How to Sell Digital Downloads

As musicians, we tend to use 3rd party sites to handle everything for us, host our website, host our music, sell our music, capture emails, host our videos, manage our fans/community and so on. While this is a very easy way to get going, it is fraught with potential problems, which boil down to a lack of control. We can see this with the latest announcement by Ning.com, where they were no longer providing free communities. Other sites that offer music hosting and fan funding have gone under as well.

I have used 3rd party shopping carts such as 1shoppingcart in the past and they’ve been great to get you up and running really quickly. They handle all the technical details without you having to install anything and many sites like 1shoppingcart handle digital downloads.

Others prefer to use websites that allow you to sell downloads but you have to send them to their site, or possible add a widget to your site. They usually take a cut of each transaction. This is also an option but keep it mind many of these sites go out of business and you end up losing all your transactions (and often email addresses of those who bought). Some sites are even file specific – like music sites allowing you to sell mp3s (but not zip files, videos, PDFs, etc).

One of the concerns with digital downloads is that somebody can pass the URL around to others. So many people try to provide a unique and temporary URL to the buyer to avoid this problem. While this is a good idea, there’s nothing stopping from people from sharing the actual digital file!

Over time and with the continuing advancements in open source software, I’ve opted to set up my own shopping cart. You can also avoid many ongoing monthly fees this way. This is pretty easy thanks to WordPressand the e-shop plugin for wordpress. Free plugins are now installable right from the WordPress admin panel so you don’t even have to download anything! If you like the plugin you should consider donating to the creator.

After I set up the shopping cart settings (paypal email address, ‘from’ email, etc) I was looking around to find out where I set up my products. It turns out that is done on a new WordPress page. So upload your file (that will be purchased) first, so that it is available on your new WordPress page (there’s a Product Entry section under the blank page area). A dropdown will be available showing all your downloadable files. If you want to give customers a few files at once, I suggest putting them in a zip file.

Here’s a tutorial on setting it up. I offer consulting services so feel free to contact me if you need help!

I offer consulting services so feel free to contact me if you need help!

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