Ditto Music is an underdog story about the Parsons. It's about what happens when two people can put their heads down and work at a common goal. It's the story of two brothers at the bottom, working their way up after the bottom fell out of their previous endeavor.
Lee and Matt Parsons used to be in their own band. The group didn't have a ton of notable accomplishments to their name, but they had a pension for creating great music in the studio. Were they a live band? No. No they were not. But they were a band with a record contract and a lot of potential, things just didn't work out how the Parsons, then in their early twenties, saw things going.
"We only played about seven shows to be honest," said Lee Parsons of his former band and their live experience. "We sounded good on CD, but when it came to the live aspect… I thought we were horrific. The label toured us a little bit before our single was supposed to come out, and then the day it was supposed to come out, we got dropped. That was the end of our music career. We tried to release it ourselves after that, but it took about six months for us to do that. We didn't know what a bar code was, we didn't know an ISRC code was, and we didn't have any contacts or anyone to release it. That was where our idea for Ditto Music started.
After Matt and Lee's music dream ended, they altered their course and plotted their next step on the other side of the business. Instead of being in a band and getting their own work into the top 40, they'd get to work for other bands.
"We were living in a flat in Birmingham, England," said Lee about the company's beginnings. "I was renting out inflatable kids castles to birthday parties. My brother was doing computer repair. His computer company was called Ditto Computing. We only had one phone in the flat. We called it Ditto Music, because when people called we didn't know whether people wanted a bouncy house, computer work, or the music stuff. When the phone would ring, we'd just say 'Hello Ditto.'"
Ditto's early accomplishments were getting several acts into the top 40 in the UK. But that's where things started to get a little stale. They were making as much money as they were spending, and with so much going on, the relationship between the two brothers was starting to fracture because of the stress. Eventually ,they had to figure out a way to turn Ditto into a full-fledged global business and start making money.
"The first year of Ditto we had no money. Suddenly, we've got a band in the top 40 in England. It was the first ever song to get into the top 40 as a digital single. We did a million pounds of revenue in that year. In the twelve months before, we had made 300 pounds. To have that much revenue from nothing, that's going to cause some friction. It's one of those things, we get along perfectly now. You can shout and your brother, and he can shout at you. You can get all of it out and that works. The first twelve months, that was a struggle. We didn't really know what we were doing. We were just winging it. We knew how to make money, but we didn't know how to formulate it into a company.
"This is 2006 and 2007, when no one knew what digital distribution was or where the model was going to go. Everyone was trying to pay us money to get them into the top 40. We had eleven top 40s in the first twelve months. We had literally gotten eleven bands that no one had heard of onto the charts. We were doing all of this and going a hundred miles an hour. It's one of those things, when you take a step back, money coming in was the same as money going out. If you've made a million and lost a million, then where are you at? You're back to square one. You have to learn in business to take small steps. We've made loads of progress, but every day we try and just do one thing a bit better. That way, you make really good progress over time. Back then, we had a lot of money coming in and it was stressful, but it was really awesome looking back at it too," added Parsons.
Since overcoming some of those challenges that the company faced in it's infancy, Ditto has grown over the past decade into what it is now - a digital aggregator that rivals Tunecore and CD Baby and can set itself apart by having deeper, more meaningful artist interaction and by providing label services. There are people behind the company who've tried to make music more than a hobby and have both succeeded and failed at that dream at the same time. That's what sets Ditto apart from the competitors out there. You can look at what they've been able to do with that model over the past decade and how their company as grown as evidence of it working.
"We've got an office in Australia. We employ five people there. Then, we've got three in the London office and about thirty overall in England. We have an office here in Nashville, and there are six people who work here.. England is our technology hub. They do that work there, and that's where our call center is too.. Nashville is our U.S. operations right now. We've got quite a lot of people working for us right now, that's a good thing. We're really proud of where we're at and what we've done."