“It got the ball rolling,” says Ronnie. And at the end of 2014, the Wrights were ready to flip the switch on DittyTV, an Americana and roots music streaming network. It is available for free– on its website and as an app for mobile and streaming devices, like those for Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV – and the Wrights estimate that it reaches around 5 million people every month. That doesn’t make marketing or public relations a priority, says Amy, whose second position is now that of Ditty’s chief operating officer, with Ronnie as CEO. Rather, they focused on connecting to an ecosystem of musicians, labels and places they hope to amplify.
“We are not Viacom, we are not funded by VC,” says Amy. “It’s just Ronnie and me when it comes to funding,” as well as a small number of purported advertisers. This approach has its challenges – “You don’t want to see the bandwidth bill,” says Ronnie – but for now, that has allowed them to create a network that is a bit MTV golden age, a little rockumentary and a little fairy-god-network to musicians living spark to spark, hoping to catch fire.
Most of the 12 hour programs DittyTV offers new clips from America’s huge tent daily, which could mean something twangy, bluesy, full-throated or funky – or all of those folded and braided into one. Shows include “Earth Tones”, which draws on folk and bluegrass traditions; “The side of the soul”; and “Eleven”, a program that the network describes as “the major of Americana”. “When we realized the quality of the content that even the smallest of artists – especially in this area – made, and they fell on themselves [for airtime], it was a big bulb, “says Ronnie.
The centerpiece, however, both in production and in ethics, is a series of studio concerts that has hosted hundreds of rockers and selectors, including Grammy winners and nominees like traditionalist Dom Flemons. , bluesman Bobby Rush and roots-rock sister Larkin Poe – as well evergreen itinerants, newcomers and big names elsewhere, such as the Canadian Dead South Quartet, country troubadour Charley Crockett and Memphis rocker Liz Brasher. The sessions are mixed live by Doug Easley, whose studio, among others, recorded Wilco’s debut album and the release of the White Stripes “White Blood Cells”. And all this audio and video is shared with the musicians unconditionally.
“It’s probably at least $ 10,000 worth of work,” says Easley of the production files Ditty hands over to the groups. “It’s sort of obvious, then you connect to the network and play endlessly.”
Artists like John Oates (of Hall & Oates) and the British duo Ida Mae released songs recorded for the channel on their albums. For many more musicians, this is a rare piece of neat promotional material. “I don’t know of anything like it. It’s really cool that they do,” says Grayson Capps, a seasoned musician and songwriter from Alabama who has seven videos from his 2018 Ditty session on his website, and sent them to clubs and festivals to get concerts. “I don’t know what they get out of it,” he laughs, “apart from the ‘arts patrons, pillars of the community.'”
That seems to be the idea, for now anyway. “We didn’t do it to make money,” says Ronnie – and they aren’t. “We also didn’t do it to lose money indefinitely.” The Wrights want to support this music – the people who create it, the scenes they play on, the studios and the labels that record it – which in turn continues to fuel Ditty. And as long as this feedback loop works, they want to see how far it can go and if there are any nice ways to make it self-sufficient. The couple spent the past year feeling possible additions to satellite radio, television, and podcasting, and opened a store next door called Vibe & Dime. Starting this month, they plan to open some of the studio performances to the public, and by summer, they expect to pave the way for a second studio and retail store in Alabama.
We are proud of what they have built – millions of viewers, hundreds of studio sessions, 50,000 newsletter subscribers, over 100 videos released per day – but a feeling of success right now seems more difficult to grasp. “These days I’m sort of numbed by the numbers,” says Ronnie. “It’s almost like noise to me now. They do not seem very significant. “
Instead, the Wrights find themselves reveling in more transitional measures: email from Denmark about musicians who want to be on the network; the strange running in with a Ditty sticker on an unknown car. And they are now navigating about the decisions to make to grow, to whom to sell advertising, to whom to associate – questions about the junction of identity and ambition that are well worn by people on their own scene.
“It’s not a widget for Amy and I. It’s not something we need to do,” says Ronnie. “It was something that was terribly expensive and terribly difficult. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, that’s for sure. … So we have a lot of things emotionally and from all other angles. It’s great because now we’re at the point where I think there is a certain dynamic. I think we control everything, in a good way. We can build on that. “
Danny Freedman is a writer in Memphis.