Getting your music out there seems, at times, to be pretty daunting and tricky. There are so many avenues you can go down and sadly new bands are often let down by poor distribution. I met Lee Parsons from successful online distributor Ditto Music at GoNorth and his passion for helping new bands struck me as something extremely refreshing for someone so rooted in the business side of the music industry.
Hi Lee. Can you explain what it is Ditto Music does exactly?
Primarily Ditto Music is a digital music distributor, specializing in unsigned artists but we see ourselves more as a record label.
My brother and I originally started Ditto Music because we wanted to release music. Setting up a record label took us several months. Then, we could not get any distribution contracts because we did not have enough content. To sell music online or in a shop you need barcodes, ISRC codes, catalogue numbers etc, and it was all really hard to get our heads around.
By the time we had the distribution and label structure in place, we thought we may as well release music for our friends.
We started using tools like pre-release, SMS bundling and being really chart savvy, and eventually we released Koopa, who were the first ever unsigned artists to break the top 40 singles chart.
As EMI, Warner Brothers and all of the major labels started to crumble we found that more artists were coming to release music with us, these included Prince, Suzi Quattro, Finch, Lil Wayne. They paid a small fee, kept all of their rights and profits and we helped them with promotion where we could.
We can set up a record label for you. We then distribute you to hundreds of great stores like Spotify, iTunes and Amazon and you keep all of your rights. With our partners we then help you collect PRS, get sync and publishing deals and promote your music to the music industry. We offer unique services whereby you get in the charts across the world, go on pre-release, sell via SMS, launch and iPhone app and many more. There are companies like Tunecore and Reverbnaton who just throw your music on to the stores. We develop a relationship with you and act as your record label, helping you promote your music online.
You were on the Born To Be Wide Sync Panel at GoNorth, how do unsigned bands go about getting their music synced?
Well we can help you firstly. We work alongside Sentric Music which is totally free and non-exclusive for artists. Once you sign up you get info on sync opportunities as they come in, we have had artists in Lexus adverts, The Hills and shows like ‘Paris Hilton’s Best Friend’. You get daily sync opportunities sent straight to your Ditto account.
There are loads of things you can do grass roots though.
Firstly, contact independent movie makers near you. There are so many now, especially around universities. Don’t worry too much about getting a massive fee at this stage. There have been some great examples of film makers and composers meeting at university and as the film maker becomes successful it has a knock on effect for the musician.
Get yourself to as many networking events as possible and start building up relationships with people. Go North had an amazing stable of talent that crossed the whole realm of music and film. Join AIM ( www.musicindie.com ). Once you join AIM you get access and cheap passes to all of the networking events around the UK. And if you get in touch with the UKTI you may even get funded to travel to these abroad. Networking is always key.
I felt you had a lot to say to the representative from Microsoft (syncing music for Xbox games). Is it true that games often don't pay bands for syncage?
Yeah, I don’t think I made many friends on that panel but I didn’t want to hear them talk about how they sync signed artists, I wanted to know how they were helping unsigned artists gain promotion in music.
He wasn’t going to give out any numbers but they clearly aren’t paying artists much. The games industry is a billion dollar industry that is making more revenue than the music industry at the moment.
They seem to think that the promotion alone should be enough dividends for the artist. That kind of devalues music though in the same way that music piracy teaches you that your best hope for producing music is that someone will purchase it for free and then come to a show.
And my other point to them was why do the games industry not pay music royalties for each game sold?
Every time you download music you pay PRS, every time a radio station or TV channel plays music you get paid a PRS rate. Even Youtube has to pay PRS. So if you distribute a piece of music to a computer game you should pay some kind of royalty rate to the artist, even if it’s a few pence.
How big is the divide between the sync industry and the music industry and what can be done to solve this?
There is always going to be more content that sync opportunities so I am sympathetic to the sync agents.
There is a massive division between the games and music industries. I went to the GDC in San Fran Cisco a couple of years ago which is the largest worldwide conference for games developers. I was the only person from the music industry at the conference. There does not seem to be enough being done to build links between the two industries. I asked the developers where they get music from and they would generally ask friends at work or use sound library music. There is no excuse in this day and age to use sound library music, not when there is so many talented artists out there creating music that is going unheard. Seriously, Sound library music? It’s a joke!
On another panel you participated in there was mention of the benefits of PRS. Explain to anyone who might not know what PRS is and how it can benefit them?
The PRS is the Performing Rights Agency. Each venue has to pay a PRS license to play music. That revenue then goes to the PRS agency.
The PRS then dish out the revenue accordingly to the artists who play in the venues, gain radio airplay and so on.
If you don’t claim for the gigs you play then it will get paid out to the major label artists. So make sure every gig you play you claim! Once you sign up with Ditto we help you with this free of charge through our partners at Sentric Music.
PRS is also covered in things like radio airplay, TV, even online streaming. You can claim back for 6 months so do it. Now!
I met so many bands at Go North who weren’t claiming their PRS. As an example, the band who won the competition to play with Bon Jovi will receive around £20,000. So do it now. Even if it is an open mic night you could be entitled to some serious pocket money
With the sheer amount of music on the internet how can a small band 'stand out from the pack'?
It sounds obvious but the first thing is to be brilliant. If every artist listened to the same amount of demos that we do here I think they would realize the severity of the competition out there. You are pitching yourselves against hundreds of thousands of artists.
Be up on the latest social trends. At the first panel I mentioned a few sites to check out
www.splitgigs.com is a great site where you can exchange gigs all over the world
www.mflow.com is a new site we distribute you to and can be a fantastic networking tool.
www.mog.com Start music blogging and then you can pitch your own music to other bloggers.
How does a band go about getting distributed by Ditto Music?
Ditto Music is the simplest way to handle digital distribution.
Our platform allows you upload music and artwork online and receive free barcodes, ISRC codes as you sign up. You can specify your release date, set up a label and you have access to 24 hour sales analytics. You can choose to become chart eligible, make an iPhone app, sell on pre order, SMS, we have it all covered. And we have skilled people in the office every day to take your phone calls.
Just go to www.dittomusic.com and sign up for a free account. From there you can access the forums, receive news on sync opportunities and of course start uploading content to great sites like Spotify, iTunes , Amazon and more.
Lee and Ditto Music have kindly given me 10 iTunes release vouchers to give away to Have Fun At Dinner readers. So if you are in a band or make music email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to some of your music and I will pick my favourites.Each voucher entitles an artist to a free release on iTunes (up to 3 tracks) with £0 signup, £0 subscription to Ditto Music and 100% royalties. No bad, eh?
Closing date 8th July