• This is a series of guest posts by Budi Voogt, who runs an artist management agency and record label, and writes a blog about music marketing and the industry. His book, The SoundCloud Bible, is out now.
In Part 1 of this series we looked at how to conceive and produce a great DJ show for use in podcasting. Last week we moved on to putting your mix out there, looking at SoundCloud and YouTube. For this week’s final part, we’re going to look at the toughest of the three services we promised to give you instructions for: iTunes.
How it works:
So let’s start with the basics. To upload a podcast to iTunes, you need the following: A media file (320kbps MP3 or the video that you made), artwork of 1400×1400, a webserver and an RSS feed. Now I expect that for the majority of you, an RSS feed doesn’t ring any bells. No stress, I’ll run you through everything. Practically an iTunes podcast allows subscribers to easily get streaming access to the podcasts that they have subscribed to. For the podcast suppliers, it’s an easy method to push an updated series to an audience that wants to consistently tune in.
Technically, this is what happens: The podcast supplier (you) uploads his media and artwork to a webserver. A description of the podcast show and each specific episode is added to a feed (blog or text file). Then an RSS is created that contains all the information of the feed, and makes it accessible to others. Finally, the RSS feed is submitted to iTunes.
Once it’s verified and allowed onto the store, iTunes reads the RSS every 24 hours and pulls in any podcasts, episodes and their descriptions. The people who tune in to the podcast are redirected to the original media file (at its original location) via iTunes. So the file is actually downloaded/streamed from the original webserver that it’s hosted it on. iTunes is just the intermediary. This is why you need to upload it to a webserver yourself.
Ready for the technical stuff? OK, let’s delve a bit deeper.
The RSS feed is generally created in the form of an XML file. This is actually a normal text file (so could be written in Word, Wordpad or any text editor), but has a typical code layout and is saved with “.xml” at the end of the file. These files push updates and information of things like websites to the subscribers, who can then easily stay up to date. You could create this file manually, however there are also online web services that can do this for you. In this manual I will explain the latter method, as it’s much easier.
iTunes often changes its podcast requirements and file specifics for validating these. It is very precise about this and you should not expect to be able to drop Apple an email and receive a response, either! If they do update these requirements, you will have to alter not only the specifics of any single episode, but of everything in your total podcast.
If you want to look up the exact file requirements and figure out how to write your own RSS XML file manually, you should check out Apple’s official article about podcasts here.
How to do it:
Time to get busy. If you follow all of these steps precisely, you should have your podcast ready and live on iTunes within 24 hours. As mentioned before, we won’t be using the method where you manually write an XML file. It’s very prone to errors, and the method I’m about to show you is simpler to both set up and update with later episodes.
1. Create the feed
To create your feed, we’re going to start a blog site. Not to fill it with content, but just to place single posts which contain everything we want iTunes to see per episode.
Go to Blogger. Log in using a Google account, preferably the same one that you use for YouTube. Once you’re logged in, click ‘new blog’ to the left.
Enter a title and URL for your blog. This has to be the name that you’ve determined for your podcast earlier. If possible, make the title and URL identical, however the title will remember capital letters.
Once you’ve created your blog, click on its title. This will bring you to the blog overview page. There is absolutely no need to design and optimise your blog, as its only purpose is to serve as a vessel to hold your podcast episodes.
In the overview page, click on the “new post” button on the left-hand side.
Now you’re in the post editor screen. Here we will put down all the information pertaining to a certain episode, which is what iTunes is going to import. Here’s how:
- Enter a post title – This has to be the name of your specific episode. So if your podcast is called “Heroic On Air” and this is your first episode, featuring for example Ducked Ape, then you would run with “Heroic On Air – #001 – featuring Ducked Ape”
- Insert an image at the top of the post – This has to be the 1400×1400 JPG or PNG cover artwork that we discussed earlier
- Place a link to the exact location of your media file over some text like “Download Now” – Take huge note here. You will have to upload your media file (320kbps MP3) on a webserver somewhere. Services like MediaFire, Megaupload, Dropbox and such do not work. Your best shot is to upload the files directly to a webserver that you can host websites on, using FTP. iTunes does not accept URLs of files that include ‘https://’. If your server gives these values, remove the ‘s’ so that it becomes ‘http://’. iTunes does not accept URLs of files that are hosted on subdomains. So for example ‘www.heroicrecordings.com/heroiconair.mp3’ would work, but ‘media.heroicrecordings.com/heroiconair.mp3’ would. If you want mobile device users to see your artwork on their devices, you should embed the artwork into your MP3 file (you can do this by using iTunes, opening “track information” and entering it on the artwork tab)
- Write out a track listing and place it below the download link
- Publish your post
Now you have a feed set up. Good job!
