WordPress Online Song Request Submission Form

**NOTE** This article assumes you have a working knowledge of WordPress administration.

Putting my karaoke songlist online for guests to search was one step, but I also wanted to make things even more efficient by setting up a system for singers to send me their song requests online rather than on slips of paper. There are online cloud services that offer this feature, but since I’m just hosting karaoke for personal friends and family (not professionally), it didn’t make sense to spend money on a service to do that – especially if I could find a way to do it in WordPress.

I knew I could probably use a contact form plug-in for WordPress for the form, but the challenge I faced was that I wanted guests to be able to see the song information in the table while they filled out the song request form. I could put the form above or below the table, but that would mean scrolling up and down in the page every time they needed to read information from the table again. Ideally, I would be able to put the contact form in the sidebar of the WordPress page, but not every contact form plugin has a sidebar widget feature.

I found a few contact forms that did include a sidebar feature, but those I tested didn’t allow me to customize the form to get the fields I wanted in the form: Karaoke Singer(s) Name, Song Title, Disc ID, and Track #. Most contact forms assume you want a customer to schedule an appointment with you or submit a question through your site and the fields they had were all wrong for my needs.

Then I found a plug-in called Shortcode Widget. This plug-in adds a new widget in WordPress Administrator that lets you add a ‘Shortcode Text’ widget to the sidebar. This is similar to the standard text widget, except this one works with shortcodes, something that is used in most WordPress plug-ins. The standard text widget works with HTML, but not with shortcodes.

The first contact form I tried with the Shortcode Widget didn’t show up at all in the sidebar. I knew the Shortcode Widget was working since the test the developer suggests worked for me on my site. So, I switched to the Fast Secure Contact Form plug-in. This one still had a few fields I don’t want that create by default when I set up a new form, but I was able to disable the fields I didn’t want to use (it wouldn’t let me delete these.) Then I added new fields that had the labels and formats I needed, and plugged the shortcode for this form into the Shortcode Widget. Voila! As you can see in the sidebar to the right of this post, I now have a working song request submission form.

Now there are a few more details that make this form viable. I set up an email account that is dedicated to just song requests, so when I receive new requests from singers, they won’t get buried under other email. I set this account up in the email app on my smartphone, so even if I can’t get internet on my laptop during the party, I will be able to keep up with new song requests using my phone.

Having the song requests submitted this way has several benefits:

  • It makes it easy to keep track of what order requests were submitted.
  • It minimizes the chance that a request will be lost.
  • The guests can send in their requests from their seat and not have to walk around whoever is currently singing to turn in a request.
  • Using required fields on the form ensures users fill out all of the fields you need. Of course, they could put fake data in, but hopefully that won’t happen.

That’s it – setting this up was very easy once I found the right plug-ins. That’s pretty much true of most things in WordPress. It’s all about finding the right plug-in. Leave a comment on this post if you have any questions about this.

 

WordPress Online Songlist Database

**NOTE** This article assumes you have a working knowledge of WordPress administration.

It seemed that my printed karaoke songlist books went out of date nearly as soon as I printed new ones. Once I bought new CD+G discs or MP3+G tracks, those printed lists were incomplete. This could be worked around by creating a ‘New Songs’ section in the songbooks, but wasn’t ideal.

Now that most people have smartphones and tablets, putting my songlist database online so my guests could search it from their own phones makes sense to me. I’ll still keep one or two printed books, but I won’t worry so much about not keeping the main sections updated anymore. I looked at some of the online songlist services, but all of them I saw had a subscription price. I figured if I had to pay, $19 annually wasn’t bad, but decided to try to find a way to do it on a WordPress site first.

I looked at a lot of plug-ins and never found one specifically for karaoke, but I did find just what I needed in the TablePress plug-in. This lets you create a database table in WordPress Administrator and then you can plug that table into a post or page on your WordPress site. This plug-in is quick and easy to install and configure.

