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Do people actually listen to Beats 1? Zane Lowe won’t say in this new interview

Published Aug 18th, 2018 12:02PM EDT

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Gregarious DJ Zane Lowe is very much the personification of how Apple Music wants its streaming music service, which includes a more traditional live radio component hosted by presenters like Zane, to stand apart from the competition.

No less than Apple CEO Tim Cook himself alluded to this point of differentiation in a recent Fast Company interview, in which he talked at one point about his worry that the humanity is “being drained out of music.” That rival streaming services are in danger of turning it into a “bits-and-bytes kind of world” instead of keeping the focus on, well, the music and the art.

Which begs the question of how to view Apple Music and through what prism you might look in determining whether it’s a success. On the one hand, reports last month cited numbers that show Apple Music has finally dethroned Spotify to claim the title of the number one on-demand music platform in the U.S.

What about the radio show, though? In a new interview with The LA Times at a Culver City studio, which at one point included an interviewer asking Lowe whether people were in fact listening to Beats 1, the DJ expertly dodges the question.

He pivots to telling the newspaper, and telling it often, that Beats 1 streams in “more than 100 countries. “It’s a tidbit, however, that illustrates reach rather than actual customers.

“Last year, head of content Larry Jackson said, ‘Beats 1 is the biggest radio station in the world.’ Is it? Lowe sidesteps because to him the question is premature. He recalls advice given to him by Jimmy Iovine, the co-founder of Interscope Records who in ’00s and ’10s with Dr. Dre leapt into the multibillion-dollar headphone and speaker business with Beats. They sold Beats to Apple for $3.2 billion in 2014, and Iovine has since shaped Apple Music.”

That advice? According to Lowe, Jimmy told him: “Be the thing that moves the needle.” Which the DJ took to mean to be an indefatigable cheerleader of artists. “Before when Lowe encouraged fans to buy artists’ records, whether or not they did wouldn’t affect his livelihood,” the LAT continues, with Lowe adding that now, “This directly affects my business. By that very nature we are in business together.”

The thought he tries to convey in the interview is you can’t view what Apple is doing through a traditional lens, or compare it to something like a legacy radio station or broadcast channel. He’s said before and makes a version of the same point again here, that if Apple Music is a storefront, Beats 1 is a kind of window display that convinces you to come inside and check out the rest of the store.

For more color around the way he works and the value of Beats 1, the newspaper profile notes Lowe’s #NickiDay hashtag in support of Nicki Minaj that eventually trended high on Twitter after he promoted her new album Queen. The piece also adds that Drake’s song God’s Plan earlier this year broke a release-day Apple Music record with 14 million streams.

You could also argue the service must be doing at least something right, because Spotify is reportedly going to add a similar radio-style level of programming to its own rival offering.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.