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TheStreet Open House

Twitter's Beating Pandora at What Should Be Its Own Game

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Over the weekend, I hope executives at Pandora (P) felt shame. Because, within the context of a vexing music industry issue, they should be ashamed of themselves. There's no other way to say it -- Pandora has dropped the ball on big data. And quite miserably I might add.

To best cover the subject, I begin from the end, provide relevant history and fill in the present-day and forward-looking blanks.

In a nutshell, as Wall Street analysts jump on the gee, this stock might double (again) bandwagon a little too late, Pandora should take its press clippings and chuck them in the compost bin. That's the only way to move forward -- to pretend today's your last day and that you're only as good and righteous as your last game.

Begin From The End

Over the weekend, Twitter  (TWTR) signed a deal with former Island Def Jam and Warner Music Group top dog Lyor Cohen's company -- 300 -- to leverage the mounds of data the social network produces on listener behavior and preferences. Data that can help everybody from labels to bands to brands harness the enormous power inherent in entertainment's most passionate sector -- music.

Here are a few key excerpts from a Ben Sisario piece in The New York Times on the partnership:

For the music business, Twitter holds a vast haystack of data with no easy way to find the most valuable needles -- like which acts are attracting the most attention, and where ...
The reading of music's digital tea leaves has become a big business as companies like Gracenote, Next Big Sound and Musicmetric have joined traditional players like Nielsen in providing information about music online. But while music is the most popular topic on Twitter -- users discussed it in more than one billion messages last year -- its depths have not been fully plumbed ...

And there's this quote from Cohen:

There was a time not so long ago when we sold music to retailers and they sold to fans, but nobody knew who those fans were ... I've spent most of my life not knowing who the customer is. Isn't that a shame?

Reading the article, particularly those passages, made me want to rejoice and vomit simultaneously.

Rejoice because this is just what the music industry requires. Smart partnerships like this. Fresh tech- and data-driven ways to discover new talent and market music in ways it has never been marketed before.

Vomit because it's an absolute sin -- a sin to those it could better serve, the music it plays, the investors who buy its stock and the people who run its show -- that Pandora allows companies with a sliver of the music data it has to take the lead on what is a sector unto its own in the music industry.

Sisario notes that Twitter users sent over a billion music-related messages last year.

Big deal.

Since its reincarnation as Pandora Internet Radio, Pandora listeners have thumbed songs more than 35 billion times. And that's just a fraction of the data Pandora collects every second of every day.

The role of data continues to emerge. It's about to explode. And, for no good reason, Pandora has been/is letting names such as Twitter, Gracenote and, apparently, according to The New York Times, Nielsen Holdings (NLSN) take the lead.

To this end, allow me to be clear -- there's room for multiple players, particularly because each data set is different and has unique (as well as overlapping and confirmatory) value. That's not the knock on Pandora. The knock is that, while others take strides to express the power of data in practice, Pandora, relatively speaking, sits idle ...

which leads to ...

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