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Things Keep Getting Worse For Pandora

Stocks in this article: PAAPL

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If you have a short attention span or prefer sound bytes over substance, it's difficult to have a true understanding of the royalty dustup that features a good chunk of the music industry against Pandora (P).

In this article -- and in another I will publish shortly thereafter -- I do my best to boil the matter down to what I consider -- based not merely on my whims, but on conversations with people close to the situation -- the most meaningful aspects of this entire mess.

First, some perspective.

How can I say things keep getting worse for Pandora?

The stock is up roughly 44 percent over the last year, about 59 percent year-to-date. The business, by all accounts (even if constrained by high content costs), hums along. Pandora has penetrated the automobile harder and faster than anything since AM/FM radio. Tons of listeners. Incredible consumer loyalty. It's crushing broadcast radio, ratings-wise, while poaching sales people and ad revenue from that industry. Increased competition doesn't stunt this growth or success; in fact, new entrants, most recently Apple (AAPL), only validate Pandora's approach.

However, because of what Pandora is up against, reality might not matter. I understand Pandora's business -- and its opportunity -- quite well. I do my best to correct the errors other media personalities make when they cover Pandora and the broader space. The pressure I put on Pandora does not come from the perspective of the local hack who writes the latest in a string of "Pandora killer" articles. Not at all.

All else equal, Pandora should win this fight because, at day's end, I believe a) its model works and can continue to dominate and b) it has the best interests of musicians -- major label and indie -- at heart. But that doesn't matter. It's fighting a battle it probably cannot win way too aggressively for its own good. It's not like I just came to this conclusion.

Kick back to November 16, 2012 and Absolutely Devastating News for Pandora.

On the heels of Tim Westergren's decision to blog about how much Pandora pays artists and musicFIRST's open letter opposing the Internet Radio Fairness Act (IFRA) -- signed by 125 big-name musicians -- I expressed concern:

The artists who decided to speak out against the bill are major names. We're talking everybody from Katy Perry to Rush to Billy Joel to Blondie to Jackson Brown to Alabama to Bryan Adams to KISS to Sheryl Crow to Vince Gill to Maroon 5 to The Pointer Sisters to ... you get the point.
It's a cross-section of the world's most popular musicians. If anybody is going to win a popularity contest with the public or influence a Congressperson, it's the people with this type of star power, not Pandora.
Simply stated, right or wrong in its legislative quest, Pandora absolutely cannot get itself into a public relations battle with singers and songwriters from every end of the cultural spectrum.

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