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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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).
  1. 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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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!