JamStation: Flawed but Useful Music Discovery

When it comes to music, I thoroughly enjoy listening to new music that I’ve never heard of before, especially when most of what makes up so-called popular music is X-Factor cast-offs or pop groups that have been so obviously manufactured you can still see the welding joints. Now, before you start throwing the F-word my way, by which I mean “flannel”, there are plenty of popular music acts that I enjoy listening to. Unfortunately, there’s only so many times I can enjoy the angelic tones of Miley Cyrus before I begin to crave something more, something different.

JamStation is a music discovery app for the online service Jamendo, providing a radio-like way of listening to new music. While basic, it delivers on its singular promise of providing you access to new artists.

The Service

Jamendo provides music from artists who have published their work using the Creative Commons licensing. It’s a treasure trove of artists and music you’re almost guaranteed never to have heard before, making it a great way of finding music you’ve never heard of.

Jamendo's service provides music uploaded by artists using Creative Commons licensing, making tracks available to download for free for personal use.

Jamendo’s service provides music uploaded by artists using Creative Commons licensing, making tracks available to download for free for personal use.

The App

JamStation works like most other radio services, a constant stream of music is provided for you to listen to with the ability to switch between genres like radio stations.

JamStation, looking like an iPod nano, is a small app that's unobtrusive.

JamStation, looking like an iPod nano, is a small app that’s unobtrusive.

The app, looking like a cross between an iPod nano and a car stereo. Despite the app’s relatively small footprint, there’s no option to have it float above all other windows like the Mini Player in iTunes. It’s a shame too, as the main viewing area of the app displays track and artist information, along with album artwork.

The app has very few controls, though with a music discovery app such as this, anything else would just be superfluous. There are controls to change the volume and station you’re listening to. A “power” button turns the radio on or off, though it seems pointless since you’re probably going to quit the app if you’re no longer listening to it.

A wide variety of radio stations for different genres await, no ads and no DJs.

A wide variety of radio stations for different genres await, no ads and no DJs.

The lack of controls does have one benefit which is that you can control the app all from the cursor keys on your keyboard, no holding of modifier keys or using the media keys on your Mac’s keyboard, only to find iTunes pops up instead (an annoyance I constantly do battle with in Spotify). But since you’ll have to switch back to the app, as it doesn’t float above other windows, this isn’t as useful as it sounds.

Radio

JamStation features a decent number of genres you can listen to, from Classical to Metal. They aren’t listed in any kind of order so you’ll need to constantly tune through the different stations until you find the one you want. Furthermore, there’s no way of jumping directly to a station — you have to keep scanning through. While this may closely mimic a traditional radio, it’s a huge annoyance and one that can really put you off. Something to quickly jump between stations, a menu or a list, anything would be preferable.

Track and artists information, along with artwork, are displayed. You can favourite tracks using the star button.

Track and artists information, along with artwork, are displayed. You can favourite tracks using the star button.

Thankfully, when you do get to the station you want to listen to, the music is exceptional. This doesn’t have any real bearing on the app since JamStation isn’t responsible for the music, but the app and web service are responsible for allowing me to listen to it, something I give them credit for.

Favourite Tracks

Hidden in a panel at the bottom of the app is a favourites window. Clicking the star icon on any currently playing track will add it to your list so you can listen to it later. Tracks can’t be listened to again via JamStation, but double-clicking will open the track on Jamendo’s site. While it may not sound ideal, Jamendo allows you to not only stream the track through the website, you can download the track for free.

Favourite tracks might seem like a great idea but there's no way to modify the list. It'll keep growing until it stops being useful.

Favourite tracks might seem like a great idea but there’s no way to modify the list. It’ll keep growing until it stops being useful.

While the favourites list may serve as a great way to save music you want to download later, you can’t edit the list at all. There’s no way to remove tracks you’ve saved so the list will just keep growing and growing. Eventually, the list will become so large that its usefulness will diminish into nothing.

Conclusion

As far as the app is concerned, JamStation is quite flawed and too basic. Its lack of controls, especially when changing stations, can be quite infuriating at times and the inability to clean up the favourites list means it will eventually become a cluttered and unusable mess.

But it does have one redeeming quality, however, and that is it works well and features some great content. While it may be basic, its ability to provide easy access to a wide variety of music make it a great app to have playing music. I’ve found myself using this app on a regular basis and have discovered some great new artists to listen to.


Summary

While the app itself is far too basic and lacks some decent control, the service and content it provides in top-notch.

6
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