can play the music you want to play while staying in compliance with the law. We offer one reasonable fee, so you don't have to worry.

We would love to tell you more. Please contact us to find out more about our options for fitness centers just like yours.


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