Music publishers seeking $300 million from Peloton ahead of IPO after songs used without permission

Peloton finds itself in a $300M lawsuit following its illegal use of music in workout playlists.

Everyone knows that your workout is only as good as your playlist. A playlist that hits at the exact right moment can propel you to the next level. Meanwhile, a playlist that shuffles a dud when you’re hitting a peak can render the whole workout worthless. 

This is a cruel reality of the gym and people take it seriously. One group that takes it more seriously than others is Peloton owners. If you’re familiar with the stationary bike (see also cult) workout system, you know that the Peloton is the Rolls-Royce of in-home fitness equipment. The bike itself costs over $2,000 while the on-demand class membership costs $39 per month. That subscription gets riders access to all of Peloton’s workout classes and its pre-programmed music playlists. 

But, earlier this year, Peloton found its playlists lacking after a painful lawsuit stripped many songs from them. Peloton rides haven’t been the same since. 

Now That’s What I Call a Bad Workout

Back in March, members of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) collectively filed a lawsuit against Peloton for $150 million in damages. The NMPA claimed that the company used songs in its workout videos for years without proper attribution. In layman’s terms, Peloton wasn’t paying for songs and artists were getting the shaft. 

“Music is a core part of the Peloton business model and is responsible for much of the brand’s swift success,” said NMPA President and CEO David Israelite. “Thousands of exclusive videos and playlists are a major reason hundreds of thousands of people have purchased Peloton products.”

In response to the lawsuit, Peloton pulled some songs named by the NMPA lawsuit from the playlists. By removing these songs, though, Peloton raised the ire of another group of people—its customers. After Peloton edited the playlists, numerous customers took to social media and complained that their workouts just didn’t have that spark anymore.

Their workout jams are now tracks from “Now That’s What I Call Music.” 

“I just took a 20 minute ride and it had 2 Pink songs and 2 ‘Now that’s What I Call Music’ tracks,” wrote one Redditor. “Honestly my user experience is being affected by the music recently.”

No Cool Down for NMPA

This past week, Forbes reported that the NMPA reignited the lawsuit after discovering an additional 1,200 songs used in Peloton playlists. This new list of music includes songs by Taylor Swift, Kesha, and Adele. Also included are head-scratchers like Ray Charles’ “Georgia on my Mind” and The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There.”

After discovering the additional songs, the NMPA moved to amend its lawsuit and double the damages. “Since filing this lawsuit we have now discovered more than double the number of songs for which the plaintiffs’ songwriters were never paid by Peloton,” said Israelite in a statement. “The fact that Peloton has gone this long without proper music licenses is astounding.” 

The timing of the lawsuit is worth noting, too, as Peloton is preparing to file an IPO. The company is currently valued at approximately $8 billion. In its registration filing, Peloton concedes that its content hinges on the music in its workout playlists. However, the company also notes that the practice poses business risks.

“We depend upon third-party licenses for the use of music in our content. An adverse change to, loss of, or claim that we do not hold necessary licenses may have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition.”

While the company knows that no one is trying to listen to “Now That’s What I Call Music” compilations during their morning HIIT, Peloton is ready to lawyer up and fight back in court. It claims that the NMPA lawsuit is “anti-competitive.”