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Building a Record Label Website with WordPress

I started a small record label so that a friend and I could publish our music. We’re hobbyists with lots of ideas, and just needed some way to get our stuff out there, publish it, and make it official.

repine records image

And that led me to attempting to build a record label website with WordPress.

Why WordPress?

Well, I had coded the first version of the record label website with Laravel, customizing it to be exactly what I needed it to be. It was simple, yet powerful for what I was trying to do with the label at that point. It allowed people to browse artists, releases and make purchases. It worked.

However, running a website on Laravel (and adding new features) required web development time that I just don’t have available anymore. So I decided to move to the CMS that all my other websites are running on, both for familiarity and ease of use. That would be WordPress.

I figured, hey, I can probably get this new site up in a week or less. I said this even though I was trying to push WordPress to do something I never have pushed it to do before.

And I was right. The new website came together very quickly. Check out repinerecords.com to see this website in action. Here’s how I did it.

Web Hosting

I already had a Linux web hosting account from KnownHost, good to go. The host just needs to be able to support the typical WordPress requirements.

SSL Certificate (Security!)

I already had an SSL certificate installed as well. This is important, as I will be processing payments on the record label website. I had gone for the easy option of an Organization Validated Essential SSL from Namecheap, nice and cheap.

With the web server and SSL ready to go, I mostly just needed to focus on the WordPress site itself.

Payment Processing

Of course I will need to process credit cards if somebody wants to place an order. I had been using Stripe for the first version of the site running on Laravel, and there are Stripe options built into MarketPress. I can use the same merchant account, nothing new to set up. Easy enough.

Which WordPress Shopping Cart?

I wanted to offer both digital download products and physical products on the website, so I needed to find a shopping cart that could handle both options while also working inside WordPress. I didn’t want to have my shopping cart hosted outside the WordPress site, just to keep it all contained and more seamless in management.

I did a bunch of research here, I was basically just looking at which shopping carts would offer both digital and physical products, as well as all the other typical stuff I’ll need from a shopping cart system.

My research mostly led me to comparing MarketPress and WooCommerce.

There’s tons of articles out there comparing the two, and I have not used WooCommerce, except to demo it shortly, so I’ll not get into comparing the two here.

Deciding to Use MarketPress

I ended up choosing MarketPress. Why?

A few reasons:

  • I can buy one license for WPMU DEV and get access to MarketPress, plus a bunch of other plugins, for any of my WordPress sites, of which I have close to 40 right now. That was a huge plus for me, just the fact that I already manage so many other WordPress sites – and I can now use MarketPress and any of the other WPMU DEV plugins on any of them (and plan to).
  • MarketPress appears to be designed to work with pretty much any WordPress theme, and after using it I can appreciate how they do it, it really can be incorporated into pretty much any theme, as long as the theme is coded in a way that doesn’t break standard WordPress development conventions.
  • WooCommerce is free, but it looks like the costs of the add-ons can stack up quickly if the need for add-ons arises. And based on many of the article I read about using WooCommerce, the need for add-ons will arise. Plus, based on what I saw, I don’t think the licenses for many of the plugins can be used across multiple sites with only one purchase.

If I only owned and managed one website, and it was an e-commerce site, I might look at WooCommerce. But then again I might be looking at non-WordPress e-commerce options too, of which there are many. However the fact that I manage so many WordPress sites and can make use of WPMU DEV with many of them makes it a good option for me.

Selecting a WordPress Theme

This is the part that I which I could have a re-do. A mulligan. A fresh start. Another chance to start from the beginning and make a more sound decision.

In my haste to build the website as quickly as possible, I settled on a WordPress theme before properly testing out all the features of MarketPress and WooCommerce.

If I had fully investigated both platforms first, especially MarketPress, I could have saved myself some grief finding a theme that I would find workable for what I wanted to do.

I purchased the Shopkeeper theme from ThemeForest, it looks pretty slick.

