Interviewing Zane Lowe is one of the things as a music journalist you want to do but typically fills you with a small amount of terror. On the one hand, you have tonnes of shared interests, plenty of questions and an abundance of new music to discuss. On the other hand, he’s spent the last two decades speeding ahead of music’s curve, making friends with music’s elite and driving the hype of a thousand artists’ careers. After spending twelve years at the helm of BBC Radio 1, he now mans the position of Creative Director for Beats 1, Apple Music’s globally streamed radio service, as well as being one of its three main anchors, along with Ebro Darden and Julie Adenuga. In short, no matter how many blogs you’ve read, records you’ve listened to, bands you’ve discovered, he knows a lot more than you. Yet, just as his shows may indicate, his personal approach is just as energetic, vivacious and enthused talking to a journo as when talking to an artist on his show.
It’s fair to say that though an established DJ in New Zealand and one of the most recognisable names in British radio, his profile has escalated further since working more comprehensively with Beats 1 which celebrated its two-year anniversary this summer. While Lowe admits to being more of the teller of other people’s stories before he joined Beats 1, one of the biggest changes since making the move is that the new platform has encouraged him to reassess his role as a broadcaster, and required him to put more of himself into the stories he tells. “I didn’t really overly promote myself, and I didn’t actively go out and seek, you know, promotional press about what I did because I always sort of felt being the interviewer, it was strange to be interviewed,” he explains about being at the BBC, talking of course, at a hundred miles an hour. “But when I came to work for Apple, you know, when you’re building something from scratch, and you’re investing so much of yourself in it just like everyone who’s working there does, it’s more personal.”
“I think the reason why I came to Apple Music, and to Beats, and to start Beats 1 is because I wanted to know where music was going,”
As well as developing his position as an anchor, another evolution has come from the immediacy of Beats 1 and its pure focus on music and it’s these factors that initially drew him to the platform. “I think the reason why I came to Apple Music, and to Beats, and to start Beats 1 is because I wanted to know where music was going,” he says. “You know, the BBC is the best at what it does. I would consider [it] the best, sort of, traditional media outlet in the world. Its news is the most fair [sic], its entertainment is the broadest and most brilliantly covered in radio on a local and community basis, you know, on a UK level. But as far as music, as an art form is concerned, I just knew that streaming and on-demand, and the speed at which it was being, it was travelling… that was happening, and I wanted to go and see what it felt like to go over into that world and to play a role in that.”
As he excitedly reels off the long list of announcements made that week on Beats 1 (“Lars Ulrich has interviewed Dave Grohl, you must listen to that. You must check out Syd’s new pop-up show. You must check out Ebro in Paris to see everything that’s happening in Paris right now. Did you know there’s a new Beck record right now? Did you know there’s a new Foo Fighters album?”), it’s clear just how much he values the malleability of the platform, its ability to change and adapt, and how swiftly both he and the platform can deliver artist’s news. In turn, he then becomes a part of the telling of these stories.