I already had all of my songs listed in an Excel (XLSX) spreadsheet. This was perfect, since all I had to do was import them into a new table in TablePress. TablePress accepts several different formats for import, although some are listed as ‘experimental’.

  • CSV – Character-Separated Values
  • HTML – Hypertext Markup Language
  • JSON – JavaScript Object Notation
  • XLS – MicroSoft Excel 97-2003 (experimental)
  • XLSX – MicroSoft Excel 2007-2013 (experimental)

Even though my data was in XLSX, I decided to save it as CSV and import the CSV file, since XLSX is in the experimental stage. For this table, I wanted to be the data was good. Saving an XLSX file to CSV is as easy as clicking File and Save As, then choosing the CSV format, and it only took a moment to do this.

TablePress has options to add the imported data as a new table, replace an existing table, or to append the data as new rows to an existing table. For this initial import, I chose the option to add as a new table. The import was quick and easy.

I plan to keep my songlist spreadsheet updated every time I buy new karaoke songs for a few reasons. First, I want to keep one or two printed songbooks around. Second, it is easier to add the data to my spreadsheet, then save it and import it to TablePress when I am done. I will use the option to replace the existing table when I update in the future, so that I don’t have to save the new tracks separately. I think it will be easier to just replace all of the data.

Once I had my data imported into a new table, I simply copied the shortcode that TablePress provides for that table and pasted the shortcode into a WordPress page I had created to display my songlist on the site. As soon as I published the page, the table was immediately available for users.

By default, the users see a paginated table that shows ten rows at a time. They can change that option to show more rows on a single page if they wish. They can use the arrow buttons under the table to scroll through the pages. Clicking any of the top header row items will sort the table by that header. If they click ‘Artist’, it will sort the rows by artist, etc. It also provides a search tool in the upper right area just above the table which can be used to quickly find a value. So, if a singer wants to find all of the Fleetwood Mac songs I have, they only need to type that phrase or part of it into the search field.

Once I found the right plug-in, setting up my online songlist was really easy and it will be a cinch to keep it updated. Now everyone with a smartphone or tablet at my karaoke shows can have their own songbook instead of waiting their turn for a printed one. If the room is dark, they don’t have to worry about trying to read a book since their device screen is lit. And they can find the songs they want quickly so they can spend more time having fun with the other guests rather than sitting and flipping through the pages of a printed book all night.

I hope this helps you if you are trying to set up your own online song book. If you have any questions for me on this, just leave a comment on this post.

 

Cloud Karaoke Players

There are several sites where you can sing karaoke songs online, and many of these are free. I haven’t personally used any of these since I have my own karaoke system at home, but they do look fun. Note that while many are free, there are some that charge for their service. I posted some of each below.

Cloud Karaoke Songbooks

If you want to host your karaoke songbook online, there are several sites that offer this service. I haven’t found a free one, so I imagine this is something more useful to a professional karaoke host who is earning revenue. Since I just use my karaoke system for my own parties and those of friends and family, I couldn’t justify spending $10 or more dollars every month on an online songbook service.

Instead, I have installed a WordPress plugin that allows me to put a database table in a page and make it searchable, sortable, and very friendly to the users. Because it is WordPress, it is also compatible with the browsers on most smartphones and tablets, so my friends can use their own devices to find songs they want to sing either before or during the party.

I also wanted a way people can digitally submit their song requests. Some of the online songbook services offer that too, but I opted to use another WordPress plugin for this. I customized fields in the a contact form plugin to make it work as a song request submission form. I use a special email account I set up just for song requests so it is easy to find them during a party. You can see it in the sidebar on the right. This will help me keep track of the order I receive requests in and also help prevent one from being misplaced.

I’ll still have at least one printed songbook and some paper for written requests at parties, just in case, but I plan to primarily use the online systems I set up. I’ll post some instructions soon on how I did this for those of you who want to replicate it.

