For Mary J Blige, Nelly Furtado, Lifehouse or any of the other major artists recording on the Geffen records label, the Internet has always represented a massive opportunity to connect with fans. And a massive threat from pirates looking to steal their work.
Until now. And the possibilities could be huge.
“Fairly soon, you'll have hundreds of million of compatible programs for people to accept our feeds,” said Aaron Foreman, Geffen New Media vice president. “And our hope is that it's bigger than email.”
Geffen is offering a new service that will feed informant about bands like tour dates and artist diaries, exclusive photos and video, merchandise, and someday even downloaded music, direct to subscriber computers. Not as e-mail, but via robust Web sites and small pop-ups using a technology called RSS from a company called Feedburner.
“All of those things become much easier to do once Geffen is running those feeds through Feedburner,” said Rick Klau, a Feedburner vice president. “And using a platform we've built to add that interactivity to that content."
The intriguing part of this new technology is not only what it provides Geffen artists, but Geffen itself. Record labels now want a way to electronically appeal directly to the most likely buyers of their music – a way someday to end-run online music sites like Apple Computer’s iTunes juggernaut. Some see that as the key to breaking Apple's ruthless controls on pricing if labels decide to start selling music themselves.
“To date, we haven't entered that side of the market in a big way,” said Foreman. “And doesn't mean we won't ever, and doesn't mean that if we ever did, this RSS feed technology wouldn't help us a lot. But it isn't necessarily happening immediately.”
What Geffen says is happening immediately is a new way for artists, like newcomer Matt White, to connect with fans and use social networking -- think myspace.com, but for music -- to build fanbases far faster.
“I just think it's the most revolutionary way of connecting people in the history of multimedia,” said White.
And it’s a technology the recording industry can use to make history, rather than becoming history.