If you're tired of tuning in to the same old music, try shaking things up with Jango. Jango streams custom internet radio stations based on your favourite artists. But it goes way beyond playing DJ; the beta version I tested integrates a social aspect that makes it fun to discover new music by matching you with like-minded listeners.
When you enter the name of an artist, Jango creates a radio station centered on that artist. (But it won't let you enter a song title.) Jango also adds other tunes it thinks you'll enjoy based on a number of criteria. For instance, the service takes into account what users who like the same artist are also listening to, and it looks at stylistically analogous acts from similar genres and time periods. Though the service played some pleasing mixes, it did attempt to skew my Queen station toward Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne, which are too metal for my taste.
Jango saves an unlimited number of stations to your profile, and it allows you several ways to customise them. You can add multiple artists to a station (Jango provides suggestions, or you can plug in your own), ban certain musicians, or choose whether you want it to play popular songs, more obscure music, or something in between the two. You can also rate songs so the site knows whether or not to bother you with them.
Customising stations certainly helped me shape the song selections more to my liking, though with only 15,000 artists and 200,000 songs in rotation, the service has limits to what it can play. For instance, at review time, just 10 Queen songs were in the system. (According to Jango, the service has access to much more music than is listed, but analysing it and adding it to the listener database takes time. Jango also says it is constantly adding tunes to the rotation.)
Since Jango follows restrictions defined by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act - and pays royalties to labels and artists - the site is perfectly legal. Jango makes money when you click on links to buy music through its partners as well as through advertising.
Jango's real prowess lies in its social-networking features, which help you hook up with people who have the same good (or bad) taste as you when you create a Jango profile. The Jango player (located at the upper-right of the Jango browser window) displays alternate songs by the currently playing artist, as well as users who are listening to the same performer or similar artists.
Clicking on a song takes you to the station that's playing it; selecting a user takes you to their Jango profile page, where you can check out that person's stations and other information (birth date, location and favorite books and movies, for example) that they have chosen to share.
The site also lets you keep track of what your Jango Friends are rocking out to, and attempts to connect you with like-minds - users with similar musical inclinations as yours. One polite touch: Jango offers to send a thank you whenever you tune out of another listener's station.
For the most part, music streaming was smooth, with a few rare stutters; on one occasion, Jango indicated that a song was playing even though there was no audio. Skipping to the next track fixed the problem. The site is still in beta, and I noticed a few other slight glitches. For instance, the Listeners or Songs tab occasionally appeared blank, and the song history section didn't always update. Jango says that it is working on repairing a number of issues.
Despite a few minor snarls, Jango is more than solid. If you dig the whole social-networking scene - and want to see how it can expand your musical universe - then Jango is worth a spin.