If you really just want to use an established online songbook service, I’ve listed some below. Although I have looked at their features, I have not personally used any of these. Note that the links below all lead to external sites owned by other people. I will add to this list as I find others. Where possible, I’ll post the pricing for each, but note that these prices were accurate at the time of this posting and may have changed since then. I have no control over their pricing and will try to update these periodically, but you should check with these sites to see what their current prices are.

  • SongbooksDB – This one offers an online songbook database and online song request submissions. As of 02/07/2015, the lowest cost here is 11.99 monthly for the service that offers only the online songbook with advertising. Their highest priced option is $29 monthly and includes both the online songbook database and online song requests with no advertising.
  • Songbooks Live! This service offers only the online songbook database, but is pretty reasonable at only $19 annually (as of 02/07/2015.)

Microphone Stands

If you really want your singers to feel like rock stars, you’ll want microphone stands. Plus, some people get nervous and find it comforting to have the microphone stand to fiddle with.

I got two of these Pyle stands, and they are good, but when I first got them, the microphone holder tilted all the way down every time I put a microphone in it. The weight of the microphone was too much for it. I took two flat-head screwdrivers and tightened the screw in this area and both have worked very well since.

Microphone Windscreens

There are three main reasons I wanted windscreens for my microphones:

  1. Using a different color windscreen on each microphone makes it easy to tell them apart when I need to adjust them on the mixer.
  2. People who are drinking often spittle on the microphones. The windscreens are cheap and easier to clean than the microphones themselves.
  3. Sometimes we do karaoke outside on my family’s dock overlooking the bayou. In Florida. Near the Gulf of Mexico. Where it is windy…

On Stage Foam Ball-Type Mic Windscreen, Red


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3.5mm to dual 1/4-inch cables

My system requires two cables that have a 3.5mm plug on one end leading to dual 1/4-inch plugs on the opposite end. One is to connect my laptop’s line out (headset) port to the 1/4-inch stereo inputs on the Behringer Sound Mixer. The other is to connect the stereo 1/4-inch output ports to a 3.5mm port on a speaker. This cable was inexpensive and sounds great!

Microphone Cables

Many professional microphones do not come with cables, so you must buy them separately. Most of my karaoke shows are in living rooms or backyards, so I wanted a long cable, but they don’t normally have to reach too far. I’m using these with my Behringer wired microphones.

 

HDMI Splitter

I run my karaoke using software on my laptop. My laptop has an HDMI port, and it can provide an extended desktop experience with that port to one HDMI output – a monitor or a television. Ideally, you want to be able to run the karaoke show tools on the laptop screen and display just the show itself on the secondary monitor. It’s even better if you can display the show on multiple screens simultaneously so that one monitor is turned to the singers who are currently performing and another is facing the audience, so they can see the lyrics too and also so the audience can see the marquee announcing the upcoming singers and other news.

I chose an HDMI splitter I found at Amazon. You want a splitter, and not a switch box for this. The difference is that a switch usually has several inputs but only one output. The splitter has only one input, but several outputs, so you can show the same video on multiple monitors and televisions. This one has four outputs, and was very moderately priced.

 

Cart

I wanted to be able to take my karaoke system to other people’s houses so that my friends, family and I can enjoy karaoke at any party we want to, no matter who is throwing the party. This cart is great for carrying most of the equipment I need. It holds my Behringer sound mixer, both wired microphones, a small speaker, two binders with several hundred karaoke CDs, and all the cables I need. What’s even better is that it is on wheels and has a lid to keep everything dry if it is raining when I am taking everything to and fro. Now, there are some holes in the sides that are used as handles, so I strongly recommend putting anything that you need to make sure doesn’t get damp in plastic bags before putting them in this cart. The telescoping handle is tall enough to be comfortable when pulling the cart along, but it pushes right back down into the side for neat storage. Also, the entire cart collapses flat if you want to put it away. The lid snaps onto the folded cart body. This is absolutely perfect for what I need.

Qube Cart XL -Black


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