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Something Big That Can Set Pandora Apart From Apple

Stocks in this article: P AAPL GM

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- On Wednesday afternoon, I received an invite from Pandora (P) for a concert next week in Hollywood with a local LA-based band called The Mowglis.

Here's the key paragraph from the email:

The Mowglis were selected by analyzing Pandora data to identify rising stars among Chevrolet's target audience in Los Angeles. Then, targeted LA Pandora listeners were invited to RSVP to the show though a Chevy branded banner, where they entered their name and email to be placed on a guest list for the free show, admission on a first-come basis.

Now that's what I'm talking about.

Pandora doesn't do this type of thing often enough.

It's one advantage it has -- sort of -- over Apple (AAPL) as an Internet radio option.

It's not that Apple can't put on these types of local events. Of course, just about anything Pandora can do is within Apple's scope. But I'm doubtful Apple will want to waste its time acting as what amounts to a promoter of local bands and music scenes. The company will probably stick to grand spectacles such as the massive iTunes Music Festival.

For Pandora, Internet radio isn't a side business; it's the company's core. And it's in Pandora's interest to aggressively promote local music the way it is in LA next week.

It means cash from huge national sponsors such as General Motors (GM). It can help the company hook more local advertising dollars, which ultimately, given the power of its targeting ability, is its bread and butter. And, of equal importance, it can create goodwill, showing the music industrial complex what a great partner and artist advocate Pandora can be. A great partner to established names as well as all flavors of independents.

Pandora can moderate the success Apple has chipping away (or crushing or killing) at its franchise by not only being a better partner to musicians, but providing a more localized platform for its users. That's the key.

If you love music and Pandora sends you invites to seemingly "secret" shows, you might identify with it at a level Apple could, but probably will not spend time trying to touch. Pandora needs to expand its capabilities to become a bigger part of its users' lives. That might mean an acquisition or two and, most definitely, a broadening of its strategy into something more than "just" personalized radio.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a columnist and TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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