Fitness Class Music Licensing Keeps Churches in Shape

April 19, 2017

Church leaders focus on nurturing, growing and developing healthy spiritual communities. A healthy community impacts all aspects of life…spiritual, mental, physical and emotional.

A growing number of churches and synagogues host aerobics, exercise and dance classes in their facilities as part of supporting physical health. It’s a great environment to nurture health, combining faith with fitness programs, but what about the legalities of playing music in these types of classes?

“A healthy church is copyright compliant,” says Chris Railey, Sr. Director Leadership/Church Development The General Council of the Assemblies of God. “Honor songwriters by making sure you have licenses in place for all music use throughout your church.”

Many church leaders don’t realize that all types of music played during fitness classes require performance licenses to be able to legally play music in any of their facilities–whether a fee is charged for the class or not. The exercise instructors who lead classes in a religious facility are not responsible for performance licensing; it is the venue or facility that must obtain the proper licensing from performance rights organizations (PROs).

It’s pretty straightforward. Religious ministries need performance licenses from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC to play music in a public venue, such as church facilities.

There’s an important exception to this rule that is called the Religious Service Exemption (U.S. Copyright Law  (Section 110[3]), but it only applies to music being played or performed “…in the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly.” It does not apply to music played and performed outside a service, like a fitness class.

Exercise and dance classes provide a great opportunity for churches to reach out and connect with their surrounding community, touching the lives of many of the unchurched. Now there’s a quick and legal way to feature the uniquely-styled music for the dance and exercises classes and honor the music copyright owners.

This PERFORMmusic Facilities License covers playing music in fitness classes (or any dance/aerobic classes), as well as throughout church facilities and satellite campuses, including the following types of activities:

  • Social events & fundraisers
  • Concerts
  • Youth events
  • Seminars & conferences
  • Camps & VBS
  • On-hold music
  • Music played in coffee shops and bookstores
  • Coffee shops
  • Bookstores
  • Movie nights
  • BBQs & dinners
  • Carnivals & festivals

Good news! There’s an easy, simple and affordable one-stop performance license that includes more than 20 million songs from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC through CCs’s PERFORMmusic Facilities License. Christian, religious and secular songs are all covered for one annual fee based on the size of your congregation, starting as low as $229.

Susan Fontaine Godwin is CCS’s founder/CVO, an educator and long-time member of the Christian arts community with 30 years of experience in the Christian media industry, church copyright administration and copyright management. Susan is an author and speaker and frequently writes for several Christian magazines and online publications. She serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Mobile.

About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.” CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration, and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

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