Easy Digital Downloads Membership Sites

Sell with WP | Contributor Pippin WilliamsonFrom the Editor: This is a guest post from Pippin Williamson, founder of Pippin’s Plugins and Easy Digital Downloads. He’s also contributed to various WordPress projects, such as WP eCommerce and bbPress. Pippin’s specialities includes remembering every single Easy Digital Downloads function off the top of his head and churning out great plugin development tutorials at PippinsPlugins.com.


Easy Digital Downloads is the only of the major e-commerce plugins that is built specifically to handle digital products, and digital products only. With its focus on digital goods, Easy Digital Downloads is also exceptionally well suited for membership sites that are selling access to digital content.

The core Easy Digital Downloads plugin, which is free and can be downloaded from WordPress.org, will handle the majority of the functionality needed for membership sites, including the product creation, the shopping cart, and the payment processing, but in order to utilize features such as recurring billing or protected content, you will need to purchase a few extensions.

To setup a full membership site, you will need the following extensions:

  • Recurring Payments – For creating recurring payment profiles and tracking member expiration dates and status
  • Content Restriction – For restricting content of posts / pages to verified buyers and active subscribers

Out of the box, Easy Digital Downloads will allow you to process payments through PayPal Standard. If you wish to use something else, you will need to purchase an add-on payment gateway. Note: not all payment gateways support recurring payments. The payment gateways that currently support Recurring Payments are:

Assuming you are going to use Stripe or Paymill, your total cost for setting up a membership site with Easy Digital Downloads will be a little under $200. If you are using PayPal Standard, your cost will be a little under $150.

Creating Memberships

With Easy Digital Downloads, memberships can be created in two different ways:

  1. One unique product per membership level (great for topic-based memberships)
  2. One product for all membership levels with a price option for each level (great for tiered memberships)

To use separate products for each membership level, add a product by going to Downloads > Add New then fill in the standard title, content, category, and tag options. When you get to the Pricing Options section, you will not enable Variable Prices and just enter a single price. You will also select your recurring options here:

EDD Pricing Options

For recurring products, there are several options:

  • Recurring: Yes or No. This simply sets whether the product should create recurring payment profiles for the customer when purchased.
  • Period: This determines the time period for the recurring payment profile. If you choose Monthly, for example, the customer will be automatically billed each month, starting from the date they sign up.
  • Times: This determines the total number of times the customer should be billed. Setting this to 0 means the customer will be billed indefinitely until cancelled. If you set it to 5, for example, the customer will be billed 5 times and then automatically suspended.
  • Signup Fee: This is an optional signup fee that you can charge the customer. If, for example, you want the first month to cost $100 but all following months to only cost $20, you would set the main price to $20 and then the Signup Fee to $80. You can also set this to a negative amount in order to discount the first payment period.

Once a customer has gone through the checkout and (assuming they are paying with PayPal), they will see a screen like this:

PayPal Recurring Checkout

If you wish to use a single product for memberships, you can enable Variable Prices and then setup the recurring options for each price separately:

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 1.26.39 PM

If you are setting up a membership site where each subscription level gives the same level of access to content (so only the price / period differs), it is recommended that you setup the memberships using variable prices.

Content Restriction

Restricting content to paid subscribers requires the Content Restriction extension, which starts at $29.

Content Restriction option When Content Restriction is active, a drop down menu will be added to the Publish box of all posts, pages, and public custom post types that allows you to restrict the contents of the page to verified buyers of any EDD product. When Recurring Payments is active, it will also require that the customer has a still-active subscription in order to view the content. This menu also allows you to restrict content to buyers of a specific price option for sites using Variable Prices.

If an active subscriber views a restricted page, they will see the content as normal. Non active subscribers will see a notice that they need to purchase the product / subscription level in order to gain access.

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 4.49.20 PM

You can also restrict content using a short code provided by Content Restriction. This is useful for when you only want to restrict a portion of the content on a page.

