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Mission Control / Higher Education and Nonprofit

Designing a Classical Music Website for the Digital Age

Discover how we refreshed a 30-year-old record label’s look and digital capabilities with today’s listeners in mind.

Cedille mission control

By Leigh Flayton



Cedille Records, a nonprofit classical music record label for Chicago-based musicians and composers, was founded in 1989, but its first website wasn’t built until 10 years later, a time by which every serious business, including nonprofits like Cedille, needed a website to thrive in the 21st century.

Cedille recently tasked Casual Astronaut with creating a new-and-improved content hub out of a “clunky and slow” website. They wanted to enrich the site’s user experience, put the organization’s mission front and center — and make visiting the site a lot more fun. Six priorities guided this new iteration of the site:

1. Highlight the mission to spotlight and celebrate Chicago classical musicians. Cedille’s mission is to support Chicago-based performers and composers, and to provide them with a home to see their artistic visions through to fruition. Throughout its 30-year history, Cedille’s audience has grown and, now, the new site makes it easier than ever for this community to learn about local musicians and support their efforts.

2. Offer music lovers a variety of ways to listen, stream and buy. These days, it’s easier than ever to find new music and learn about up-and-coming performers and composers. The new website gives visitors the ability to listen to and buy digital albums via myriad options, including Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify and more. C/A also created a more comprehensive digital archive of Cedille artists and their work.

3. Improve the online store. The checkout process is now much smoother — thanks to a more streamlined, contemporary design and utilitarian experience — and highlights the importance of donations to the organization. With increased entry points for making donations, Cedille hopes for more contributions with purchase as well as new people becoming subscribers.

4. Make finding and discovering music easier. The previous site only enabled searches for albums. But C/A made it so that visitors can get a full range of content — from related albums to artist interviews and profiles — including new, original blog posts and articles. Previously, Cedille created videos and produced podcasts, but these weren’t easily accessible or associated with the related album pages. Now, if visitors like an album or an artist, they can easily access the stories behind the music through the video and podcast library. Also, new releases are now front and center, with easy paths to related artists and releases that might be of interest. Easy-to-use tab navigation helps users get to an artist’s biography, discography, videos, etc., more quickly.

5. Create a more enjoyable experience. Now, with much more high-quality imagery and dramatic uses of color, scale and video, the user experience is imbued with greater visual interest. And the content is more easily accessible. Also, all of the typefaces C/A used on the site were designed by people who work, live or were born in Chicago. So, in the same way that Cedille supports Chicago musicians, they’re elevating local type designers, too.

6. Engage with more artists. The new site offers the opportunity for local performers and composers to get involved and potentially join the Cedille fold. They can easily submit proposals for recording projects they’d like Cedille to consider via a simple online form.

When relaunched earlier this year, the website immediately saw vast improvements in the number of visitors and search traffic, helping Cedille’s audience find the music and musicians they love. In the first month alone, the new site saw vast improvements:

59% increase in sessions
195% increase in pageviews
23% increase in organic search traffic
86% increase in pages per session
41% increase in average session duration
50% decrease in bounce rate
Leigh Flayton Overlay Blue
Leigh Flayton Senior Editor

Leigh is an award-winning editor and writer whose work with C/A focuses on healthcare, education and travel for clients such as Boston Children’s Hospital, the University of Arizona and Niagara Falls USA. Before joining C/A, Leigh founded and edited Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organization’s interna­tional newsletter and, since 2014, she has served as a senior media advisor to the CEO of To The Market Survivor-Made Goods.

Leigh is a Senior Editor at C/A. For nearly 10 years, she was Editor-In-Chief of Arrive magazine. As a writer, she has contributed to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Huffington Post, LENNY and Refinery29, among other publications. Leigh is also an avid tennis player and skier, culture vulture and playwright. She lives in New York City.

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