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Music is proving its value to fitness apps and other health-focused startups, according to Lauren Pufpaf, co-founder and COO of B2B music firm Feed·fm.

Health and fitness is a key vertical for her company, which handles licensing and playlist curation through to the APIs / SDKs and analytics required to offer music within such apps.

ClassPass, Tonal and MoveWith are among the apps featured in the case studies section of its website, along with non-fitness clients like retailer American Eagle Outfitters and basketball team the Golden State Warriors.

“That there’s value in music for a workout is pretty clear. What’s interesting is that the engagement data is really astounding. We’re working with more than 40 different fitness customers, and 100% of them are seeing positive lift in retention,” Pufpaf told Music Ally.

Retention is an important metric for these kinds of apps, which have lots of competition but, if people pay to subscribe to whatever lessons or services they’re offering, can generate plenty of revenue.

Pufpaf’s argument, which music rightsholders would echo, is that  music isn’t just a nice extra for those apps: it’s an addition whose impact can be measured very directly in terms of increased usage, and good growth / low churn in subscriptions. That, in turn, is paying off for Feed·fm’s business.

“We have seen a lot of growth in the last year and a half, with a lot of different sized businesses. For all but a few it’s too challenging to work directly with rightsholders,” she said.

“But this isn’t just about music for brand perception or a content program. It’s about ROI [return on investment]. We do a lot of work with our partners to prove that out.”

“We look at average retention numbers, subscriber value… and when we do these quarterly, big studies looking at hundreds of thousands of unique devices, we see the impact of music improving over time.”

lauren pufpaf feed fm

The use of music by fitness startups has provided the odd controversy: earlier this year a group of music publishers sued Peloton for copyright infringement, for example, claiming that it didn’t have all the necessary licences for music offered in its workouts.

Pufpaf said that beyond those kinds of disputes, she has found the music industry to be receptive to the digital-fitness sector as more apps have sought to include music.

“They see the big value in fitness: it’s on people’s radars,” she said, citing a panel session involving Feed·fm at the Music Biz conference in Nashville – “a niche topic, but I was shocked at the [high] attendance: they were just interested in how we were thinking about it”.

Feed·fm doesn’t just use one licensing model. Some of its clients want non-interactive music – radio-style streams – for which the licensing is straightforward in the US. Others are interactive, which requires deals with rightsholders.

“It’s about finding the pricing model that makes sense. Folks who are paying on a per-subscriber basis need a business model that can work in the long term,” said Pufpaf. “It’s an important challenge for a successfully-growing smaller app, but that’s where we help.”

Pufpaf’s background before she co-founded Feed·fm in 2015 was partly in marketing and analytics, but she was also a DJ – something that came in handy when she was creating playlists in the company’s early days, then hiring its team of curators.

“In the company overall, every single person is passionate about music. It’s hard to hire in San Francisco, as any startup will tell you, but a real advantage for us in finding talent has been the people who are very passionate about music, and who care about the product,” she said.

Feed·fm may spend lots of time proving the ROI of music for its customers, but what about its own business model? The current troubles being endured by 7digital in the UK have sparked questions (as did the collapse of Omnifone in 2016) about the sustainability of B2B digital-music companies.

Pufpaf acknowledged the potential for this to be a tough business, but stressed the company’s work on tightening up its sales process, and choosing its clients carefully.

“The goal is that with everything we do, we have been pretty flexible – pretty experimental in terms of pricing and packages – and really tried to figure out a way to make it work for both sides,” she said. “It’s definitely hard, but… providing real value to our customers has helped us with churn. We don’t lose a lot of customers.”

As for what comes next, it seems podcasts are of as much interest to a B2B firm like Feed·fm and its customers as they are to the big guns of the consumer-focused music-streaming world like Spotify.

“Podcasts are popping up quite a lot as a request from our customers,” said Pufpaf, before adding that big data and personalisation are also on Feed·fm’s agenda.

“One of the really interesting things we’re trying to figure out is around some new data that our partners are starting to share with us: on biometric performance. How am I performing as an exerciser at a given point in a workout, and was a particular song paired with that moment?”

“There’s a lot we can do with that biometric input to make sure we’re giving you the right song at the right time. We’re working closely with data scientists to apply that to some really interesting features.”

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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