When it comes to Virtual Reality fitness experiences, exercise mechanics are crucial to getting your body moving, but just as important and maybe the most is the music you exercise to. Supernatural has been doing a fantastic job of sourcing music and mapping daily workouts. They have an extensive music library, but things are about to get bigger and better.
Last month Billboard announced that fitness service Supernatural, which offers meditation, stretching, and epic, coach-lead cardio workouts, had finalized a deal with Universal Music Group (UMG) that would unlock hundreds of thousands of songs (yes, you heard that right—hundreds of thousands) from artists around the globe, putting a VR service toe-toe and entirely on par with even the most well-known premium in-home fitness brands.
For many of the Supernatural members, music is the thing that keeps them coming back day after day, so we wanted to know more about this deal. How will this impact the daily workouts and playlists? What does it mean for their members? And how, exactly, do they plan to use that much music?
We reached out to Supernatural’s VP of Content, Samantha Storr, and Supernatural’s Content Creative and Programming Lead, Jess Zobler to ask them all of the above and more.
Shane: Hello, Samantha and Jess! Thank you for taking some time out of your busy schedule for this interview. Outside of coaches, one of the key differentiators with SN and other services has always been the catalog of music, but this new deal sounds major. Can you explain to us what it means for members and for SN as a brand and product?
Samantha: In short, it is major! It means giving users an even wider variety of music to connect with. Every movement of every workout is hand-mapped to the beat and lyrics of every song. It’s an experience that gets your entire body connected to music in such a fun and profound way. We know that our members are constantly discovering new music and new genres of music that they never imagined they could be into—from people that only listen to EDM discovering 70’s punk rock, to old school classic rockers discovering The Weeknd—now we can give them even more. Partnerships like this take a ton of work, but they’re important because we want to be at this for a really long time, creating new content every single day and maintaining the most expansive catalog that we possibly can.
Shane: You mentioned in your interview with Billboard magazine that this deal “unlocks hundreds of thousands of songs.” What does one do with access to that much music? Will you be able to use it all?
Samantha: I don’t know that we’ll be able to use it all, but we’re certainly going to try. We can now go really broad with our curation, testing new music genres that others might not experiment with. We can place deep-cut discovery playlists alongside pop culture’s biggest hits. We’ll be able to go deeper with curated playlists and can dabble in artist-specific playlists, which is also very exciting.
Shane: There have been lots of fun and unique playlists over the last year (Prom Night, Sweat Symphony, POLKA—thanks for that one, BTW ;), but it sounds like this will unlock even more “themes.” Are there any, in particular, you can share?
Jess: We have a few workouts that are upcoming centered around specific musical artists, but overall, we’re pleased with how we’ve been able to present a broad catalog of music from a range of cultures from all corners of the globe. I also love that we’ve been able to use music and music history to paint a broad picture of representation in music. We just wrapped up Women’s History Month and Black History Month in February. Next up is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and there are some pretty awe-inspiring genre debuts. I won’t say much but K-Pop… Bollywood… could definitely be coming up soon.
Shane: How does music play into the “ethos” of Supernatural? How important is music to the brand?
Samantha: Music is incredibly important to Supernatural. We’ve always felt that we had to have incredible music. Music brings joy and emotion, it can be healing, cathartic and, of course, it makes your body move. Supernatural’s co-founders, Aaron Koblin and Chris Milk, both have expansive backgrounds creating meaningful human experiences anchored to music. One of their earliest collaborative projects with an interactive music video for Arcade Fire called the Wilderness Downtown. I think it’s fair to say music is in our DNA.
Shane: We all know that Supernatural is a fitness service, but we’ve also heard it described as a music discovery platform. Can you tell us more about this?
Samantha: We have everything from TV on the Radio and Echo and the Bunnyman to Lady GaGa and Lizzo. We’ve got Classical, Country, Afrobeats, Jazz, the whole shebang. If you like pop music we’ve got you covered for sure, but we like the deep cuts too. We love when people come in and say, ‘I just had the best workout…to Country!’ Or when they tell us they feel like a conductor of a massive symphony working out to Classical. When a lifelong rocker posts to say “who’s this Kendrick Lamar kid? I love him!” Or, when someone tells us the first place they ever heard Dua Lipa was Supernatural. That’s all “discovery,” and we’re definitely here for it and excited to bring more.
Jess: Yes! We’ve found that it’s not just Rock, Pop, Hip-Hop and EDM that make for a good workout. We explore diverse music styles daily as well as storytelling. If the “discover” part of Supernatural is exciting to you, we’ve recently debuted Fresh Finds, which allows us to highlight fresh voices, lesser-known music genres, and rare cuts.
Shane: What are some of the artists on Supernatural you’re most excited about?
Jess: It’s impossible to choose, but I think it’s fair to say that between The Weeknd, Lizzo, J Balvin, we have some of the best top radio artists of today. But with the UMG expansion, we also have access to some of the most iconic names in music history, from Bob Marley to The Beach Boys, Iron Maiden, and James Brown. Some of my personal favorites are more experimental indie and electronic artists like Elderbrook, Disclosure, and Gorgon City.
Shane: How many songs are in the current workout catalog?
Jess: Over 800 songs are live and counting!
Shane: Can you tell us a little bit about the song selection process and how that relates to the rhythm mapping and overall production?
Jess: Each workout is a story. Each episode underneath a broader theme explores a specific period of time, a subgenre, a feeling of intensity that keeps it unique and fresh.
For Prom Night, each episode focuses on a specific range of graduation years tapping into nostalgic periods of music history that trigger real-life memories.
The music curation story is essential to the maps. Our choreographers research each song taking inspiration from the dance moves in the music video and even aligning the movements to elements of the lyrics. In Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” you sit down and stand up in the map when he tells you to. There are tons of hidden easter eggs in the curation, coaching, and mapping.
From the coaching to the song, the maps, the environment selection, and even the thumbnails it all starts from the story. That’s why it can feel like every day the workout is like opening a present on Christmas day — the intention, research, and execution behind each one goes extremely deep.
Shane: What’s next for Supernatural and your label partnerships? How do you envision your strategy might evolve in the future?
Samantha: We are really excited to work with our partners on special programmings, like artist-specific workouts, and, in the not-so-distant future, we’d like to see Supernatural available globally.
Shane: Do you have a favorite playlist?
Jess: The Drop – World music series. We’ve kicked off this world music inspired Electronic dance series to support our Heritage Months and cultural moments with Afrovibe (Afrobeat inspired EDM), Future Tribal (broad-spectrum Latin inspired EDM), and may or may not be traveling next to South Asia for inspiration 🙂
Samantha: I am an 80s kid, so I love Retrofit.. It brings me right back to my childhood. Same with the Nutcracker. Those workouts flood my mind with all the great memories associated with the music.
Shane: What are you most excited about?
Samantha: Making people’s lives better. 100%. That’s a priority for us. We have a company-wide objective that we call MLB, which is “Make Life Better,” and it’s all about making our members’ lives better outside of VR. We read stories on Facebook from our members talking about how they went on their first hike in years or had an easier time doing yard work or that Supernatural has helped them keep up with their children, and in a lot of cases, their grandchildren. We see people posting about how they’re coming off their medication or getting great results on their bloodwork. That’s what I am excited about.
Shane: Amazing work to the whole Supernatural team. Thank you, Samantha and Jess, for your time and for giving our readers some insight into all the great work going on with Supernatural.