How to Build a Website to Sell PDF Sheet Music

By Keith Evans

  • Overview

    The popularity of e-commerce in today's online business environment has people selling everything from professional documents to personal snapshots online. With some basic HTML and PHP knowledge, and access to the Internet, you can also sell other digital items--such as PDF sheet music--online with very little hassle.
  • Obtain an E-Commerce Shopping Cart

  • Step 1

    Visit the OS Commerce website (see Resources below) and follow the download link to obtain a copy of OS Commerce. This software package is an open source e-commerce package, providing all of the functionality you will need for selling electronic documents online. Also, since it is open source software, it is free to download and use.
  • Step 2

    Edit, as necessary, the OS Commerce configuration files in order to make it work with your Web host. Some basic changes that may need to be adjusted, depending on your Web host's requirements, include directory names and file permissions.
  • Step 3

    Upload your entire OS Commerce installation to your Web host using your favorite FTP program. If you do not have an FTP application, you can obtain a freeware version of popular programs like SmartFTP (for Windows) or Cyberduck (for Mac) from the Internet (see Resources below). Be sure you upload the entire OS Commerce application in its original directory structure to prevent file access errors.
  • Configure OS Commerce

    • Step 1

      Follow the instructions included with the OS Commerce distribution to complete the installation process. Generally, completing the process requires using a Web browser to visit the OS Commerce Installation directory you created on your Web server and supplying the requested information. Be sure to define your payment information (such as your Paypal address or merchant account links) under the "Modules" section.
    • Step 2

      Enable delivery of electronic documents by visiting the "Download" page under the "Configuration" section of your OS Commerce administrator interface. Enabling this option will enable your customers to purchase and download your electronic files.
    • Step 3

      Visit the administration interface when you complete the installation and your site is operational, by pointing your Web browser to the admin subdirectory of your OS Commerce installation. Select the "Contents" section under the "Catalog" option, where you will have the opportunity to define categories for your PDF sheet music or other electronic files. You may wish to categorize your music according to genre (Classical, Contemporary, Baroque), by skill level (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced) or even by composer (Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, Floyd Cramer). OS Commerce allows an indeterminate number of categories, so you can categorize your music any way you want.
    • Step 4

      Upload the PDF files you want to sell. To add a product, select the appropriate category and click "New Product." Complete the relevant information about each individual piece of music (including price, product name and description), then save the product. You will see the product listed for sale in your OS Commerce electronic storefront.
    • Step 5

      Upload the PDF sheet music file for the you wish to sell. Generally, the electronic documents you will be selling should be uploaded to the "download" subdirectory of your OS Commerce e-commerce site, though you may have changed this directory setting in your configuration.
    • Step 6

      Click the "Product Attributes" link under the "Catalog" section. In the attributes, select the product you just created, select the attribute of "Download" and apply any other attributes (such as additional cost or discount) you deem necessary. On the next line, supply the exact file name. Only the file name is necessary; you do not need to supply directory information (if, for example, you are selling a PDF of Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony, you might point to a file called "Pathetique.PDF"). You may also set a maximum download count and/or number of days you want your file to remain available, though the default options are sufficient for most usages.
    • Step 7

      Click "Insert" to apply the attributes you just defined. Once these attributes have been updated, your PDF sheet music is available for sale and download through your newly created website.
    • Skill: Moderate
    • Ingredients:
    • Web host account with FTP access and SQL database
    • Merchant account to handle online payments
    • PDF sheet music
    • Basic HTML and PHP knowledge
    • Tip: Since this process is subject to slight changes as new OS Commerce versions are released, be sure to read and follow the installation instructions that come with your OS Commerce distribution.
    • Tip: If you experience difficulty or need assistance with the OS Commerce application, their website offers a robust support section as well as interactive forums.
    • Warning:
    • Be sure to sell only documents you have created yourself or for which you have resell rights.

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