The short code is used like this:
[edd_restrict id="34"]This content is restricted to buyers of the product with an ID of 34[/edd_restrict]

You can also provide multiple product IDs if you wish to allow buyers of any of the products access:
[edd_restrict id="34,56"]This content is restricted to buyers who have purchased product ID 34 or 56[/edd_restrict]

The short code also accepts a message that you can use to display a message to users that do not have access:
[edd_restrict id="34,56" message="Please register an account in order to view this content"]This content is restricted to buyers who have purchased product ID 34 or 56[/edd_restrict]

Editor’s note: Content restriction can also restrict bbPress forums to users who have purchased a specific product, which is great for those of you selling themes and software. Entire forums can be restricted, or you can restrict content based on topic. This can also be used for those of you selling tutorials or support services, as well as private membership forums.

Recurring Billing

As stated previously, subscription billing is handled by the Recurring Payments extension for EDD, which is $83. Billing options are flexible, as customers can be charged based on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly cycle. You can determine the number of cycles for the subscription, or can create unlimited subscriptions (until canceled).

Recurring payments supports sign-up fees as well as discounts. Customers can also have more than one subscription so that they can pay for posts a la carte, or purchase multiple topic-based memberships.

You can’t create membership discounts with Recurring Payments or Content Restriction. However, you could achieve this by using EDD along with Restrict Content Pro and EDD Restrict Content Pro Member Discounts instead.


All Easy Digital Downloads extension purchases include full support directly from the EDD development team. If you have any questions that were not answered with this guide, you are more than welcome to open a ticket in the EDD support forums.

Editor’s note: If you want more information the support that EDD offers, check out this section of our comprehensive Easy Digital Downloads review.

Looking for More info on Easy Digital Downloads Membership Sites?

Here are some other great resources that you can check into if you’re creating an Easy Digital Downloads membership site:


  1. Thanks Pippin! I’ve been thinking about EDD and memberships sites lately as I’ve been planning one of my next projects. This answered a number of questions that I knew would come up as soon as I started putting my plans into action. Great timing!

  2. Thanks for this post, Pippin! I’ve been evaluating many membership-and-download-related solutions full-time for over 4 weeks, which has been mentally grueling! After all I’ve learned through this process, EDD/RCP has risen to the top with just a couple competitors, so I’m getting close to finding the solution and this post helps greatly in making my final decision, so the timing is great…which I appreciate! (On a related note, I suggest including the info you’ve described in this post back on the EDD/RCP sites, which may have helped me avoid surfing elsewhere for it and finding it here—thereby leaving your site(s), which could’ve led me to a competitor instead!)

    You stated above, “You can’t create membership discounts with Recurring Payments or Content Restriction. However, you could achieve this by using EDD along with Restrict Content Pro and EDD Restrict Content Pro Member Discounts instead.”

    Member discounts is something that I may want to offer sooner or later. Regardless, I definitely want EDD’s add-ons for Event Tickets, Simple Shipping, AWeber (i.e.- full support of AWeber, not just CSV via manual labor as appears to be the case with RCP), etc. But I’m confused: to have such EDD-only add-ons and Member Discounts, should I get EDD and integrate RCP into it, vice versa, or…?

    Although EDD w/ Recurring Payments, Content Restriction, and the other add-ons that I mention is clear, I guess I don’t understand if or where “RCP-proper” integrates while leaving EDD add-ons functional. I guess I’m thinking that it’s either EDD or RCP with respective add-ons “running a site,” but not both (again, if my main concern is having such EDD add-ons).

    Please advise what configuration of EDD, RCP, or both that it sounds like I need—THANKS!

