What is Interpolation? DittoMusic Support Fake Book Conclusion
DittoMusic the self-proclaimed "largest global distributor of music" has always been a quirky actor in the distribution space.
If you are a musician and considering signing up with them you should read this article. It might not put you off using them but, hopefully, will help you avoid the pitfalls if you do.
According to Trustpilot the main complaint against DittoMusic is their fondness for Takedowns - the draconian power to remove your content from streaming platforms like Spotify without your permission.
If you have suffered a takedown this may help explain it. If you haven't, this may help you avoid it.
DittoMusic is allegedly planning a policy that could have wide ranging implications for whole genres of music. They are refusing to distribute instrumental cover versions of songs if they originally had lyrics. The logical progression of that is they are planning to takedown millions of instrumental tracks. This revelation was inadvertently leaked by a support operative at the company.
Let me explain it through the lens of my experience.
It all started so well. This year alone I had successfully used Ditto to upload three albums to all the major platforms including Spotify, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon and others.
The tracks on these albums are guitar instrumental versions of well-known songs by Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, and Earth Wind and Fire. All the major streaming platforms hosted them happily for months.
They were cleared by Ditto and the hosting platforms content management systems so I was surprised when I tried uploading another album of instrumental covers. During the process, which is best described as clear-as-mud, it was claimed the tracks were rejected because they were 'interpolations'.
Now I admit I was ignorant about the term interpolation so did some research. This Is #1 Google search engine result for 'musical interpolation' summarised below...
'Interpolation is a music buzz word that many have probably heard, but few likely know the meaning of. Essentially, an interpolation is the act of taking an existing piece of music and recreating it note-for-note within a new piece of music. For example, the song "City of Gods" by Fivio Foreign, Kanye West, and Alicia Keys features Alicia interpolating the chorus from the hit Chainsmokers song "New York City."
The only possible interpretation of this word in a musical context is that two distinct and different pieces of music are involved.
None of my tracks have a different piece of music recreated note for note on top of the original. All tracks have the same chord progressions, melody lines as the originals and are correctly identified as to the composer; so the rights holder will get their revenue as cover versions of their compositions.
What do we do when things go wrong? We contact tech support.
OK. We're all used to non-existent support from tech companies but DittoMusic takes it to the next level.
The Ditto support email is [email protected] but good luck with that! I tried several times with no reply until I replied to one of their auto-generated notification emails.
This had the subject line 'Re: Urgent problem with your release ' and the from line Daisy from Ditto Music <[email protected]>. Try that if you are having problems.
At first I thought Daisy from Ditto was a bot because the answers were all template cut-and-paste and mostly off subject.
We all know that, if real, Daisy from Ditto is probably a Dude called Davindra in a data centre in Bangalore! By tracking the email headers I found the email I got from Ditto was blind routed from Columbia, MD by a company called sparkpost.com So who knows who, or where, it was from?
I do think at some point a real person, or one of a team, stepped in as they proved to be all too human in their attitude! Tetchy!
I get it. I've run businesses for decades and know employees can find customers a nuisance. A lazy ignorant few find it amusing to mess customers around thinking there are no consequences. I sacked them!
I held out hope of a sympathetic response and begged Daisy from Ditto…
'I do appreciate that you are on my side and want to help me release music. So please, please please... help me
It turns out she wasn't on my side and didn't help. Daisy from Ditto doubled down on the interpolation theory, with some extra bombshells…
'To release a cover, it must be the same as the original and you cannot change any part of the song. As you have removed the vocals for all tracks on your release, all tracks are interpolated. The definition of of taking an existing piece of music and recreating it note-for-note within a new piece of music. "Within a new piece of music" means that you must provide master licensing as you have sampled part of the song and not done a straight cover.
So, all covers must have vocals should they, that's the reason? Or perhaps if I hadn't done a 'straight cover' but had done a gay one? Joking, but it does seem nonsensical.
I respectfully reiterated my argument that only one song was involved, not two, in any of my tracks. I asked 'how come Ditto has previously uploaded tracks for me with the exact same concept'? I foolishly gave links to my happily hosted albums. How did she respond? This morning they were gone! She had, it seemed, spitefully taken them down.
The Fake Book
I wonder if Daisy from Ditto (or anyone else there) knows what the Fake Book or Real Book is. No? It is a collection of musical lead sheets that Jazz musicians have used to jam over like...forever. It contains hundreds of songs, mostly showtunes, all originally vocal based, and is the staple of any jazz musicians' repertoire.
So, when will Ditto wipe out the entire genre of Jazz from music platforms? Daisy from Ditto says…
'We hold all artists to the same legal standard.
So presumably a network wide takedown by Ditto of millions of Jazz tracks is imminent?
I say WTF is Ditto music doing telling musicians how to play music anyhow? We should be free to take artistic licence with tempo, key, genre etc. Otherwise music is dead and the World a much duller place!
Just suppose they come up with another crazy requirement. Logically, they could insist cover songs not only have lyrics but must be sung in the same language as the original! It's a slippery slope to dictatorship!
There are other possibilities. Is this just a rogue operative? One of those reprehensible individuals you have the misfortune to cross paths with that takes a personal dislike to you? The only power they have in life is at work and so they are going to exercise it. It does seem vindictive and entirely vexatious. If so, well done Daisy from Ditto, you have succeeded. I am beyond upset that something so personal as my music is defiled.
I believe people are fundamentally good so I hope I'm not just being trolled. Perhaps I'm being a dumb klutz (it has been known) and it is a simple misunderstanding? Copyright is a difficult subject that probably only lawyers understand. To her credit Daisy/Davindra did ask for "master licensing". I think she means mechanical licences, which are not required by streaming platforms as far as I know. It's all gone quiet now so I don't really know what to do other than share my frustrations here so others are forewarned.
Time will tell I suppose. Is this is part of a wider plot to kill Jazz off, just a personal grudge, incompetence, misunderstanding, bad communication or a combination of them all? I guess it will become apparent when widespread takedowns occur - or don't.
Either way, it is discriminatory (against those of us who can't sing) to exclude us from the market.
Ditto CEO Matt Parsons who declares on LinkedIn "I am here to help musicians" has been asked to comment. I promise to print his reply verbatim without edit - but I'm not holding my breath!
What do you think?
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