Immediately out of the gates I was misunderstanding how much the e-commerce themes on ThemeForest are tuned for WooCommerce. I found out quickly that a lot of the stuff I saw on the sales page could really only seemingly be done if I was integrating with WooCommerce. Bummer. Plus Shopkeeper wasn’t behaving the way the docs explained it should, and I had to wait around for a few days for support to get back to me and then longer for a fix to be released.

I’m not even going to talk here about the other WordPress theme that I bought (thinking I’d have to ditch Shopkeeper) while waiting around for Shopkeeper support to reply and then to release a fix.

I guess one positive was that the Shopkeeper theme came bundled with Visual Composer page designer for WordPress. I hadn’t used that up until now. I have found that I really like that plugin after using it for laying out my pages.

Theme Setup

I used Shopkeeper to the best of my ability to set up the bulk of my site. I actually ended up just using basic page templates and then using features within Visual Composer to create the page layouts. This is the part where I realized I wasn’t really getting much use out of the cool Shopkeeper visual elements that I saw on the sales page. It made me sad, and then I moved on quickly as people with a short attention span do.

I also relied on MarketPress short codes to create the product grids throughout the website. Once again, not using any Shopkeeper theme features to display products.

So yeah, I mostly relied on Visual Composer and MarketPress to do all the cool stuff on my website, and Shopkeeper is pretty much supplying the headers and footers.

Theme Regrets

At this point I have had the realization that I could probably have built a pretty nice looking website using just one of the default WordPress themes, Visual Composer and MarketPress. I wouldn’t have known that, though, before trying to cobble something together in the way I had.

Oh well, maybe version two of the website will get a little more tightened up in the WordPress theme and theme integration department.

I have more than a few options in the WordPress admin that just aren’t used at all due to picking a theme that was probably a little bit of overkill for use with MarketPress.

It’s hard to complain because the version of the website I have out there right now looks pretty much how I need it to look and it functions how I need it to function. I’m just chapped that I couldn’t use some of the bells and whistles that I paid for when buying the WordPress themes from ThemeForest.

Maybe I’ll have to give the Upfront theme system a look since I’m subscribed to WPMU DEV now.

MarketPress Usage & Integration

So what did I actually use from the MarketPress package?

  • I set up the basic store pages that are required, such as checkout, cart, order status and stuff like that – this was very easy to do.
  • I input the details for my Stripe account for payment processing.
  • I created a flat shipping rate for all orders (for now).
  • I entered a bunch of MP3 albums as products to purchase as digital downloads.
  • I added a t-shirt with some sizing options.
  • I configured the product pages to show the info I wanted them to show, simplifying the layouts.
  • I set up a home page that lists out products that I designated as featured.
  • I added some CSS to push the slide-in cart down on the page a little bit, since it was covering up stuff in the header.
  • I added a list of all album releases for each artist on artist pages.

And that was about it. I probably spent most of my time inputting the products and uploading all the files for the products. The actual setup of store features and integrating into pages was almost too easy. I was pleasantly surprised.

On-Page MP3 Playlists in WordPress

This was another nice surprise to me. I have been using WordPress for a while, but it’s been a while since I tried to use it to publish MP3 playlists.

Since I was building a website for a record label, I wanted the users to be able to listen to the releases before they buy. The whole album needs to be listenable before buying, maybe at a slightly lower audio quality, in accordance with my principals.

I figured I would have to spend time finding a WordPress plugin to be able to embed an MP3 player with a list of tracks to play on each album page. This actually ended up being easy.

WordPress now has built in audio playlists. All I needed to do to embed a whole album on a page as an audio player was upload properly tagged MP3 files to the site through the media library and embed them as a playlist using the media embed options.

All this is built into WordPress, I didn’t need a plugin. Perfect.

Conclusion

I think I’ve covered most of my journey here. I’m pretty happy with what I accomplished, and I was skeptical I was going to be able to get a decent record label website running on WordPress. The e-commerce and MP3 playlists I figured would be the toughest challenge. Those two things ended up being the easy part.

The tough part was finding a WordPress theme that does what I want it to do, and losing time to buggy WordPress themes and waiting for support. But hey, still faster than coding the theme myself.

 

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