A WordPress audio plugin adds audio players to your website. You might want to embed MP3 players or music tracks directly in a page or post. Maybe you need to create an archive of podcast recordings. Perhaps you want to create a WordPress audio directory, listing hundreds or even thousands of tracks for people to listen to. You might even want to create an e-commerce audio store, with playable sample tracks listed alongside buy buttons in a table.
This is the complete guide to WordPress audio plugins. Whatever your reason for wanting to add audio or music players to your website, I'll help you to find the right plugin for your needs.
First, I'll share some useful tips on how to create audio players and playlists without any extra plugins. After that, I'll talk about some popular audio plugins that might be useful for your site. We'll look at a range of plugins that work in different ways, so you can choose a plugin (or combination of plugins) that's right for you.
Do You Need a WordPress Audio Plugin?
This might seem like a strange question to ask at the start of an article about WordPress audio plugins, but hear me out. You might be surprised that WordPress can create embedded audio players and playlists without any extra plugins.
I'm a great believer in keeping WordPress sites as simple and lightweight as possible. Plugins are great, but only if you really need them. Before you install a WordPress audio plugin, think about whether the built-in audio options will work for you.
The WordPress Audio Player
WordPress comes with a built-in audio shortcode which lets you embed an audio player directly into any page or post. It's a neat looking player (which may be further styled by your theme), with all the usual controls such as play, pause and fast forward.
It's easy to add an embedded audio player using the built-in audio shortcode:
- Go to the page or post where you want to add the embedded WordPress audio player.
- Click the ‘Add Media' button.
- Upload an MP3 file or other audio file format.
- Click the button to insert the audio file.
- WordPress will cleverly convert the audio file into a functional audio player. You can see and test this in the admin and on the front end of your website.
The WordPress Audio Playlist
As well as the basic audio player, WordPress also has its own audio playlist shortcode. This builds on the audio shortcode by letting you embed entire playlists, consisting of multiple audio or music tracks.
The process to create a WordPress playlist is the same as for adding an audio player:
- Go to any page or post in WordPress, and click the ‘Add Media' button.
- Upload multiple MP3 files or other audio files or songs.
- Click the ‘Create Audio Playlist' tab on the left, and click to select all the tracks that you want to include in the playlist.
- Select any options such as whether or not to show the song title, and click the ‘Create a new playlist' button.
- Again, WordPress will create a fully functional audio or music playlist. Your users can view the track names, select a song, and listen to it directly on your website.
When to Use WordPress Audio Plugins
So, now you know what sort of audio embeds you can create without any extra plugins. If you need to do more than this, then you'll need a dedicated audio plugin.
Here are some examples of the sorts of things you can do with a WordPress audio plugin.
Add Audio Embeds to Post Lists, Category Archives or Shop Pages
The default WordPress audio shortcodes can normally only appear on single pages, posts, or custom post types such as products or events. If your theme comes with an audio post format then you can also use this to show an audio file directly on the blog page or blog category pages. However, that's about it.
There are plugins available to display the built-in WordPress audio and playlist shortcodes – or indeed audio embeds from other plugins – on other parts of your site. These are a good way to make audio more prominent on your site, for example by showing audio embeds directly on your main blog page, lists of posts or custom post types, or even the WooCommerce shop page. I'll tell you more about this in the sections on Posts Table Pro and WooCommerce Product Table.
Create Audio Players with Fancy Styling
As you've seen from the above screenshots, the built-in WordPress audio player is professional but basic-looking.
There are WordPress audio plugins available to create far more eye-catching music players and playlists. For example, you can create audio players in all sorts of colours. You can create playlists with animated sound waves.
These are a good way to jazz up any website featuring audio or music. For example, it's a real benefit if you're designing a WordPress band website and want to draw extra attention to your music.
Keep reading to discover some of the best audio plugins for this.
WordPress Podcast Plugins
If you're a podcaster, then you might need some extra features to publish your podcast archive online. For example, you need to list them in a date-based archive, with embedded podcasts and date-based archives. You might need extra features such as a topics filter or search facility, to help people find podcasts they're interested in.
There are plenty of WordPress podcast plugins that can help with this. I'll recommend some of the best in the section of podcasting.
Music Directories and Online Stores
The built-in WordPress audio player is really just for one-off audio embeds. It's completely useless if you want to list large numbers of audio files in a searchable format. This applies whether you want to create an audio directory for information purposes, or an e-commerce music store selling virtual or downloadable MP3's or audio books.
Either way, you'll need something more fully featured such as a WordPress directory plugin that supports audio. I'll tell you how to do this in the sections about Posts Table Pro and WooCommerce Product Table.
Choosing a WordPress Audio Plugin
Ok, so now you know the reasons why you might want a WordPress audio plugin instead of just the built-in music player and playlists. Next, I'll share the best audio plugins with you.
