Sometime in the next two months I will be launching music-post.com as a side project to my 9-5 job in the internet marketing world. I am starting this site mainly because I like music, but also, launching a site like this gives me the chance to try and make a few bucks while messing around polishing my tech and marketing skills. There is no substitute for good old hands on, trial and error learning.
One of the technologies I am fascinated in is RSS, and more specifically the ability to use RSS to have a constantly updated site such as music-post, teeming with fresh content daily whether I decide to manually add something or not. Among other things such as mp3 hardware reviews, album reviews, tour schedules, and forums, I wanted to have iTunes power my top albums and top singles lists through their RSS feeds. In addition, I figured that as long as Apple was going to feed me content daily, and that content linked to a music store, they could pay me each time someone decided to click through and buy a song that they saw listed on my site. To do this, I logged into my Linkshare account and got hooked into the iTunes affiliate program which would pay me 5% of all sales generated. A nickel per song and 50 cents per album isn't much, but I am guessing that once a person downloads and begins using iTunes, they will spend upwards of $100 on music through iTunes over the lifetime of the program. Obviously in some cases more, and in some less, but there is potential to keep on earning as it seems unlikely for someone to purchase a single song and never return.
The RSS feeds are robust and very easy to customize by genre, category, etc and I was pleased at the ease with which they were spit out of the Apple system. I plugged them into my site and it was instant content with a revenue stream (albeit a small one) back-ended right into it. BRILLIANT. Then....horror. I tried some of the links on the site generated by the feed while I was on my machine at work and was given an error saying that "itms" is not a registered protocol. In short, the links are useless unless you have a working version of iTunes already installed on your machine. If you don't, linky no worky.
What is Apple thinking? Through this awful execution of the affiliate/rss program they are cutting off what must be nearly 50% of possible revenue and 100% of new customers that could be had via affiliate links. If Apple and Linkshare were smart, they would at the very least bounce out those that did not yet have a working version of iTunes to a page where they could download the program and purchase the song that they were looking for. In addition, an affiliate program that tracked the clickers purchasing activity over the life of their iTunes download and then rewarded the affiliate who initiated the download would be fantastic. A compromise would be for Apple to determine what the revenue generated is over the lifetime of an average iTunes download and then pay affiliates a flat fee per download initiated similar to the way many many other pay per download programs work.
No matter what the solution, they need to do something. I can't have links on my site that go dead if the user doesn't have iTunes already installed. I am all for pushing business to iTunes, but they need to meet me halfway here and provide some tools that make my making them money a bit easier.