Most djs follow a reasonably predictable scheme when they play, grouping the music in tandas of the same orchestra and from the same period. Also some variation of a repeating pattern is common when it comes to the sequence of the tandas.
However, new dancers often don’t know this (doesn’t anyone teach about how a milonga works?), and they don’t know the music. And as the incentives to learn it all alone are not as they were in the old days in Buenos Aires, many djs provide an extra service to their community in displaying what they are playing. Or it could be a device to get to work in peace and not have too many questions. Personally I enjoy having people come over and chat about the music.
Ms. Hedgehog’s recently posted about a nice book used for displaying the orchestra currently playing and/or the nature of the upcoming tanda (pitured above, photo from tangotandas.com. If you like the book idea, this could be a good place to start, as making one that looks as good yourself will take some time and effort.
The problem with this approach, as seen from the dj, is that it adds one more task that could distract from the primary activity, which is selecting the best music for dancing. Also, being a geek, I prefer automation where possible, and it is not quite robust with exceptions to the general rules, playing other genres occasionally, maybe, mixing tandas etc.
I have previously used a screensaver showing orchestra, singer, title and genre for the previous, current and next track, making the information available to interested parties if I were away from the computer, and it would be easy to project the same information or add an extra monitor (However I never wanted to shell out the extra cash let along add another piece of heavy equipment to bring, being mostly a volunteer.) If I ever set it up again, I will detail the setup in a separate post. In short I had foobar2000 write a text file with the relevant information, and samurize pick it up and display it as a screensaver.
On the tangodj mailing list a nice LED display was discussed as an elegant solution, which I would prefer to projection, but it is sort of expensive, and I don’t get that many questions, so for me it is overkill, and it probably requires a little work/programming to get it working with my current setup.
Using a separate monitor, I think using a web server would be an easy solution, and that opens up other possibilities as well, now that smart phones are finally taking off, lots of people have small computers in their pocket or purse, and could easily check a web page displaying what is currently playing and other relevant information. last.fm is a very simple solution, but it doesn’t display what is coming next. Web page, twitter or whatever, as long as you get the address distributed to the people around, you are basically there. You could print the url or qr on the ticket or the menu or something. The obvious downside is if everybody ends up sitting with their nose in their phone all night.
Of course, a real milonguero already knows what’s playing…