Apple Music’s Beats 1 radio breaks onto the scene with fresh music, BBC style

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If Beats 1’s first few hours are any indication, the Zane Lowe-helmed 24-hour streaming radio station powered by Apple Music is targeting hip, young music consumers, and those who want to embrace rising, festival-ready artists.

Broadcasting live from LA, Zane Lowe kicked off the integral piece to Apple’s fledgling streaming service today with some simple words: “We must launch,” he said. “To those hungry for music from town to town, from city to city, here we go.”

Lowe’s two-hour set closely followed the format of his former taste-making show on BBC’s Radio 1, mixing new artists with mainstream ones in a mostly-upbeat playlist. His focus on breaking artists was apparent from the first song spun: A track called City from Manchester-based rockers Spring King, who’ve garnered just over 2000 Twitter followers. Beck’s new funky single Dreams, Jamie XX’s summer house jam Gosh, and UK grime/rap artist Skepta (with Shutdown) followed. Then came AC/DC’s For Those About to Rock (We Salute You), in celebration of the classic rockers joining the streaming world for the first time, including Apple Music.

For the average American pop radio listener, the radio stream littered with indie rock, electronic music, and hip-hop was certainly a change-up. The international stream (available in 100 countries) will likely be welcome to savvy music consumers, but may not satiate the appetite of a casual music fan hoping to hear the most predictable pop tracks of the times. Pop radio hits were certainly are in the mix: the world premiere of Pharrell Williams’ Freedom, Eminem’s Phenomenal, and even Justin Timberlake’s Señorita were heard in Beats 1’s first three hours. But Lowe wants first and foremost to break new artists, playing cuts from the likes of rockers like Bully, alt R&B artist Gallant, and electro/disco singer Shamir in the broadcast.

While competing streaming music services like Spotify also pride themselves on spotlighting new artists, Beats 1 is situated as a tentpole for Apple Music’s newest acts. That said, while Zane Lowe’s show may not strike everyone’s fancy, other Beats 1 DJs like Ebro Darden, Julie Adenuga, or others may be a better fit. And there will be plenty of choices to test out: Beats 1 will air dozens of one and two hour shows curated by a variety of DJs, musicians, and celebrities lined up, including stars like Drake, Pharell, Dre, and even Elton John. Obviously, Apple is not kidding around.

For the open-minded, Lowe’s first Beats 1 broadcast was a breath of fresh air, and a welcome change from most terrestrial pop radio. And it’s definitely interesting to hear a traditional radio format from within a streaming service, with Lowe interspersing his thoughts between songs (not to mention offering constant reminders that you’re listening to Beats 1). We’re not sure if it Lowe’s show — or other programming on Beats 1 — can draw a mass audience, but Apple is certainly betting big that it will.


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