Over the weekend, Britain’s best-known disc jockey very quietly announced he is heading to Apple Inc. Zane Lowe, the New Zealand-born radio personality whose evening broadcast on BBC Radio 1 is among the most influential radio programs in Britain, will host his final show for the Beeb on March 5. “I want to thank everyone at Radio 1 for their support and friendship," Lowe told his listeners. "I’ve loved every minute of it. Exciting times lie ahead.”
Apple, BBC and Lowe, 41, are all staying mum on what exactly Lowe will be doing in Cupertino, but there are two strong possibilities:
1. A role at Apple’s forthcoming streaming service. Before Apple swallowed up Beats Music as part of its $3 billion acquisition of Beats Electronics last year, Beats Music had been trying to distinguish itself as a platform with superior curation and discovery options for users. The streaming music service, which was called MOG before it was acquired by Beats, had built a massive editorial operation called the MOG Music Network. That operation was meant to leverage the expertise and preferences of thousands of music bloggers around the world. After Beats acquired the service, it began tapping high-profile curators -- including Dr. Dre, Trent Reznor and Jimmy Iovine -- to help build playlists.
It's possible that Lowe, whose curatorial skills have been applied to festival lineups, mix releases and film scores, as well as his weekly radio show, could oversee some facet of the service, which is rumored to be launching in June.
2. A job at iTunes Radio. Apple’s iTunes Radio feature might not get the press attention of competitors like Pandora and iHeartRadio, but the service has made impressive strides in the marketplace since debuting in September 2013. According to Edison Research's most recent Infinite Dial survey, which estimates digital platforms’ penetration into consumers’ audio consumption, 30 percent of Internet users have used iTunes Radio to keep up to date with music, compared to 20 percent for SiriusXM and 18 percent for iHeartRadio.
Yet the service has a long way to go in terms of building itself up as a go-to music source, especially among young people. Just 3 percent of the people Edison surveyed said iTunes was their most-used method of keeping up to date with music, lagging even Facebook (4 percent) and music television channels (4 percent). Tapping Lowe -- who as a major force on the airwaves has managed to secure world premieres of countless top singles -- could go a long way toward turning the Apple offering into a go-to destination for music-hungry listeners.
BBC Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac will take over Lowe's coveted Sunday-night slot.