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Life After Lowe

The BBC loses one of its best at a time of significant change in the way we listen to music.

After 12 years of service Radio 1's most enthusiastic music fan is moving on. Zane Lowe is leaving the Beeb and heading to LA where he will work for Apple's music streaming service which looks set for launch this summer. Lowe's move might well signal a huge shift in the way we listen to music, a shift that Radio 1 will have you believe they are more than ready for.

Radio 1 no longer competes simply with other radio stations but instead it competes with everything that consumes a young person's time, from ‘YouTubers' to streaming services. The BBC's answer to current streaming services, such as Spotify, is the BBC Playlister which allows listeners to curate music playlists based upon what they hear a DJ play. The Playlister highlights the continued importance of the radio DJ and the acquisition of Lowe appears to illustrate that Apple too believe DJs still play an integral role as music curators.

Whilst Radio 1 saw the threat of web 2.0 coming they cannot have forecast the departure of their prized asset. Lowe has developed a unique style which has seen him become possibly the only irreplaceable talent on Radio 1's roster. The person tasked with trying to fill the big shoes left vacant by Lowe is his former Assistant Producer and Queen of Ibiza, Annie Mac.

Annie is better placed than anyone else to succeed Zane but there is no doubt that her appointment will have upset some of Zane's fans. Lowe is known for eclectic tastes, respected by artists and fans from across the spectrum. Annie though, is perhaps too closely associated with dance music and therefore, will divide opinion. Huw Stephens might have been the other candidate but like Annie, he is too closely linked with just one style of music. Huw's niche is guitar music and imagining him getting excited about an Eric Prydz record is near on impossible.

What role Lowe will assume at Apple is still unconfirmed. His reason for leaving was to "get great music to an audience on a global level" which suggests he will continue to broadcast, or at least podcast. However, with rumours of Apple's own record label rife, Lowe would also be an ideal talent spotter. Whether it's from behind a desk or behind a microphone Zane will remain a music curator; Apple's solution to the biggest problem facing streaming services, which is how to make sense of 35 million songs.

Spotify has attempted to address that problem with the acquisition of ‘The Echo Nest', a company specialising in music discovery and curation. Apple though, have decided to choose man over machine and hired one of the world's most celebrated taste makers who they believe can do much more for discovery than any algorithm.

Will the Apple project be a success? Only time will tell, but there is no doubt that Radio 1 are losing a once-in-a-generation broadcaster, whose universal influence is only surpassed by the late John Peel.

View this feature in the Ibiza Spotight Magazine, Issue 009.

WORDS | Sam Hutt

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