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Why Pandora Blows Apple's iTunes Radio Away

Tickers in this article: AAPL P
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It deserves a documentary, but, for now, I'll give it the multi-page article treatment at TheStreet. At some point over the next few months, I plan on getting with the team behind Pandora's Music Genome Project to shoot some video and see where it goes.

The MGP and all that it entails -- it's a story that absolutely needs to be told.

If we don't understand the engine that powers Pandora, we don't understand Pandora. And we can't begin to comprehend why the company has beat back and likely will continue to beat back every competitive threat including Apple's iTunes Radio. Without a close look at the skeleton and guts of the MGP, it's not possible to realize the full power and potential of Internet radio.

If you can stand this lame attempt at me shooting video myself, my February 2012 YouTube interview with Pandora co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Tim Westergren provides a nice introduction to the MGP and how it led to what we now know as Pandora Internet radio. At the time I thought I knew a lot about the MGP, but after my visit to Pandora headquarters this past Monday, I discovered I didn't know the half of it.

One downside of Westergren's well-known humility is that he shies away from bragging and touting his and Pandora's accomplishments too aggressively. As a result, I don't think he has ever done justice to how the Music Genome Project sets Pandora apart from every other player, including Apple, not just as personalized radio, but as data-driven music discovery and an artist advocate.

However, in typical Westergren form, he leaves the glory for a deserving member of his team, who I was lucky enough to chat with this week.

Pandora Chief Scientist and VP of Playlists Eric Bieschke

Honestly, I wasn't particularly looking forward to my conversation with Bieschke. I figured it would be boring. A chat with a music and math geek about stuff I either wouldn't understand or already knew. I was wrong.

Bieschke is an interesting story himself. He has been with Pandora since 2000. This means he started with the company when he was 17 years old. His personal circumstances with Pandora are best left for the documentary, but I have to at least preview some of the things he told me about the MGP.