When Apple makes its foray into streaming music with a virtual radio station known as Beats 1 on Tuesday, the charge will be led by an unlikely crusader – Zane Lowe, a former BBC DJ best known as a tireless champion of new music.
Lowe became one of Britain’s best-known broadcasters after back-to-back stints with XFM and BBC but to audiences around the world that tune into the Beats 1 radio station as part of the Apple Music service, it could well be a question of Zane who?
For the past 13 years, New Zealand- born Lowe presented BBC Radio 1’s prime time evening show four times a week, connecting with huge audiences with his over-the-top style and focus on promoting new music.
Apple Music will be looking at Lowe as a tastemaker to push its efforts to become a dominant player in streaming music, which is growing by leaps and bounds around the world, while digital downloads are starting to decline.
Lowe – described by Apple as the “world’s foremost authority on emerging music” – has already tweeted that his first interview on Beats 1 will feature rapper Eminem.
Beats 1, which will broadcast to more than 100 countries round-the-clock, will feature live DJs such as Lowe in Los Angeles, Ebro Darden in New York and Julie Adenuga in London.
The DJs will rub shoulders with musical heavy hitters such as Elton John and Dr Dre, who will host the special programmes “Elton John’s Rocket Hour” and “The Pharmacy” on Beats 1 .
In that sense, Beats 1 in Apple Music will be less like other music streaming services and more like the radio stations of old that one could tune into on short wave or medium wave.
After making a beginning with the local music station Max TV in New Zealand, the 41-year-old Lowe honed his skills after moving to London and joining XFM, one of Britain’s leading commercial radio stations. After a stint with MTV, he joined BBC Radio 1 in 2002.
He also branched out into music production and writing, working with artists such as rappers Example and Tinie Tempah and singer Sam Smith, who won four Grammys this year.
Lowe’s flagship show on Beats 1, which will combine interviews with new music, will be available to millions of users of iPhones and iPads after Apple rolls out an iOS update on Tuesday. It will also be available to PC users who have installed iTunes.
“It’s about being able to get great music to an audience on a global level. I know that there is an opportunity to come out here and to build something that will reach parts of the world that I’ve never reached before,” Lowe said in a recent interview with The Guardian.
Lowe said the Beats 1 radio station will be about bringing the “human experience” of visiting record stores to a generation that listens to music on a variety of portable devices.
“I’m just trying to connect with the listener, and connect with the artist, and put you guys together.”