Launch a radio takeover with Jelli

Jelli is an online radio station where the users determine the playlist by voting on songs. On June 28, a San Francisco radio station will let Jelli listeners take over for a couple of hours. Could this be the future of radio programming?

Jelli is an online radio station whose playlist is controlled entirely by its users. It's different from radio stations that can be personalized, like Pandora or Slacker, which create unique stations for each user based on his or her tastes. Rather, Jelli is a collective--there's only one playlist, and it's ruled by the votes of the masses.

The concept is simple: Jelli shows you the songs on its playlist, then lets you vote whether each song rocks or sucks. Songs move up and down on the playlist based on their overall vote count. A few mischievous features add to the fun: each user gets a limited number of "power-ups" that will rocket a song to the next spot on the playlist, and "bombs," which send a song back to the bottom. If a song makes it to the top of the playlist but then garners a bunch of bad votes once it starts, Jelli will cut the song off mid-stream to a chorus of boos.

ZZ Top rocks. The Beastie Boys rock. But I'm not sure I want to hear them back to back.

The site's amusing for a while, although I hated the interruptions between songs to credit the person who "rocketed" each song to the top. Also, the lack of an embedded media player on the site means you have to launch a separate application like the Windows Media Player--old-school and kind of annoying. But the real fun will start on June 28, when Jelli will take over San Francisco radio station Live 105 for two hours.

Could crowd-sourcing save radio? Maybe, but Jelli's approach is a bit random for me. Even if you like both Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" and the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen," do you really want to hear them back to back? And if a playlist is decided entirely by voters, how will brand new songs and artists get a break?

I think the ideal radio station would start with a combination of fan-selected favorites and new songs selected by professionals who get paid to keep up with new music. Then, the playlist could be divided into segments--for instance, after Mix-A-Lot, it could offer a choice of other hip-hop songs, plus maybe a couple of transition songs in similar genres like funk. Users would still get to vote, but on a smaller selection. The flow would be better, and you'd hear the occasional pleasant surprise that traditional radio used to provide.

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