2. Create the RSS
Time to build the RSS feed that iTunes will read. iTunes will check it every 24 hours and update it according to the changes that you’ve made on your Blogger site.
Go to FeedBurner. Once again you can use your Google account. Use the same one as you have previously. Enter your Blogger URL and tick the “I am a podcaster!” box. Then click next.
Now select RSS as your feed source.
You’ll be presented with some options screens. Skip these by clicking “next”, until you arrive at the “Configure your podcast and tell iTunes how to list it” screen. Once there, do the following:
- From the first drop-down menu, select your correct media format – If you’re pushing just audio, select “audio files only”, if you’re pushing a video then select “video files only”
- Enable iTunes podcasting elements
- Select your categories – If you’re pushing music, just select that
- Insert a URL to your podcast’s artwork – This can’t be hosted on a site like ImageShack, Dropbox, MediaFire etc. but has to be on a webhost. Make sure it is a 1400×1400 PNG or JPG with RGB color space. Preview it to check if it works
- Write a subtitle – This is shown below your podcast’s title and needs to be short and sweet
- Write a short description of your podcast – Again, I like keeping it simple
- Place a SINGLE keyword – You could do more, however iTunes prefers single keywords a thousandfold. Take note that it does not account for punctuation, so any terms consisting of two words, like “New York”, do not register
- Tick the “Meta RSS” box
- Write down your name or artist name in the copyright field
- Click “next”
You’ve now made an RSS feed. Keep clicking until you see the FeedBurner overview screen. Click on “My Feeds” in the top right-hand corner. It’ll redirect you to your starting screen.
Your podcast will now be listed there, and have a little satellite thumbnail besides it. Copy the URL that it links to.
3. Submit to iTunes
All we need to do now is submit your RSS feed to iTunes. Open up the iTunes and go to the iTunes store. Then click on “Podcasts” in the top menu.
At the right-hand side, you will see a menu with a few text options. Select “Submit a podcast”.
Here you have to enter the URL of your RSS feed. Place it there, then click continue. It’ll show you a preview of how your podcast will look. If everything is alright, proceed.
Two final notes…
FeedBurner updates its feed every 30 minutes. That means that it extracts information from your blogger site once every thirty minutes. To speed up that process, you can “ping” FeedBurner, which makes it drag out information instantly. Do that here.
Finally, for every new episode you make, just create a new post in Blogger. Your feed will then update and then later, iTunes will follow. It takes about 24 hours before iTunes visually processes a new episode.
Phew! I won”t pretend this is the most straightforward thing in the world, but it gets easier once you’ve cracked it once. And the end result is that you have now made an iTunes podcast! Within 24 hours, iTunes will send you an email letting you know whether it’s been accepted or not. If it hasn’t, you’ve probably made a mistake with hosting your media files.
And that’s that, people. You should now have a developed a podcast concept, and have it live on Soundcloud, YouTube and iTunes. It’s time to tell your fans about it. Go crazy on social media. Rank up some subscribers. Flaunt it!
• Enjoyed this article? Catch more from Budi Voogt on his blog, and look out for his book “The Soundcloud Bible“, which has just been released. You can also sign up to his newsletter here.
Check out the other parts in this series:
- Get Your DJ Podcast On SoundCloud, YouTube & iTunes: Part 1
- Get Your DJ Podcast On SoundCloud, YouTube & iTunes: Part 2
Have you managed to get your podcast successfully on iTunes? Would you like to? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.