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Are Your Yoga Playlists Copyright Infringement?

in YD News


ASCAP Targets Yoga Studios for Royalties:

You know that playlist you heard in yoga class that was lit-erally the soundtrack of your very life and existence? Yeah, you’re going to have to pay for that. Well, not you necessarily, but probably your yoga studio owner. Yoga studios have become the recent target of ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers which protects the rights of its some 500,000 members around the world. They are the musical licensing police when it comes to copyright infringement and playing music considered “public performance,” at say, a yoga studio where financial benefit is gained from such delightful musical accompaniment.* After all, yoga class playlists are the new MTV.

(*All relative, of course. We know some people can’t stand music during yoga.)

Apparently, ASCAP found out about yoga studios using music to enhance their classes (who knows how! can we blame this on The xx?) and have taken action by sending out letters asking for royalties, which are based on number of students (ie. ears) and are usually intended for “dance schools.” We could all go on until the cow facing poses come home about how yoga studios are not dance schools, and in fact, NY yogis have been debating that for years. But, luckily (we think) since ASCAP started making a fuss about this, there was some push-back — even Yoga Alliance got involved — and now they’re making some adjustments to the rules.

Via YogaCityNYC:

“Put yourself in the shoes of a songwriter,”says Vincent Candilora, Executive Vice President of Licensing at ASCAP. “You create a song and copyright it, and under Federal Copyright Law you are granted exclusive rights. One of those is the right to have your work publicly performed. That is your property.”

“We are in the midst of changing the way we license yoga studios,” says Vincent. “It’s really not dance, and it doesn’t belong there. The way we are looking at the yoga license right now is to create a ‘Fitness and Wellbeing License’.”

Where the dance school license rate depends on the style of dance and the size of the class, the yoga license looks to be much less complicated. “We don’t care how many people you have in your class, we want to keep it simple and inexpensive,” says Vincent. “We are toying with a rate of about $68 a year per studio.”  Vincent says that they expect to have this ready to roll out in the beginning of May.

Not SO bad we guess. It’s the least we can do to thank the artists for so graciously/unknowingly contributing to our blissful efforts of attaining samadhi. Actually, that doesn’t sound like enough. Does Moby see like $.0004 of that?

So this would cover ASCAP, but they’re not the only ones representing music artists on the royalties front. You also have BMI and SESAC. Yoga Alliance’s suggestion there is to just pay them all.

“However, if you pay licensing fees to ASCAP, that won’t protect you from BMI and SESAC. A public performance without permission of even one musical work from within either company’s catalog triggers the obligation to pay royalties for use of their entire catalog. Furthermore, paying ASCAP may make it more likely that you will subsequently face demands from BMI and/or SESAC to pay them licensing fees as well. So the only way to eliminate all risk is to pay licensing fees to all three companies…”

The other way to get around all of this is to play live, original music or dig deep into your Beethovian back pocket for some public domain tunes. Call it “yoga with the classics.”



15 comments… add one
  • S.

    I find this whole situation rather humorous. First of all, music should not be part of any legitimate yoga class. Are you a yoga teacher, or are you a DJ? Pick one. On a deeper level, music interferes with Pratyahara. How can I detach from the senses when Kayne West is blaring overhead as it is at the Corepower yoga studio? I find that many teachers hide behind a playlist because they themselves do not know how to be silent. I challenge you all to turn off the music! Good instruction is the best playlist.

    • Sam Louise

      I have gotten complaints from students when I do NOT play music. Absolutist positions such as yours S., aren’t very helpful.

      • S.

        Call me absolutist if you will, but at least I don’t pander to the whims of my students who will be here today, then on to the next trendy studio tomorrow. Are you really teaching yoga, or are you trying to be popular? Yoga now is very close to becoming another throwaway fitness craze like aerobics or Jazzercise, and by catering to students who cannot handle a bit of silence, you are working toward to it’s demise. If you are playing music in your classes, please don’t call it yoga. Call it something else. You seem hip to fads, think of a cool name.

        • VQ2

          There are degrees of so-called “absolutism”. Back when I’d been a power yoga student, I did Baron’s bootcamp box (audio instruction recorded music-free) while “playing” ambient sound (semi-melodic repetitive non-music audible tones) … low …

          Sometimes, cold turkey is not the way to wean yourself off of music and get to the true silence and source …

          Like everything else, purism is on a continuum …

        • Sam Louise

          Wow you really are a purist aren’t you? You sound like the right wing traditionalists that tell progressive Christians that they aren’t “Christian”. They assume they get to decide who is Christian or not. You seem to think you hold the truth on what is or isn’t yoga. Guess what? You don’t. Please don’t tell me or anyone else how to teach or run their classes. It really isn’t your business.

  • Sarah

    It’s really interesting that ASCAP and other organizations representing musicians have to ability to control something like this. I suppose it makes sense for the larger studio chains (Corepower, Lululemon) but what about smaller studios that treat their teachers like independent contractors? Would each teacher need to seek approval before using their playlist?
    Interestingly, last week I found this opinion piece on weather or not music should even be in yoga classes in the first place: http://www.yogatraveltree.com/article/should-music-be-a-part-of-yoga-class/

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  • Sandra

    I agree with S. that music should not be in a yoga class. When I started practicing yoga seven years ago I was lucky to have a teacher who did not play music and who helped ensure that
    the room where we practiced was quiet before and after the class. This was deeply important
    to my initial appreciation of a yoga class as a place of refuge from our daily off-the-mat
    life, a place where we can concentrate on our breath and on what then happens.

  • VQ2

    It’s about time. It has not helped that yogi/music producers deprive themselves of their rightful royalties, as well. Say what you will about Baron, say he is a kind of sell-out or that he despiritualized yoga; or that power yoga is not right for you (it certainly is not right for ME, and I don’t do that kind of power yoga any more); but he’d had the right idea in presenting a music-free yoga practice.

  • I couldn’t agree more with S. I personally relax better and get right into the zone of yoga when there is no music blaring over the speakers. I focus better on my breathing when there’s deafening silence.

  • Carly

    Maybe I should email ASCAP the number of albums I’ve purchased based on what I’ve heard in class….. Namaste’ 😀

  • I was solicited by ASCAP, insisting that I pay them $99.27 to use a very short list of songs in my rockin’ yoga class which had a net profit of zero $ last year. I decided instead to contact those few artists directly to get their permission. One has already agreed and I am waiting to hear back from Ozzy and others.

    With regard to the whole issue of using music for asana and what constitutes “legitimate yoga,” hey S., are you the Yoga Police or did somebody die and leave you in charge? I really hope you are not practicing pratyahara while doing standing asanas as it might be a bit dangerous in terms of gravity and stuff, but I’m not going to tell you what to do. Anyway, external silence is not required for internal silence. In fact, paradoxically, I have found that nice loud metal with a spiritual vibe and positive lyrics can be extremely effective in shutting up the monkey-mind. And my teacher has Indian friends who play tantric music specifically designed for yoga practice. But, to each their own.

  • Linda Schlensker

    In a way, the music industry is shooting itself in the foot going after schools. I used to run a dance school. We paid for ASCAP, SECAP and BMI. Whenever we played wonderful new music, people purchased that music and shared their music thereby selling new music. I’m sure the same happens at Yoga centers.

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