Tuesday was Apple’s annual October launch event, which includes the introduction of the new iPad Air, retina iPad Mini, OS X Mavericks, updated Macbook Pros and a newly designed cylindrical Mac Pro. Although I was excited to hear about all the new and updated products coming from Apple, I was most interested in discovering how iTunes Radio had performed in its first month on the market.  Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook revealed that 20 million users have played 1 billion songs in iTunes Radio’s debut month.  This is quite an accomplishment, but still pales in comparison to Pandora’s 72 million monthly active users. (Pandora has recently surpassed 200 million overall users.) The question on everyone’s mind is whether iTunes Radio is a threat to Pandora’s market share.

iTunes’ entry into the predictive playlist market pits their 27 million songs under license to the hand-crafted 1 million song library of Pandora, whose “music genome project” involves one or more music technicians rating the song against a matrix of attributes, so that each song has its own genetic code, so to speak.  An individual song may have as many as 4-500 “genes”, which are used to categorize the song and weigh its similarity to other songs.  The results are then fed into a listener’s queue, with each song “liked” by the listener further improving the queue.

iTunes has the advantage of starting with their customers personal song libraries, which in my case would be several thousand.  While Pandora takes the boutique approach of weighing and analyzing each individual song, iTunes Genius appears to be largely driven by algorithms, and one suspects a similar algorithmic approach is at work here.  iTunes Genius (and presumably iTunes Radio) tracks volume and crowd […]