Not Your Hosting, Not Your Feed
Why Bitcoin Podcasters and Musicians should consider self-hosting
The Two Paths: Custodial vs Non-custodial Wallets
As a Bitcoiner, you may already know this, but for value 4 value Lightning payments, you need a hosted solution that is always connected to the internet so you can receive your sats at any time. There are several options, such as Alby, Mash, LNPay, Wavlake or Fountain in which your wallet is held by others. These options are often the easiest, but rely on a degree of trust that the company won't close its doors and walk away with your sats. You can mitigate this risk by determining the amount you're comfortable with keeping on the custodial wallet before transferring the sats to your non-custodial wallet. This way, you'll never lose more than the amount being kept in someone else's wallet. This is by no means to disparage any of the custodial wallets. In fact, I recommend Alby, and all of my apps require a user to sign up for an Alby wallet, it's only to point out that there is a level of trust inherent in the system.
The other option is to take control of your own wallet, which is more difficult, because now you have to manage your own channels and are responsible for keeping track of your keys, but you maintain complete ownership of the wallet. There are solutions that allow you to keep your wallet on someone else's infrastructure, such as Voltage, or you can keep the wallet on your own infrastructure with a Raspberry Pi, Start 9, or even an old laptop stored in your bathroom. This is the most sovereign way, but with sovereignty comes responsibility.
RSS and Digital Sovereignty
As a Bitcoiner, you know the adage, “Not your wallet, not your Bitcoin”. Well, the same applies to your RSS feed. I understand many of you think a podcast is something complicated, and you need a dedicated podcast hosting company to handle all the complicated stuff for you. And if you're a musician, you may not be the most tech savvy, because you were too busy learning the guitar and dating beautiful people and never messed around much with computers. The reality though, is RSS is simple, Really Simple. It allows you to Syndicate your content Simply, Really Simply, sort of like a Really Simple Syndication (RSS). I think we've forgotten that, and have offloaded our digital sovereignty to tech nerds and are willing to pay them $10 a month or 10% of what our fans send us for doing something we can do ourselves.
Now I get it. I can change my own oil in my car. I just don't like to. I don't want to get the car up on block and crawl under it and get all oily, then have to dispose of the oil. It's a hassle, and I'll gladly pay someone else an extra $40 to avoid the hassle. But… I know how to change my own oil. I know what it is I'm paying for, and because of that, I can decide if my time is worth the dollars I have to pay. I see hosting your own feed the same way.
So, you could pay a company to host your music, and they'll handle some of the more technical stuff for you. RSS Blue has a great plan that starts at $6 a month, and Wavlake makes it super easy for a 10% cut of your listener support. But much like changing your oil, if you know what's going on and how to do it yourself, you can decide if it's something you don't want to hassle with, or if it's something you're more than willing to spend the money on so you can focus on more important things in your life.
The Financial Aspect of Hosting
Hosting your own feed isn't free (although there are ‘free' ways to do it if you have a reliable internet connection and something like a Raspberry Pi or Start 9 server). You will need to pay for a hosting company to host your files. I like Digital Ocean for $5 a month, and even have a video tutorial on how easy it really is, but others are using a shared hosting solution through a company like DreamHost to host their website. If you're already hosting a WordPress website, uploading your mp3s and album art to your website makes a ton of sense, and you can host your podcast for no extra cost because you're already paying for your website. And really, all a podcast is, is some cover art, some mp3s, and an RSS feed that tells the apps where they can download your cover art and mp3s. If you can upload files to your email account, you can upload them to your server. (I'm going to let you in on a little secret, a server, and the cloud, they're just someone else's computer that has files that are always available to the internet. Your personal computer could just as easily be a server. This stuff is Really Simple, you just need someone to show you behind the curtain.)
RSS and Music: A New Paradigm
So what does this have to do with music. The Podcasting 2.0 community has been developing new items a podcaster can add to their RSS feed, things like a Lightning Wallet so now the apps have a place for listeners to send sats. It's just like a link to your mp3 file or artwork, this one just happens to be a link to your Lightning address. The RSS file (podcast feed), is again, just a file the apps can read that has a bunch of links and info for the apps to display to the listener. If you really want to peer behind the curtain, click on this link https://feeds.podcastindex.org/pc20.xml to view what a RSS feed really looks like. Although it looks technical, you can see there's a title for the podcast, and a bunch of items, which are the episodes, and an image with a link. It has all of the info an app needs to display and play the podcast. But, what if instead of episodes, we had songs, and instead of a podcast name, it was an album name? Could we use the same underlying tech to allow musicians to distribute their own music without a record industry, Spotify, or even BandCamp? If it works for podcasters, why couldn't it work for musicians? And that's where we are. By adding a new piece of information to the RSS feed, the apps can now determine if this should be displayed as a podcast or an album. Same technology, different application.
Do It Yourself with Music Side Project
But, you're musicians, you're used to booking your own gigs, hauling your own gear, selling your own merch, and sorting your own brown M&Ms. You should be hosting your own feed. And that's where Music Side Project comes in. It's a tool that helps you to build your feed. You could open a text document and copy and paste all of your own links into a RSS file, and it would work. In fact, Spencer Pearson has created a template feed for just that, and it gives you the ultimate control. Music Side Project holds your hand a little more. It gives you a slick interface to copy and paste your info, and then automatically creates your RSS file to host on your own server. Then all you have to do is let the Podcast Index know where it can find your feed, and next thing you know, you have a published album your fans can listen to, and start sending your real money in real time as they're enjoying your music. And the best part is, Music Side Project is free. By default, I have Music Side Project as a 5% split in the value block, but that is entirely up to you, and you are free to reduce the amount or cut MSP out of the value exchange completely if you don't think it's very valuable. You determine how valuable my work is to you and how much you want to share to encourage me to continue working on the project. That's the beauty of value for value.