RSS (Really Simple Syndication) allows you to syndicate or subscribe to the feed of a website, blog or almost any media content online (not just articles, it can be music, video or almost any digital media). So instead of having to go visit each and every website to read the latest content, you can use feed reading software to collect all the feeds of each site in one place. So the purpose of syndication is to make it more efficient for you to consume your favorite content.
What Can I Do With Feeds?
So, once you’ve found one or more RSS feeds you want to subscribe to so you can keep up to date with their content, what’s next? What you need is a way of grouping your feeds together and displaying them so you can see them all in one place. There are several ways of doing this, which one you choose really depends on which you find easiest.
Lots of different companies offer separate downloadable programs (often called ‘desktop readers’ or ‘aggregators’) or websites (often called ‘web-based readers’) and even some web browsers and email programs will read and present RSS feeds.
Feed Reading Software
Web Based Feed Reading
Subscribe to a Blog
On the left and right sides of my website you will see a red XML link button. To subscribe to my feed all you do is copy and paste that link into your feed reading software or a web based reader like bloglines. If you already have feed reading software installed, all you need to do is click the button and your software should automatically add my feed to your reader.
All blogs will have a link which you can subscribe to. It might be called Atom, or RSS, or simply Syndicate, but they all do the same thing. The reason there are so many names is because there are different standards to create web syndication services (much like the old BETA vs VHS video format competition). At the moment it appears that RSS is certainly winning the standards war so you will mostly see the orange RSS links everywhere.
Update: You can also subscribe to my blog by email. No applications to install, just my content, delivered daily, in an easy to read email. You’ll see the subscribe form to the left and to the right of this webpage.
Syndication is for More than Just Blogs
Blogs definitely started this syndication craze. It’s still in the ‘early adoption’ phase since not many people know how to use it but most of the big web companies are making subscription feeds available for almost any content and it is definitely here to stay. Chances are if you are reading an article from a big site you can subscribe to a feed that distributes those articles. Just look for that RSS symbol.
Besides article distribution a new technology has launched called Podcasting. A Podcast is simply syndicated audio, usually an mp3 file. Podcasts are downloaded and then you can listen to them on your computer or mp3 player.
RSS for Musicians
1. Get Your Music Heard Through Blogging and Podcasting
Let’s face it, not everybody has the stomach to become the next Creed or Ashley Simpson. Maybe our music will only ever reach a small number of listeners. That’s okay, but with the present-day model of 100,000-sales-or-else we don’t stand a chance – unless we self-publish. Or maybe we are working towards mass appeal but again, artist development doesn’t exist like it used to. So we build our fan base the old fashioned way – 1 listener at a time – through blogging and podcasting.
Example: Within 1 week, my music was published by 3 separate podcasts. See this post.
2. Build Community with Other Musicians and Listeners
Blogging is a Web 2.0 technology. It’s about community and conversations. So you pitch other bands on your blog and in your podcasts and in turn they do the same. It’s a win-win situation.
Not only does it connect musicians with musicians, it connects musicians with their listeners. Blogging allows your listeners to comment and respond to your music. Would you rather listen to a band that ignores you or a band that wants you to co-create the art?
3. Publish News and Tour Dates
So you’ve built a mailing list at your shows and you send them a monthly post card which costs you money. You also email them but with all the spam problems you don’t know how many emails are actually delivered. With RSS, they subscribe to your feed and your news and tour dates are delivered immediately. It’s a much more intimate way of staying in touch with your list.
4. Music Promotion Through Your Listeners
Ask your listeners to post concert posters (PDF or JPEG) of your show dates in their work places. Offer bonus pre-release audio content (podcast) as incentives. You can get really creative here.
5. Monetize Your Blog
Increase your income by selling CDs or audio downloads. You can even sell advertising from other bands or pay-per-click advertising like Google Adsense.
I really could go on and on but I think you get the idea. RSS is indispensable to musicians in the digital age.
RSS is designed to make your Internet life easier. At the moment it’s worthwhile to become familiar with this technology simply because you are going to be seeing a lot more of it. By keeping up with technology you will have the edge that can make your music an affluent career and not an expensive hobby.