The following MBW blog comes from the CEO and co-founder of Ditto Music, Lee Parsons. In addition to housing a management company and a music publishing company, UK-headquartered Ditto is one of the world’s largest distribution companies for independent artists, ensuring that music from hundreds of thousands of acts is delivered to, and correctly managed on, the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Vevo. Artists who have used Ditto’s services in the past include Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Sam Smith and Chance The Rapper.
The UK music industry is about to become the focus of the world’s entertainment business. The three heads of the UK’s major music companies – Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music – are all set to be quizzed, publicly, by British politicians tomorrow (January 19) as part of a Parliamentary Committee’s inquiry into the money streaming makes, and how it’s shared with artists.
Considering that my company, Ditto Music, battles with the three majors every day – as they make wild business decisions based on market share to try and poach artists we’ve often spent years developing – I won’t be shedding a tear if these executives get a grilling.
“All I want to do here is put across the other side of the streaming story.”
I’m also happy to know that a potential change to streaming payouts is being explored by the Committee: User-centric licensing, where the $9.99 a month you pay for your individual streaming subscription gets divided and paid out only to the artists you listen to (rather than the current system, where your money actually goes to artists you haven’t listened to – which is ridiculous).
And yet I’ve been alarmed by the noisy anti-streaming tone that much of the lobbying around the Committee’s investigation has taken.
What’s clear from the highly effective #brokenrecord campaign – run by veteran British indie rock artists and industry lobbyists on Twitter – is that a group of performers out there are struggling to pay rent from streaming royalties now that the pandemic has robbed them of touring income. This situation sucks, and no music fan should be happy about it (although Covid-19, rather than Spotify, surely has to shoulder the majority of the blame).
All I want to do here is put across the other side of the streaming story.
The side that says – and proves – that, actually, this is a historically amazing time to be a recording artist. Especially an independent recording artist.
Ditto Music works with over 250,000 independent artists around the world.
Most of these artists use us for basic digital distribution, while a select number move up to a more record label-like relationship via Ditto Plus. For this, we heavily invest in marketing, PR and promotion, while still enabling each artist to pull in the majority of royalties and keep ownership of their copyrights.
Over the past year, here’s what I’ve seen: Over 500 of our artists earned more than $50,000 in 2020 from streaming alone. Over 50 earned more than $100,000.
“I was a musician before I started Ditto in 2007, before Spotify existed, and let me tell you, it was awful.”
This success isn’t all hidden from the mainstream, either. Ditto clients these past couple of years include Chance The Rapper, who went to No.2 on the Billboard 200 in 2019, and Sarkodie, now firmly established one of the best-selling artists in Africa.
Over in the Philippines, Michael Dutchi Libranda, an artist who was previously struggling to make ends meet, recently had a No.1 single, completely independently (with Ditto’s help) and is now a bona fide star there. And Ditto distributes catalog tracks for Dave and AJ Tracey, who continue to build huge careers in the UK and beyond.
These are all independent artists, without a traditional record label deal. And they’re all ripping up the rulebook of both who the music industry chooses to reward, and the ‘elite’ relationships artists supposedly need to do it.
I was a musician before I started Ditto in 2007, before Spotify existed, and let me tell you, it was awful. We had one option: get signed to a record label. If you wanted to release music, that was your only choice.
All that has changed now. Independent artists aren’t having to water down their sound to please cloth-eared radio directors. They’re not awkwardly grinning through record company meetings (I’ve done this in all of the major label offices) while their career rests in the hands of an executive busy thinking about his dinner that night at Nobu. And, thankfully, they’re not playing horrendous press showcases in members’ clubs like I did – clubs I couldn’t even afford to join – in front of disinterested newspaper journalists chowing down on canapés and free booze.
“Let me be clear for any politicians reading: thanks to streaming, and the destruction of the power of the music industry gatekeepers, there are more artists making a good living from recorded music today than at any time in HISTORY.”
Today, a huge number of independent artists are making real money, completely on their own terms, doing what they love, and building fanbases who love it too.
Let me be clear for any politicians reading: thanks to streaming, and the destruction of the power of the music industry gatekeepers, there are more artists making a good living from recorded music today than at any time in HISTORY.
Thousands upon thousands of them. And that goes for the UK as much as anywhere.
I noticed the other day that the BPI, the British recorded music trade body, put out a bunch of stats that correlate with Ditto’s own data.
The BPI said that nearly 200 artists attracted over 100 million streams each in the UK – just in the UK – in 2020. They also revealed that the thousandth most popular streaming artist in the UK last year pulled in 21 million streams – again, just in the UK – and that the 999 artists above this act banked even more.
Do you know what this means? That, based on average per-stream estimates, nearly 200 artists earned $400,000-plus just from streaming platforms, and just from the UK, in one year, in 2020.
What’s more, a thousand artists earned at least $84,000 (21 million X $0.004), again just from streaming platforms, and just from the UK, in one year, in 2020.
“A thousand artists earned at least $84,000, just from streaming platforms, and just from the UK, in one year, in 2020.”
This doesn’t even take into account what British artists were earning in any of the 180-plus other countries in which their music is now accessible to fans, thanks to streaming. Ditto now has offices in more than 20 of those countries, and for good reason – because this is a genuine global phenomenon.
These stats, and Ditto’s own growth (we increased our subscribers by 40% last year), don’t lie: this is becoming a golden era to be a recording artist, with or without a record label.
The pyramid structure of the music industry’s past – when only the Top 10 new artists had any hope of buying the nice house and the nice car, and the rest were left on the scrapheap – is crashing down around our ears.
And you know what? It sounds wonderful.Music Business Worldwide