Zumba is the remarkable story of a business that has made music the handmaiden of health and wellness worldwide. It has created a growing ecosystem for musicians in which producers get paid for original tracks, publishers get paid for licensing fees, and bigger artists get contracted for live performances as well as for exclusive song deals. This is because its fitness routine uses a Latin American dance-based workout, reaches a total of twelve million customers every week in 125 countries, and trains about one hundred and twenty thousand certified instructors who pay $30 a month for the privilege.
Given current lifestyle choices and higher population growth rates in developing markets, CEO Alberto Perlman believes that Zumba will soon become the ‘radio station of the future’. He may be off the mark. But at its heyday, just before Napster, data from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry put global annual sales of recorded music at $30 billion. This equates to about fifty million album transactions a week and Zumba could eventually process as many members.
A forty-five-year-old Danish female can be introduced to Don Omar, a Reggaeton singer from Puerto Rico, and become a fan; perhaps Colombian artist Carlos Vives can develop a following in Kansas.1 This is because fitness goals are so ensconced in a modern lifestyle that Zumba’s dance routine has the potential to cut across musical tastes and nationalities (it plays much more than just Latin music). Moreover, by bringing music into the lives of ordinary people without the trappings and expenses of mass media it is adding value to the market for recorded songs at a fraction of the cost.
The Raine Group, a banking conglomerate, is teaming up with the iconic William Morris Endeavor talent agency, and investing $500 million—a huge sum. The Raine Group plans to use its extensive contacts in Asia and the Middle East to expand the Zumba brand internationally.2 William Morris is involved because the expectation is that there will be a vibrant demand to hire musicians for the Zumba Fitness Concert series, for the release and licensing of exclusive songs, and for video production. Cross-promotional opportunities will arise from interview opportunities and music reviews in the newly minted Z-Life Magazine. Merchandise sales will be managed through Zumba’s own clothing store, “Zumbawear”.
The idea for Zumba (originally called ‘Rumba’) came from Alberto (‘Beto’) Perez, an aerobics instructor from Colombia. Perez had just lost his music tapes and proceeded to teach his class with merengue and salsa beats. It worked so well that he built on the idea and choreographed his routine anew. He developed a strong following at a local gym in Miami, and was then introduced to current CEO, Alberto Perlman, the son of class-goer. Perlman then contacted his longtime business partner, Alberto Aghion, and the three agreed to start a marketing plan through infomercials and DVD sales. It worked, and the singular mix of choreography and music engaged more clients and attracted many individuals that wished to become certified instructors. Today, Zumba’s Instructor Network (ZIN) is an important source of global demand for the more than ten million fitness DVDs sold so far.
Zumba’s first major deal with a top music artist was with hip-hop star Pitbull. Pitbull was looking to release a new album, “Planet Pit”, and make an international splash (he dubs himself ‘Mr. Worldwide’ and the title of his album is revealing too). Zumba needed a well-known face in the Latin and crossover market. Together, Pitbull and Zumba co-produced “Pause”, a song that was choreographed by Beto Perez for video and that was meant not to compromise the artist’s own repertoire. The video was distributed to ZIN members and garnered four million views in YouTube. Zumba has since pursued similar deals with Wyclef Jean and Vanilla Ice and remixed the latter’s hit, ‘Ice Ice Baby’.
A sub-platform has developed for smaller artists where musicians can exchange so-called ‘free use’ rights for promotion. A few of these artists became so popular within the ZIN crowd that they were invited to perform at Fitness Concerts, and in some cases, produce an exclusive song/video. Colombian artist Mara originally granted the company free use to four of her songs. ZIN members and exercise goers around the world loved her music and Zumba commissioned Mara’s new single ‘Crazy Love’. It also produced a choreographed video version. The video generated over one million YouTube views in less than three months.
It seems that Zumba’s promotional power is working both for established acts and upstart talent. Media attention is not just coming from Men’s Health and Shape Magazine: Billboard rates it as a novel music platform that engages new audiences. This is likely what Grammy award winning artists Daddy Yankee and Vanilla Ice were thinking of at a recent Zumbathon press conference in Orlando, Florida. For Daddy Yankee, the energy of the fitness floor projected his music (“it’s a great mix”), while Rob Van Winkle was impressed by Zumba’s global reach (“it’s a global phenomenon”).3
Clearly, Zumba is not for everyone. But because recorded music sales cannot be depended upon to support an artist’s entire career, platforms like it become a logical and welcome outlet.
By Salomon Sterental and Alberto Azout
2. Rusli, Evelyn M. “Giving Some Muscle To A Growing Fitness Trend.” New York Times. Dealbook, 08 Mar. 2012. Web.<http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/03/08/giving-some-muscle-to-a-growing-fitness-trend/>
3. Zumba Convention Orlando, Press Conference, August 9-12, 2012.