Peloton’s head of music has spoken about the power of the platform for discovery and engagement with artists.
As SVP, music & content partnerships, Gwen Bethel Riley has overseen the fitness app’s integration with the industry and artists.
As well as its annual All For One three-day ‘festival’ event pairing classes with artists’ music across genres, Peloton has regular series with bespoke content from big names such as Beyoncé, Pete Tong, David Bowie, Eminem and Lizzo.
“We are a very music-centric brand, many of our classes are organised around musical themes,” said Riley. “So you’ll see ’90s Hip-Hop Rides, Classic Rock Runs and Pop-Punk Pilates.
“We also have a weekly artist series, which allows us to celebrate an iconic frontline or catalogue artist exclusively across a cluster of different workout disciplines every week.”
Artists have access to 6.9 million members of the Peloton community, with more than 50 instructors across cycling, tread, yoga and more.
Riley suggested that Peloton is “unique” in terms of its audience engagement with music.
“We represent a demographic that is hard to get to otherwise for artists, we have a very passionate membership,” she said. “[Members] have a very active and engaged experience with music on the platform and they can’t get that elsewhere – most listening experiences on DSPs are passive.”
Riley cited Peloton’s partnership with Timbaland and Swizz Beatz to create a fitness programme inspired by their Verzuz platform.
Both major and independent labels have cited the growing importance of Peloton for revenue.
In 2020, the company settled a lawsuit filed by the National Music Publishers Association on behalf of 14 members. Riley said Peloton is now comprehensively licensed for music.
“We are in constant communication with all
of the labels, publishers, managers and oftentimes the artists themselves,” she said. “We’re always trying to be thoughtful in balancing our needs to support and programme engaging music experiences that we think our members will enjoy, and also making sure that we stay true to our artists and their brands.
“There’s a lot of room for growth and creativity, and the industry sees that as well. We like to make sure that any event that we create feels unique to the music and the artists in the moment.”
It’s possible to eventise fitness as part of a record release
Gwen Bethel Riley
In the summer, Lizzo marked the release of her album Special by joining riders inside Peloton’s New York cycling studio along with her dancers. The class, which is now available on-demand, was programmed to a curated Lizzo playlist.
“She not only showed up on a bike but sang while she was working out,” said Riley. “It is becoming possible to eventise fitness and the workout experience as part of a record release.
“Our members are totally here for it, they want to be front row. There’s the anticipation and excitement to see an artist and instructor meet-and-greet. It’s really become a unique way to do a new record drop.”
Peloton is able to create in-person events with members and guests at the new studios in London and New York.
The official summer opening was marked by this year’s edition of All For One, which featured programmed music from 33 artists across 160 classes including 44 live in-studio classes. US rapper T-Pain donned lycra to take part with instructors at the New York studio.
“Every single class was an artist journey, and this was across all genres and disciplines,” said Riley. “It is actually becoming a very significant festival.
“All the labels are totally aware of All For One now, and we really want to aim to make sure that we have the broadest representation of genre and label offerings so that there’s really something there for everyone. It’s only going to get bigger.”
The opening of the studios for in-person classes marks a new phase for Peloton, which has faced challenges since the pandemic-led growth in 2020. Former Spotify CFO Barry McCarthy took over as CEO & president of Peloton Interactive with a plan to boost sales.
“We’re in a period of transition and we’re just continuing to evolve,” said Riley. “We’re really doubling down and focusing on content.
“And now the studios are open, we have so many more ways that we can think about music intersecting throughout our classes and really becoming an even more elevated part of the experience. It’s an even bigger stage now.”
Peloton works to secure early access to big releases, such as Harry’s House by Harry Styles, so that new music is available on release day.
“We have to do a lot of scrambling behind the scenes to make sure we have all of that music set up and ready to go, and programmed across all of our classes,” said Riley.
Riley also stressed the value of catalogue.
“Classic catalogue is great and does as well as our frontline artists,” she said. “Our Ministry Of Sound series is one of the UK-centric events. There’s this constant discovery, married with nostalgia and that fan moment riding your bike or on your treadmill. It’s not surprising that catalogue does very well on our platform.”