Fresh off the beat: Zane Lowe explains why Apple’s Beats 1 is brand new

Apple’s main music man shares the secret sauce behind the global radio station

It’s fitting that we had a conversation with Zane Lowe on Valentine’s Day, given the clear love that the man has for music.

The New Zealander who fronts Apple Music’s Beats 1 was previously at BBC Radio 1 and has over a decade of experience curating music for the global audience. Throughout the 12 minute interview, he only pauses to catch his breath before continuing to wax lyrical about the service. And all throughout the conversation, there was a word that just kept coming up over and over again - new.

Beats 1 isn’t like traditional radio, he argues. It’s deeper than that.

“It’s really important that we continue to provide a service for artists to tell their story.”

Depth, not breadth

Given the convenience of connectivity, we’re bombarded with more choices than ever in all forms of content, including tunes courtesy of services like Hype Machine and Spotify. How do we then cut through the noise to find something meaningful?

There's more to music than music alone. That is why the Beats 1 experience doesn't just stream hits that blend into the background, it's a living mix of interviews and guest artist curation, all distilled by Lowe's expert ear for curation. From music guests that only the combined clout of Lowe and Apple can pull in to insider interviews with the likes of Future, there'a always something refreshingly new on Beats 1. 

“We aim to provide a really deep layered experience to music fans. I truly believe that creativity doesn’t end when a record gets finished,” he goes on to elaborate, "There are many creative ways that an artist can choose to contextualise or share information, tell stories or meaningfully promote that record so people can understand what goes into it."

Is he ever worried that the Beats 1 and the on-demand Apple Music streaming service will cannabalise each other's audiences?

"That's a good question." he muses, "But I think there is very much a need for both discovery and storytelling to continue. I don’t want to live in a world where music is like flipping a switch. I want to be able to use this service to dive deep into the creative process. I want to know why it exists. I want to know what goes into it. I want to build colour around that record. And that’s what Beats 1 is designed to do."

That new new

New isn’t easy. There’s always less resistance walking the tried and tested road than to forge one of your own. Lowe completely gets that this brand of music might only appeal to real music fans, which might form a smaller population than the mainstream masses. 

"We’re not aiming to appeal to everybody. We are really looking for the music fans first, then once we’ve worked out who and where they are then we can work on how to reach other people.But we’re not trying to appeal to the whole world because that’s where you will fall flat."

It's more about focusing on strengths and building upon them. Lowe acknowledges that this isn't Beats 1's final look. The team is constantly listening to the audience as it listens to them and studying the shifting trends that accompany new music. 

But ultimately the goal of Beats 1 is simple. Its aim is to become the destination for music fans to dive deep into the music that's exciting right now.

"That’s the area we feel that’s most lacking in media. We think great new music is very heavily underrepresented by a lot of mainstream media these days."

Celebrating afresh

Speaking of which, many have argued that the recent Grammys did not celebrate the right music. So naturally, we had to ask if an Apple Music Awards would ever be on the charts, since an Apple Music Festival already exists.

“We’ll have to wait and see. We’re 18 months old. We’re still working out what our strengths are, where we’re going, what our personality is becoming. In terms of where that takes us in the event space, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Just like the music it plays, it appears that Beats 1 is still very much a work in progress, dancing to its own eclectic beat in a largely tone-deaf world. And that is exactly why you should tune in.