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Classical Music Publishing in Digital Age







It all started when a group of Viennese music publishers and music lovers in the Austro-Hungarian Empire wanted to become independent from the sheet music which was mainly imported from Leipzig. With the support of bankers, Universal Edition Actiengesellschaft was founded in Vienna in 1901. Soon, a comprehensive catalogue of works by both classical and romantic composers came into being and, together with educational literature, these works continue to be a major mainstay of Universal Edition. The publishing history of Universal Edition is to a large extent representative of the musical history of the 20th Century; UE’s catalogue of works comprises around 32,000 pieces.

Today, Universal Edition is a recognized leader in modern classical music. While the group still offers printed scores for interested customers, the main business has transformed into the leasing of rights in musical works to symphonic orchestras, operas, or theatres.

UE has always opened new horizons for music. In the digital age, this means bringing a best-in-class e-commerce experience to the world of classical music. Cooperation with Altamira started in 2016, with the objective of introducing a new universal design as well as to simplify and stabilize the project’s technology infrastructure.


Universal Edition engaged Altamira.ai after seven years of building an e-commerce website that would show composers’ data to the world. The website employed a mix of 14 various technologies and third-party platforms, making support and development of the platform almost totally unmanageable.

What Universal Edition needed was a completely redesigned, streamlined e-commerce solution that would provide for a better experience and combine the various components of their website into a cohesive whole. The motivation behind making the major investment in this project was UE’s commitment to relaunch its digital presence.

Using this commitment as a guiding principle, UE and Altamira.ai came up with a newly refined platform design combining e-commerce, WordPress CMS, and SoundCloud elements, all delivering an exceptional user experience.

Experience Design

In close cooperation with Universal Edition, Altamira conducted a discovery process and developed customer journey maps, and then several UX prototypes that led to a final design concept.


The platform retained its use of Shopware an e-commerce backbone, however, the database model was largely reorganized. This database includes tens of thousands of entries about composers, their works, historical information on performances, blog articles, and content pages from the CMS system. The new structure was integrated into the Shopware platform while upgrading Version 5.

To build the best-in-class front-end, we had to overcome certain limitations of Shopware. Initially, a rest API based on CakePHP was developed to handle the process of registration, changing user settings, and handling shopping processes. The new API also provides communication to the SOLR search core.

Next, the front-end has been changed from obsolete Shopware themes to a more flexible JavaScript Angular framework, along with Angular Universal running on Node.js servers monitored and managed by pm2.

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