Saturday, March 14, 2009

How to greatly expand your music repertoire for your Spinning classes

This is a question I get all the time. The next most common question is where do I find my music?

Obviously, music is a very personal thing, and you have to take your market into consideration, but after the first year of teaching Spinning where I used primarily popular music (from the mid to late 90's), I made a huge transition in what I played. For many years, I played almost exclusively electronic and world music. The past 3-4 years, I've been mixing more rock, indie and the occasional pop song (like Madonna) in to please a wider range of students.

Most of my students have loved it over the past 12 years. Sure, you will never make everyone happy with your music choice, and occasionally I mess up and end up deleting a song forever from my library after using it in one class. On one occasion I had someone walk out of a class - she was a hotel guest (our club is part of a destination hotel) and came in late to a Race Day class, right as the "race" was starting - I think it was a Juno Reactor song (I love energetic electronic especially for Race Day). Literally 3 minutes later, she got off her bike. I went over to see if anything was wrong, and she said, "I'd rather have my eyelids super-glued shut than listen to techno!" and she stormed out.

I almost said, "I think they have super-glue at the front desk."
(I think I may have posted that story once on this blog, but it's relevant here).

Oh well, you can't win them all! Everyone else just laughed and enjoyed the class...

A lot of my music was given to me by friends, including from different corners of the globe. So I have an eclectic international repertoire. I also have to fess up that I was an early use of Napster during the years that it reigned, and started growing my library over 10 years ago with international, electronic, trance, and world music from that source. But now, I want to use sources that pay their artists for their work. 

But as you know, IDC instructors can go broke paying $1 per song! So we need sites that pay artists and offer users a good price.

[FYI, that doesn't mean I wont gratefully accept a song emailed to me by a fan of this blog or the forums! I even reciprocate!]

I'm not a big fan of iTunes. It's more expensive and the DMR restrictions is annoying (apparently some tunes are now DMR-free. I'll have to learn more about that).  But it certainly has a wider variety of genres than many downloading sites. I find myself using it for theme rides, and usually spend about $5 per month on iTunes on average.

I have been very successful with eMusic and that's where I get the rest of my music. It's not expensive, and you can find some very unique tunes. But you will not find any pop music, nor groups from big labels. You will find lots of electronic, trance and club music, a good variety of indie bands, older rock, hip-hop, jazz, world, ambient, psychodelic and classical.

They offer you 25 free downloads just for checking them out, and 50 free d/l for joining (and you can cancel anytime after the first month). So that means you can get 100 songs for $15. Not bad! Click on the eMusic icon on the left side of my blog to get your 25 free downloads.

Instructors always ask me,  "what do I do once I join? Who do I search for? It takes so long to search!"

So, to make it easier on anyone looking to expand their music library with more of these genres of music, I've gone through my favorite songs and listed which ones are available on eMusic. This is only the first edition. I will constantly update this, and if you have found some great tunes that I haven't listed, please let me know and I'll update this list. It will be a communal work-in-process.

Click here to download the list. And then click on the icon on the left side of this post to start getting your free downloads. I hope you'll do that to support me - yes, full disclosure - eMusic gives me a little "pat on the back" for sending you to them (but you'd laugh at how insignificant it is). However, any tiny bit I can make to support this time-consuming passion of mine of maintaining this blog, does help out!

If you already are an eMusic member, then you'll really appreciate this list, because sometimes it can be hard to find your 50 songs a month! Again, if you are a member, share with me your favorites, and I'll add them to this list.

There are other music sources, and I'd love to list more options for my readers. I don't know that much about them because I don't have the time to research and learn new systems. I tried for awhile and found some hard-to-find electronic music, but most were $1.99, so I don't use it much.

There is, a Russian music downloading site that is very cheap, but it's highly unlikely that they pay the musicians well enough for their art. is another popular one. If you have success on this, let me know more about it. I'd like to understand the limitations a little better.