    1. Hi Tim, I’m sure Pippin will have more to add about nitty gritty details on how RCP integrates with EDD, but they’ll both work together and you can still use EDD add-ons for all of your EDD products (see this), which seems to be your main concern. It sounds like you may want to lean towards RCP + EDD rather than using EDD Content Restriction if you know you need membership-level discounts (it sounds like you’re heading towards offering membership-level discounts for tickets maybe?) so that you have the infrastructure for this up front. Both are RCP and Content Restriction great solutions and will allow you to use EDD for your virtual products, so it will depend on how you want to restrict membership content and if you need discounts that integrate memberships with the rest of your store.

      Pippin, would billing for subscription / membership purchases be handled through RCP or EDD if you’re using both? I’m thinking about gateway integrations, and if you’d need integrations for both plugins if you did set up EDD + RCP for this kind of thing.

      1. Excellent info, Beka…thanks!

        The link you provided mentions, “This is an extension that integrates (EDD and RCP) and allows you to create automated discounts that give your paid subscribers a special discount on all Easy Digital Downloads purchases,” which makes the EDD-RCP coexistence/integration pretty clear.

        By the way, you perceive correctly, Beka—Events is one (but not the only) thing that I’ll want to discount for members.

        And, just in case it bears on things, I will want to use Stripe for payments, and the reason I’ll need EDD’s Simple Shipping add-on is to allow me sell some physical items such as logo merchandise (swag, polo shirts, etc.,…which are also things I’ll want to discount for members).

        Thank you both and any other Commenters in advance for further info to help me make a decision ASAP!

        1. No problem :) . I love Stripe as well and it does have integrations available with both RCP and EDD, so it shouldn’t be a problem to use that for memberships, tickets, or any other products. I’d love to hear more about the setup process when your final decision is made and your experiences with whatever plugins you decide to use. Thanks for stopping by!

        2. Based on what you have told us, it sounds like both yours and Beka’s conclusions are spot on.

          I’d be happy to answer any other questions to clear up anything that is unclear :)

        3. This is all great stuff to know…thanks both of you!

          One last thing:

          Pippin, I’m curious what your specific answer is to Beka’s question and scenario above, “Pippin, would billing for subscription / membership purchases be handled through RCP or EDD if you’re using both? I’m thinking about gateway integrations, and if you’d need integrations for both plugins if you did set up EDD + RCP for this kind of thing.”

          Your thoughts on this?

        4. Both plugins handle their own billing. Subscribers signing up for a membership through RCP would pay via RCP’s payment system. Customers purchasing EDD products would pay via EDD’s payment system.

          Both plugins have their own set of payment gateways, though EDD’s list is much larger.

        5. Makes sense and was a scenario I thought likely, but it’s great to have clarification here!

          Thanks to both of you for such quick replies…and over the weekend, even! I was dreading that the reply thread would be drawn out to happening today and tomorrow, thereby pushing out my ability to make a decision a couple more days, which is a couple days too long at this point of my weeks-long research.

          I appreciate both of your attention to this matter greatly!

  3. Is there any way to restrict content through PHP similar to the shortcode? The only way I know how right now is making the whole block of content into a variable, then doing do_shortcode([edd_stuff]), which is a pain.


  4. The only thing am worried is about selling the Services through EDD on Recurring basis.
    There will be no Articles not even downloads.
    Can this be achieved via EDD & Recurring both?

    Am quite interested to sell Support Options for my Business on a Subscription basis.
    Since the Product is completely Virtual am not sure, EDD will workout.
    Any guidance?

    1. Hey Kamran, I think EDD would be a good choice for this, but I’d recommend using the Sell Downloads as Services plugin (free) so that customers won’t see a “no files attached” notice on purchase receipts. Once you have that thrown into the mix, it should be a great option to sell a support subscription :) .

      1. Hey Beka,
        I had figured that out earlier today. I have another query..
        There’s another plugin which is Gravity Forms Checkout (Paid), this helps to use the Power of Gravity forms & payment are all processed via Gravity gateways.
        Point is, will the Recurring subscription of EDD will work through this procedure?
        Do you have nay idea over this?

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