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BEATS 1 DESIGNED TO BE A "SUPERCHARGED RADIO STATION"—NYT

Ben Sisario’s profile of Zane Lowe in this morning’s New York Times isn’t just a vivid portrait of the kinetic Aussie expat, it’s also crammed with details about Beats 1, which launches next Tuesday as part of Apple Music. We’ve cherry-picked info and takes from the story—because we know you’re far too busy to read a 2,000-word feature.

“Everyone keeps going to their devices because of fear of missing out,” Lowe says, describing the Beats 1 concept. “I’m constantly going on Instagram, Twitter, wondering what’s going on in my friends’ lives. What am I missing? I want that for radio. What’s on right now, right now, that I didn’t know I wanted to listen to?”

“Part of the last three months has been desperately trying to come up with a new word that’s not radio,” Lowe acknowledges. “We couldn’t do it.”

According to the piece, Beats 1 is intended to be “a supercharged radio station” and “a throwback to free-spirited old FM radio.” Its selling point is also the power of human “curation” in contrast to the automated playlists on Pandora—though whether consumers care about the difference remains an open question.

“Beats 1’s closest rival may be SiriusXM, [which] has nearly 28 million subscribers,” Sisario offers, “but Beats 1’s built-in position in Apple’s phones will give it a chance to be nearly ubiquitous.”

“To keep Beats 1 sounding fresh around the world,” Sisario writes, “the station will alternate one- and two-hour programming blocks by established broadcasters with those by musicians and celebrities, who will host and plan the shows themselves. Among the names on board: the teen actor Jaden Smith, the alternative singer St. Vincent, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and the British electronic duo Disclosure.”

Dr. Dre will host his own show, The Pharmacy.

As first revealed in our recent Q&A with Jimmy Iovine, Ian Rogers and Larry Jackson, Lowe, whose show will emanate from L.A., will share weekday anchor duties with Ebro Darden of Hot 97 in New York and Julie Adenuga in London.

“The whole thing could be a total, abject disaster,” Lowe frets. Or it could be a colossal success—but how would he characterize such an outcome? “When an artist goes on to have a brilliant career,” Lowe answers, “and five years later we can look back and be proud of whatever role we had in that.”

The idea for Beats 1 came from Trent Reznor, who was then the chief creative officer at Beats Music and has continued as one of Apple Music’s key designers. With the limitless choices offered by digital music, and listeners’ ability to create their own individual playlists, Reznor said, “you can feel way down in a crevice—everything gets so nichey.” Hearing Lowe’s BBC show while on tour with NIN, Reznor considered the live, communal experience of an audience tuned in to the same songs. “I wondered if in today’s world there is still a place for monoculture,” he said. “Can that still exist?”

We’re about to find out.

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