The Phonographic Performance Company of Australia is getting physical with fitness gyms, which the collecting society reckons is underpaying for the use of music in its workout classes.

The PPCA's case for a proposed new recorded music tariff with the country's gyms reached the Copyright Tribunal of Australia today (March 16).

The society, which represents Australian recording artists and record labels, argues that the tariff paid by health clubs has not been raised in 14 years, other than consumer price index adjustments. Early last year, it proposed a new rate of $4.54 Australian ($4.11) per month, or $0.99 ($0.89) per casual visit. Currently, a gym pays 96.8 Australian cents (87.7 cents) per class, which the PPCA says amounts to just 4.8 Australian cents (3.18 cents) per person in a class of 20 people, or 2.4 Australian cents (1.59 cents) per person in a class of 40.

The suggested system is flexible so that smaller fitness centers pay less. But on today's opening of the tribunal hearing, Richard Cobden, representing the PPCA, claimed that the fitness industry has used inflated "marketing" membership numbers rather than actual member numbers to "cause terror" about the cost of a proposed new music tariff.

The PPCA believes it has prepared a strong case. Over the course of the hearing, which is expected to last five weeks, the PPCA will compare the proposed new music rate with the $3 Australian ($1.98 ) towel hire charged at some Fitness First clubs. The society will point out that Fitness First would receive $24 Australian ($15.88) a month from one member alone who used just eight towels.

Ahead of the opening session, PPCA CEO Stephen Peach said it was "time for a fairer deal". He added, "for decades, the highly profitable fitness sector has been paying a paltry amount to recording artists and labels for the music that is so crucial to their businesses. Imagine people working out in a silent fitness class and you can start to appreciate the valuable contribution that sound recordings make to the fitness industry."

The PPCA notes that the fitness industry is enjoying double-digit growth, and will point out that the use of music in gyms is a relevant factor.

Singer Marcia Hines, who performed at the Sydney Sound Relief concert on Saturday (March 14), attended the hearing alongside fellow artists and pop artist Paulini, Skyhooks bassist Greg Macainsh and Lindy Morrison, former drummer with the Go-Betweens.

"Artists are entitled to earn a fair income from their efforts and they should not have to subsidize a profitable industry," says Morrison. "Where music is used to add value, as it clearly does in the fitness sector, it should be recognized and artists properly rewarded. Music should not be considered as something that should be handed over for free, or next to nothing."