You can't go wrong with most of the songs I've put on this list if you are open to non-pop. Some are even among the most popular songs I've used at conferences. If you downloaded my ECA playlist, you'll see that I highlighted the ones available through eMusic.



Tracy said...

You are very generous. Thank you.

Melissa Marotta said...

You really are SUCH an amazing leader. I've tried to help people with this issue that, while time-consuming, has never stressed me out the way it stresses people out (I *enjoy* spend insane amounts of time "on the hunt") and I've never found a perfect way to guide and empower people who ask me about this without sucking all the life out of me. You are exceptionally generous with your resources and energy, truly.

Kala Marie said...

Thanks for the info, Jennifer.

I did look into Rhapsody and here's the catch. You pay $14 a month for unlimited song downloads BUT they are only playabl on the rhapsody player (not sure if there is some way to "cheat" that) and if, at any time you cancel your membership they take away all the songs you downloaded.


Jennifer Sage said...

Thanks Melissa! You can send anyone who asks you about music to this post! I just wish someone did it for me when I was first gathering music, so this is my way to save people dozens of hours of searching.

and if just a few join eMusic, cool. If they're already members - what a great thing for them!

Kala, yeah, that's what I thought about Rhapsody. Not my thing... I want to use my music whenever, wherever I want!

Charles said...

I signed up for emusic when I taught Moving Mountains. It is a great site and I found it to be very user friendly. Thanks for the list Jen. This will make it so much easier than spending hours online listening to clips. They are never really long enough to give you the full picure. That's why this list is so cool. You've already done the work and we get to benefit all the long hours of searching, and the great thing about it is, I trust your judgement. Thanks!

lamspin said...

Hi Jennifer,
You are absolutly a GIVER. Your dharma is so inspiring! Thank you very much for the list. I have the same taste of music. Love them, except the rock ones!
I just downloaded 30 of you songs from eMusic (I couldn't get any of Schiller or Babylon Circus, though???). That was my monthly limit, gotta wait until next month to get more. I don't want to subcribe for 50 songs. There were months when I was so busy to sit in front of the computer to do the downloading, I had to suspend the account for awhile.
BTW, Rhapsody is just like Napster, I am not fan of either.
Many thanks,

Anonymous said...

The "cheat" for Rhapsody is to use a program called "Replay Music" to record the songs and convert them to DRM free MP3 files. It works very well, I use it all the time.

The Rhapsody subscription pays the artists, so I have no guilt when I convert the songs to something I can play on any MP3 player.

LastFM is also a great source to listen to music, then go to I-Tunes or Rhapsody and just buy the songs you want.

Jennifer Sage said...

Thanks for the info on Rhapsody.

I listen to or to find unique music first (you can select preferred genres), then first try eMusic to find it, and barring that, iTunes.

Hey Le, why couldn't you get any Schiller songs on eMusic?

lamspin said...

Hi Jennifer,
I don't know why. I had tried artist's name, album, track... still couldn't get them. Another artist I couldn't get besides Schiller and Babylon Circus is Leftfield. Maybe I have to write to the eMusic's Help Desk to see what their response is. Not too worry.
I did the St. Patty's Day profile this morning with your descriptions of the hills, but used my own Celtic music which is always a hit. Didn't have enough time to search and download yours. Got alot of smiles while they were riding. It was such an awesome and happy ride!
I have some good music that I got from some "gypsy" artists who played at some festivals here, that means they are not on the music providers. I planned to put all those songs on a CD and send to you as a token of appreciation of what you have done for us all.
Stay tuned :>)
Happy St.Patrick Day!

Anonymous said...

Hi! Thanks for the inspiring list. I just signed up on emusic. I downloaded my first song. Here's the stupid question, how do I listen to it? I saved it in a file but still can't listen to it. I'm not technology gifted at all. I'm sure there is an easy answer for this. Any suggestions?

lamspin said...

I haven't told you that you made me LOL with your "Super-glue" story. Don't we love to say something back to the member(s)when something like that happened? But gotta control ourselves before a possible law-suit hits us :>)
I like your thinking!

