A Gymmusic Blog by Steve Hayward, UK Country Manager
When you look at your clients in your gym working out what do you see? Do you see a lot of your customers wearing headphones? If so, that might just be a sign that you need to make some changes in your gym before your numbers start slipping…
Many people see headphones as a vital part of their gym kit, I’ve known people turn around and head home without having done their workout because they have forgotten (or not charged) their headphones! These people will always wear headphones, they like the sense solitude it can provide, they like the musical bubble they have created for themselves, it can give them focus and it can be a means of saying to the rest of the world “I’m here to workout out, I’m not interested in hearing from anyone else”.
In most fitness environments you can expect about 20% of customers to be wearing headphones (I’ve even seen a number of gym users stick to their headphones even when the gym had hired an extremely talented DJ to live mix for their customers! Even then headphones usage was at about 5%… there really is no pleasing everyone!)
At the other end of the spectrum is a discount 24 hour gym I went to in Inner city London, they had very high headphone usage, over 80%. Amazed by this, I spoke with the manager and asked him why this was so high, their response was “If I could get it to 100%, then I would. The more people using headphones the fewer fights we have!!!” They were INTENTIONALLY playing very few tracks on a high level of repeat (and even classical music from midnight to 6am) to encourage headphone use throughout their customers!
BUT if you look around your gym and you can see about 50% of people wearing headphones then you have a challenge on your hands and the first thing you need to do is workout why…
The most frequent cause is the music. The main fails that will skyrocket your headphone usage are:
- Playing the radio. Personally, I would walk out and not even bother to come back if the gym I’m in plays the radio. Inane, jolly, prime time chat? The news? Interviews? Are these going to get me to run a PB or lift a PR. No, they are not. Ditch the radio today.
- Playing the same old, tired playlist again and again. See above. Repeats create a sense of Groundhog Day and if you’re working out hard, that is not what you want.
- The Gym Manager that only ever plays what THEY like. You have to ditch your ego, you have to sacrifice a little something for the sake of your gym go-ers; stop playing that Skrillex*/Metallica*/Skid Row* album and broaden your musical horizons to match that of your customers (or your target customers).
- Your gym culture. This is a tough one, but to create a great gym, it’s one you need to be aware of and tackle head on. If all the women in your gym are wearing big headphones and the jocks in the weights area aren’t lifting that much and high fiving a bit too often, you might have a problem. Perhaps it’s time to be more on the floor, or have a quiet word with some of the more respected regulars and see what they think. Chances are you have a small number of highly disruptive perpetrators who will head back under their rocks when a light shines on them.
The advantages of low headphone use in a gym are clear:
- Your staff can talk with your customers. This one is vital, as you move around the club in the daily execution of your duties it is far easier to let your customer know about the things that are going on, if they are not wearing headphones. “Oh hey, by the way, there’s a Push Up Challenge on this week” or “If you like using the bike, you should join our Group Exercise class at 7pm” all these little prompts and reminders help your gym members feel like they are part of a club, not just attending a room with some exercise kit in it. That will keep them coming back and that will improve your retention numbers.
- Your customers can speak with one another. There are fewer things worse for our mental health and our sense of well being than not being communicated with, there’s a reason that if you’re a bad prisoner, you get sent to isolation. If your gym users can speak with one another they can encourage one another, they can help one another and in the long term this helps keep bringing people back.
- You create a good atmosphere. Close your eyes and think about what it would like to walk into your gym on the perfect day. I’m guessing the sun is shining as you head in, reception gives you a smile and wave and you go to get changed, there’s a brief chat with a couple of people checking with you to see how your day is going and what you have planned… Now imagine everyone is wearing headphones, no one is talking, it’s heads down, no eye contact; feels different just thinking about it, doesn’t it?
Afterall it could even be a health issue… Have you ever come back from the gym and quietly, at home, put your headphones on and listened to music? With the same settings I just used for 2 hours, it was waaaay too loud! Not having noise cancelling headphones I realised I was having to have the volume up and up to overcome the existing music in the gym, the sound of the treadmill and all the other background noise in the gym.
You owe it to yourself, your staff and to your customers to invest in a better music service than just flipping on the radio, or the same old playlist.
*All great bands, just not the same thing over and over again, please!