Why SoulCycle Is the Hot New Way to Break a Hit

Nicole Scherzinger (right) previewed her new album at a SoulCycle ride in New York on Oct. 2

On a recent Thursday night in New York, the scene inside SoulCycle's Leroy Street studio was a departure from the usual 45-minute spinning class: Singer Nicole Scherzingerwas hosting a private ride. From the podium, she told the room: "I've never done anything like this before -- tonight it's balls to the wall!"

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But the former Pussycat Doll's class wasn't just about feeling the burn. She is one of many music stars working with the 8-year-old cult spinning company to release new music to influential audiences. "It's like a listening session, but it's a workout listening session," says Lauren Ceradini, Epic Records vp publicity, who coordinated Scherzinger's Oct. 2 ride to preview songs from her upcoming LP Big Fat Lie for "press, tastemakers and VIPs."

The Chainsmokers brought their beats to a Sept. 22 class in New York.

Epic approached SoulCycle after getting wind of the other artists bunking up with the company: Lady Gaga and Britney Spears' labels held album-release rides for the artists in 2013 (neither was present); Republic Records had EDM duo The Chainsmokers participate in rides in September, and also arranged for "Bang Bang," the hit single by Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, to make its premiere in July at a SoulCycle ride in the Hamptons. 

"You saw everyone from [J. Crew CEO] Mickey Drexler to [Fox Good Day New York anchor] Rosanna Scotto, all these different types of people from all walks of life freaking out over the record," recalls Charlie Walk, Republic executive vp and an avid SoulCycler. "It's a great room to check a temperature of a record. If those 45 people don't move and shake and go crazy to that song, that says something."

Jesse J surprises a SoulCycle class in L.A.

The following month, Jessie J (pictured above) made a surprise appearance at a tastemaker ride in Los Angeles, singing new single "Burnin' Up." Universal, Beats Music, Atlantic, Flo Rida and Island Def Jam have also partnered with SoulCycle for different events and initiatives. But SoulCycle co-founder Elizabeth Cutler says the company's connection to music goes deeper than that. "The community's become a vital music-sharing program," she says. "Our instructors are like DJs. They spend a lot of time creating playlists and discovering new artists."

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That may be partly why Scherzinger, herself a SoulCycle fan, jumped at the chance to play for other riders. "I love this so much more than just standing around, drinking and talking," she says, referring to the usual listening party. "It's interactive." At her class, she told riders: "I've never played this music for anybody. I hope you like it!" She settled onto her bike, before noticing the mirrored wall behind her. "You guys can see my ass! Oh, my God -- please don't watch me!"

This article first appeared in the Oct. 25 issue of Billboard.