Jelli's crowd-sourced radio opens up to the U.S., Australia

Jelli.net is one of the more interesting Web radio services around, due mostly to the fact that its crowd-sourced playlist will now be playing in terrestrial FM radio stations too.

Jelli.net, a Total Request Live-esq Internet radio station, is coming out of beta on Monday night and is expected to announce that it's inked a syndication deal with Triton Digital Media that will get it played in actual terrestrial FM radio stations across the U.S. beginning next year.

The service revolves entirely around a playlist of songs that's managed by users in real time. Users can vote songs up or down before they ever hit the air, as well as when they're playing. If enough people downvote a song while it's in the middle of playing, it's pulled before it even finishes, something that can be either deeply satisfying or disappointing to those listening.

Jelli let susers vote on tracks to be played next, and are able to yay or nay a video out of playing live on air. Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Up until about four months ago this music had existed only on the Web, where Jelli streams as a 24/7 radio station. This changed in June when Jelli nabbed a two-hour spot Sunday nights on Live 105 KITS, a local San Francisco FM radio station. The company says the trial run has been such a success it made it much easier to sell the idea to other stations. And sold it has.

Jelli's deal with Triton will put Jelli's user-picked station on FM radio, twice a day on around 4,500 stations across the U.S. This won't start until early next year though. In the meantime, the company has done a deal with Australian media broadcasting company Austereo to get Jelli played as a daily show, both in FM and digital radio beginning next month in five Australian cities.

One very important detail here is that with all of these affiliate stations across the world, the playlist will continue to be controlled by Jelli users at large. This means the playlist can change drastically based on who's awake and where they're from.

Also worth noting is that Jelli users are not going to be working off the same catalog they do when it's streaming versus when it's on a real radio station. About 10 minutes before Jelli makes the FM switchover, the catalog changes to broadcast-friendly songs, which include things like the shortened and/or censored version of the tracks. It also cleans the slate for users to start up or downvoting the tracks.

As part of the beta, Jelli is introducing multiple stations that will let subsets of users control the content. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

As part of the beta, there will also be multiple stations, so users can continue to control the streaming Web version without having to worry about the aforementioned catalog changeover. This also gives a minority of users a better chance of controlling what's played.

Speaking of which, Jelli continues to work on are countermeasures to keep a group of users from completely dominating the listening experience. For instance, each user is given a limited number of "rockets" and "bombs" each day. Rockets let you jump your song, or someone else's to the head of the queue to give it a chance at playing next. To even those out, bombs (which are given out a little more sparingly) are able to wipe the score of any queued track to zero, which can keep it from making it on air if users don't vote it back up.

That's not the end of the game-like experience though. In a call with CNET News on Monday, Jelli CEO and co-founder Mike Dougherty (who was previously TellMe's VP of biz dev) told me that the bombs and rockets were just the tip of the iceberg and that other gaming "power ups" and ways to earn them were coming shortly but could not give specifics on what they would do.

The company is also working on more ways to keep listeners engaged and feeding the station with recommendations. For instance, Jelli gives the person who originally suggested a track and who successfully got it played a personalized call out right before it begins playing. Because the service has no real DJs, this is all done with a text-to-speech robot. Jelli will also be giving highly active users their own short audio signature, which will get played right before their chosen song starts.

A little farther down the line, Dougherty hopes to get hardware besides PCs involved, including a way to manage the song queue and recommendations from mobile phones. There also isn't currently a way to purchase any of the music that's playing from Jelli's site, which means users have to go off and do a search for each track on their own. This too is something that will be changing in the very near future.

Jelli's streaming service is definitely a fun experiment in controlling radio--both Web and now terrestrial. You can listen to it in any streaming audio player with this link, or sign up on Jelli's site to vote on the queue and get more information about what's playing--something that can be quite useful if you're trying to get the name of that song you loved that just got bombed off the air.

 

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