This blog was first published on TheCheerBuzz.com in January 2021.
You’ll have seen UCLA gymnast Nia Dennis’s winning 9.95 floor routine celebrating Black Excellence:
It's been difficult to miss because of the deserved publicity, and this was helped in no small part by the use of top black music artists like Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, Missy Elliot and Tupac in the mix.
There is no doubt that music and the sports that use music can elevate each other, and send a cultural message that’s beyond the reach of either - sports like gymnastics, figure skating, dance sport, jump rope, and cheer.
Nia’s routine, and the reaction to it, is a fantastically executed example of this.
We’ve seen it before from another UCLA gymnast - in 2019 Katelyn Ohashi’s perfect 10 floor routine went similarly viral, again helped by the use of music from Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and others:
Using music that resonates with athletes / performers, audiences and judges is a fantastic way to be successful in competition, and grow interest and participation in the sport generally.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if cheer routine videos could get similar viral responses?
The Sony Music lawsuit and the introduction of music guidelines to (correctly) require licenses from the recording artist and each songwriter for each track used has resulted in cheer music that just doesn’t have that connection with the audience.
The rights needed by the sport (from both recording artist and publishers, for each song) are:
The sheer time and expense required of going to each record label and music publishers of each of the many writers on a song for the license needed to these rights, for every song used by every team, is beyond the capabilities of even the largest teams and event producers.
There is an obvious question here: “How can gymnastics get away with this and cheer can’t?”
The answer is that gymnastics (and all sports that use music in their routines) can’t - they are subject to the same music copyright laws as cheer. So actually they currently are literally “getting away with it”.
But the videos have obviously been noticed by the music industry, and the gymnastics governing bodies will also introduce music guidelines similar to cheer to mitigate legal risk but also to help promote their sport online with the use of legal music.
This is a problem that faces all sports that use music.
Actually, this is ClicknClear’s mission in a nutshell.
We are here to be the solution to that problem - to let sports people who use music in their routines finally connect with the music industry, get the rights they need and start connecting with audiences like Nia Dennis and Katelyn Ohashi have done; with the added knowledge that the recording artists and songwriters are being fairly rewarded for their work, too.
We have already done hundreds of deals (580 at the latest count) giving us access to millions of music industry tracks and songwriting copyrights, with all the specialist rights needed by each part of a sports ecosystem, set out in the diagram above.
This means we can instantly license cheer teams, gymnasts, figure skaters, rope jumpers and many others all over the world to use the original artist's music in their routines, and get that incredible reaction, using music you love.
And we can also then license event producers and national and international federations for the live-stream and video on demand rights they need to properly take their sports online with the music, and drive higher levels of participation.
In that way music and sport can truly elevate each other, at a higher level than just an individual routine.