Jennifer Sage said...

Hi Anonymous! Once downloaded I created a file called "My eMusic". From there you can drag and drop it to your iTunes or whatever other program you listen to your music with. Or you can double click on it and it should automatically ope up in your music player - at least mine does. I have a Mac, but I'm not gifted at all with Mac, I just know the basics! Feel free to email me at and I can perhaps walk you through it. Do you have iTunes?

Kloba said...

I use Emusic alot too. Here are some songs I found on there that I thought you might like. I have a lot more that Ill try to post later.
I love collecting music too. Thanks for sharing!

The Duke Spirit- The step and the walk (great driving beat)
HoneyHoney- Little Toy Gun and Give Yourself to Me (LOVE!)
The Ravonettes- Dead Sound and Vintage Future
The Gaslight Anthem-the 59 sound
Cut Copy- Hearts on Fire
The Hold Steady- Sequestered In Memphis and Stay Postive (local favorites!)
The Kills- No Wow, Sour Cherry, and URA Fever
Spoon- Underground

Transglobal Underground—Backpacking on the Graves of Our Ancestors has a lot of great world music. I really like the whole cd, especially Temple Head and Taal Zaman.

Michael Franti- Everyone Deserves Music
The Streets- Everything is Borrowed (great message-hip hop song)
Roots Manuva- Witness. Great beat. (it’s hip hop too)

Ladytron- Ghosts
Ladyhawke- Paris is Burning and Back of the Van (van she tech remix)

Loop Guru- Hymn and Jungle A are great songs
The Sword- Freya (Heavy Metal)
Chase and Status- Pieces (great fast song)
School of Seven Bells- Alpinisms (really like this whole album esp. Prince of Peace—good for hills)
Juana Molina- Un Dia (AWESOME FAST SONG!)

Moon- Download the three song album called Violin Moon. its very pretty
Juno Reactor—Highly recommend the album Shango for race days. Check out !!!!! Conquistador and Navras on the Labryrinth album too.

Space Safari-The Space Safari EP
Solee-Timba (love!)
The Field- Sun & Ice
Prodigy- CLimbatize, Firestarter, Narayan, Wind it Up
YEL- One Night in Cairo
The Caramel Club-Mama say, mama sa (a little clubby but fun)
Burial- Archangel- ambient-ish good for cool down/clean up?
The Grid- 8 miles from Memphis
Sparks- Tryouts for the Human Race
The Future/The human League- Dance like a Star (I would call this song fun once and a great while)
UNKLE- Reign

Jennifer Sage said...

AWESOME! Thanks so much. About 1/4 of these I have - and forgot or didn't realize they were on emusic. I'll be a downloading fool in the next few days! Oh, I think I only have about 10 or 15 on this month's quota, so I'll have to wait until April. :-(

I LOVE Climbatize by the Prodigy - what an empowering hard song for summiting a challenging hill! I got it form Josh Taylor.

Kloba said...

Hey Jenn,
I have alot more from Emusic. I'll bring my computer to Miami and maybe you can sort out what you want from what you already have.
BTW- It's not Spinning music but Emusic has two albums by Sera Cahoone that became my favorite "just -chilling" music last summer.
Whenever you have songs left over, I'd highly recommend her albums!

Beth Ann said...

Thanks so much for all the great tips! I made a little play-list with pictures of cyclists on hills, ATB, etc...and handed out to my class, so they could "envision" the road as it came upon them. I put the cards on a key ring chain and laminated! The ride was "Sweat Equity" to honor our lack of financial equity, we could build plenty of SWEAT EQUITY! Everyone loved it and the layout of the hills, flat roads, objectives, drills, etc...Wouldn't have done this without your website. Something else I use in my rides little Public Service Announcements-it captures attention and gives time for a little spine and water break. Everyone gets a good chuckle. My Air Force Base class loved the Marine Cadence (and it was actually clean)! Thanks for the great ideas--I'm definitely going to take a tour or class of yours someday...get to the St. Louis area soon, please!