With the news that podcasting is coming to the next version of iTunes, I had an idea for how podcasting could be used to benefit both users looking for music and the iTunes store for selling music.
I got this idea when I realized how much I enjoyed a Grant Lee Phillips album in my music mix and what an outlier he is in my collection. I love folk music and this guy straddles the line between folk and country (and I'm not much of a fan of country). Anyway, I realized when I was hearing a track that I really need to track down his other stuff. That got me to thinking how I only hear about iTunes albums I should buy from friends that recommend them. I wondered why can't I tell iTunes to email me when he releases a new album?
Taking that further, I wondered if there was a way I could tell iTunes to buy a specific artist's new albums the moment they come out, automatically. Of course, then I realized it could be problematic if artists were releasing re-issues or greatest hits packages I might not be as interested in. Then it hit me: podcasting.
Podcasting is a great thing for amateur DJs and amateur broadcasting, but there are certainly useful aspects that companies could use to improve their business.
My hope is that iTunes 4.9 lets me subscribe to artists, and creates a podcast whenever they offer a free track off their new albums. This feature would be something like "auto-download any new Ben Folds track that is given away free" in a checkbox. Or heck, Apple could even just auto-subscribe me to download freebies for all the artists I've ever purchased off the iTunes Music Store.
As it stands now, I have to load up the main iTunes Music Store page to find the freebies and I only remember to go back once in a blue moon for new ones. Once in a while I find a new band there. It'd be great if I could get a podcast of the main iTunes freebies as well. If there's a free track in iTunes every time I start it up and I start hearing stuff I love I will most certainly buy more albums. Extra points if I can subscribe to all freebies by genre if I want to avoid uninteresting (to me) music. Granted, iTunes would have to loosen their one-freebie-a-week limit to every major artist with a new release.
The coolest aspect of podcasting to me is the nature of its automatic push-pull technology that fetches stuff for me. Just like my TiVo records shows it thinks I might like, I'd love it if my iTunes library had surprises in it every few days. Of course, the ultimate would be if iTunes could offer me free tracks from artists I have never heard of but would enjoy. iTMS knows what I own and iTunes knows what else I listen to ripped from CDs (they could be audioscrobbler if they wanted to). If there's a new album from some artist very closely aligned or contained in my library, grab their free track this week and have it waiting for me.
I guarantee I'll buy more music if my iTunes library suddenly becomes a tool to help me with new music discovery.