It’s not long now until UK gyms reopen their doors – and much has changed since the last time we could visit. There’s a good chance that you might be thinking about refreshing your music playlist. We thought we’d take the opportunity to chat to Carl Smith – owner of Concept Fitness Consultancy and formerly of Xercise4Less about what makes a great gym music profile.

The State we're Gym - a conversation about music and exercise with Carl Smith
The State we're Gym - a conversation about music and exercise with Carl Smith

CB – Thanks for your time Carl, it’s always great to chat to someone who has worked in the businesses we supply and hear what they have to say about music. Let’s get started with the questions! Most gym users fit exercise in around their home and working lives, and often find that coming to the gym is half the fitness battle. How important a role do you think music plays in making the mindset change from home or work to the gym?

CS – The reception area is key – often this is where the many customers hear the music – once they’re on the gym floor the headphones go on, or they’re chatting to friends, so this is the transition zone. Of course, you can’t get it right for all of the clients but if you can for 80% of your visitors then you’ve got it sorted. A good gym will be tuned into their clients, a David Lloyd for example will have older members generally to a Pure Gym – and again you get different customers throughout the day – so you need to bear this in mind

CB – Do you think music on the gym floor should be curated around the customer demographic or is the brand the most important thing?

CS – Brand wins every single time – you need be consistent and keep your vision clear.  However, you need to realise that throughout the day your customer base will change. For example, early morning brings younger members – and then after 10am you will start to get an older crowd, and quite often parents too, then after 6pm those visiting on their way home from work – and I think it’s key that whether you’re budget or high end that there is a brand sound that evolves with this and remains harmonious throughout the day. Whilst it’s may not be feasible with a small or start up chain, at some point you might want to look at having different profiles across your estate. For example with Xercise4Less the customer base was older and more affluent at the Leeds North site to Kirkstall Rd.

CB – If your gym has other areas, a café for example or a shop, do you think that the music should differ in these zones?

CS – Yes, just like the reception area where you want people to feel welcome, the café and the shop are places where you want members to linger and spend money, so the music needs to be appropriate in these areas. Members don’t want banging dance music when they’re having a post workout drink or choosing a new yoga mat.

CB – Is the music important to the staff?

CS – Whilst it’s work you have to realise that your staff are there eight hours a day and no one wants to hear the same music at the same time of day – I’ve found that this ultimately is demotivational to staff and can lead to your carefully curated playlist getting switched off and a wildly inappropriate one being put on. Whilst it might please floor staff, managers have enough to deal with without someone complaining that they’ve heard offensive language.

CB – Do you think that Covid has changed how music is used in gyms?

CS – Maybe – you are certainly going to find that some people will be looking to save money and are going to want to swap to royalty free music, especially for classes. I think we’ll also see audio messaging used in a way that it hasn’t been before – you’ll hear reminders to wipe down your equipment or wear your mask, it’s a good way to continually educate members without being confrontational about it. I think that helps restore a sense of normality when you still need to follow the rules.

A bit about Carl...

Carl Smith founded Concept Fitness Consultancy in 2020, after 25 years in the fitness industry where his career progressed from being a personal trainer to National Health and Fitness manager at Xercise4Less. Concept is dedicated to helping personal trainers with everything from gaining top level fitness qualifications to business mentoring and equipment sourcing.