Songs for Screens: Orangetheory Fitness Does Licensing Right With Krewella Single, SXSW Event

Andrew Hampp

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As certain brands have learned the hard way — via things like $150 million lawsuits — licensing music in the world of fitness marketing is a very specific process. Orangetheory Fitness, a company that hosts high-impact workouts in over 1,300 studio locations around the world, has been proactively spending the past two years on a rights-compliant music strategy that fairly compensates creators — and, more recently, includes its first foray into original music with dance-music duo Krewella, who will headline the brand’s “HypOThesis” activation at South By Southwest on March 14.

“We love and appreciate what artists bring to the table for Orangetheory and the experience,” says Kevin Keith, the company’s chief brand officer, who says of rights clearances, “The last thing I want to be dealing with is a multi-million-dollar licensing lawsuit. We’ve spent the last two years working, negotiating and deploying a new music solution that really elevates the music experience and at the same time provides a structure to keep us compliant globally. It can be a complicated thing for anyone to navigate, especially when their primary role is not running a music business. But we have developed a solution that will make it a lot easier to keep us rights-compliant so we’re not in the headlines for the wrong reasons — and keeping our community fitter and stronger.”

To help execute this two-pronged approach to music, Orangetheory tapped strategic partners like The Music Division’s Joe Belliotti (former head of global music at Coca-Cola) to oversee its licensing strategy, and Red Light’s Matt Ringel for a partnership with the management firm’s clients Krewella. The sister duo behind the 2013 top 40 hit “Alive” crafted an original song, the anthemic “Greenlights,” for Orangetheory’s 2020 branding campaign and ended up liking it so much that it’s the lead single from their newly released second album, “Zer0.”

“Usually with partnerships, company just pick a song that’s already finished that sits well with their brand,” says Krewella’s Yasmine Yousaf. “But [Orangetheory] commissioned us to make a song from scratch, and sent us a rough cut of the commercial to use as inspiration. It just so happened it was the last song we wrote as we were making the album, and we loved it so much we felt that it fit in well with the sonic landscape and other songs. It was so much fun to create from a place of ‘What can Krewella bring to the table?’ and not stick to specific guidelines, other than sticking to a certain BPM.”

Adds Jahan Yousaf, Krewella’s co-lead member and Yasmine’s sister, “We were honored that [Orangetheory] came to us and trusted that we could make high-energy, melodic, inspiring music that could be used to motivate people to move their bodies and work out.”

Since the campaign’s debut in late December, Orangetheory’s Keith says consumer feedback has been strong – particularly among the brand’s unusually large Reddit community of 100,000 users. “Everyone just felt the song resonated with their experience. From my perspective, success and KPIs [key performance indicators] come when we become a symbol of vibrant living and positivity, and I think music has played a critical role in that. The feedback from social and our members has exceeded expectations.”

The Krewella partnership will come to life as part of Orangetheory’s 4-day “HypOThesis” activation at Austin’s Fair Market during South by Southwest on Saturday March 15, where the duo will perform a part DJ/part live set including “Greenlights.”

“Music is central to the workout experience,” says Keith. “We’ve been thinking about how to take that out of the studio and put it into our marketing so people take away that feeling you get. We’ll be taking over an 18,000 sqaure-foot warehouse in downtown Austin, and really putting the Orangetheory experience to the test and giving people a peek behind the curtain at our science. It’s an opportunity to showcase Krewella and our brand anthem and give people a memorable experience.”

Songs for Screens is a Variety column sponsored by music experiential agency MAC Presents, based in NYC. It is written by Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and former correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column highlights noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as film and TV. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ahampp.