Plugins for Displaying Audio on Other Parts of Your Website
The first two plugins I'm going to talk about aren't strictly WordPress audio plugins. However, they create some hugely versatile ways of displaying audio in WordPress, and can even be used with many other audio plugins. They therefore fall neatly into this category, even though you can use them for other purposes too.
Posts Table Pro and WooCommerce Product Table are two similar plugins from the same company, Barn2 Media. They both display content from a WordPress website in a structured table layout, with customizable columns and over 50 options to choose from. They can both display audio players and playlists directly in the table view, so that people can listen to music and other audio without having to access a separate page.
The difference between these plugins is that Posts Table Pro lists WordPress posts, pages and other post types such as portfolios, articles or events – whereas WooCommerce Product Table is just for displaying WooCommerce products. They deal with audio embeds in exactly the same way, so I'll discuss them both together.
The neat thing about these plugins is that they can add audio anywhere on your website. The audio players and playlists appear in the table alongside any other information you want to display, such as the title and description. This opens the door to many new ways of displaying audio.
The other benefit is that you can use these plugins with many other WordPress audio plugins. For example, Posts Table Pro works beautifully with the Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin (more on this later). Together, they provide all the podcast features you need, with your audio podcasts listed in a searchable table with filters.
- Include embedded audio players and playlists in lists of blog posts, articles, category archives, events lists, e-commerce shop pages, etc. This is quicker for your users than having to view the single post page each time.
- Create a WordPress audio library or directory containing hundreds of thousands of audio files. Users can use the built-in search box and filters to quickly find the type or audio or music they're looking for based on information such as category, tags and custom taxonomies. They can then listen to an audio sample directly from the list of results.
- Build a WooCommerce audio store with embedded audio samples in the list of products, and Add to Cart buttons alongside. Customers can listen to a sample of each track before deciding to buy. You can do this by embedding individual tracks or entire playlists in the product table. This is a good way to increase your sales of physical CD's or downloadable audio products such as audio books or MP3 music tracks.
WordPress Audio Player Plugins with Extra Styling & Options
The biggest group of WordPress audio plugins offer more advanced ways to embed audio on your website, with extra styling. They also offer more advanced controls for audio playback, as well as the choice of what information to display about each track.
There are lots of audio plugins in this category to choose from. I'll tell you about some of the most popular ones. They all create audio players that can be added to any page or post, or elsewhere using plugins such as Posts Table Pro or WooCommerce Product Table.
This free WordPress audio plugin jazzes up the default WordPress audio shortcode. You can customize the styling of your audio player and add extra options and configurations.
It works by overwriting the default audio player, so the setup instructions are exactly the same. Just go to the plugin settings page, choose your options, and the improved audio players will be used automatically whenever you display audio embeds on your site.
Compact WP Audio Player
Compact WP Audio Player is a nice simple WordPress audio plugin for anyone wanting small, discreet embedded audio players.
It comes with a shortcode that you can use to add an audio player anywhere on your website. The player is incredibly simple and just consists of a small play button in a circle, which changes to a pause button when the track is playing.
ZoomSounds WordPress Wave Audio Player with Playlist is the only premium plugin in this section. The reason you might want to pay for a WordPress audio player plugin is because it comes with some impressive styling options that aren't available in any of the free plugins.
There's a huge choice of skins and extra features, such as visible soundwave animations to accompany your music tracks. You can see all the options on the plugin demo site.
WordPress Podcast Plugins
There are lots of ways to become more successful as a podcaster. As well as learning how to avoid overusing certain words, you can grow your podcast following by listing your podcast archive in an accessible format on your website. There are several WordPress podcast plugins to help with this.
The free Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin offers most of the podcast-related features you're likely to need. It creates a dedicated area of the WordPress admin for storing your podcast episodes. This makes it really easy to upload and host each podcast. There are various extensions that you can use to add extra features, such as analytics and statistical data about who is listening to your podcasts. It also formats your podcasts so you can easily submit them to iTunes – another good way to get more listeners.
You can use Seriously Simple Podcasting to store your podcasts in the WordPress back end. Used alone, the podcasting plugin offers a basic way to display your podcasts. To make them easier to find in the front end, use the Posts Table Pro table plugin. The two plugins work perfectly together and there's even a podcast hosting tutorial on how to set them up from start to finish.
As you can see, there are lots of fantastic ways to publish and display audio in WordPress. You can keep it simple and stick with the built-in WordPress audio player and playlists. If you want more, then there's a good choice of WordPress audio plugins to add extra features. These range from new ways to display audio on your website, to fancy-looking embedded audio players and even ways to manage your podcasts.
Armed with these plugins, you can display music and audio files on your website in a user-friendly way. Whether you want to build a following or sell audio products, you should find a plugin that works for you.
Which WordPress audio plugin do you use on your own website? Are there any good plugins I've missed? Please let me know in the comments below.