Apple’s live radio station has two UK DJs

By James Cridland for
Posted 9 June 2015, 7.00am edt


Apple has announced that they are to launch a live radio station, “Beats 1”. The station is live - the press release says that every listener will “hear the same programming at the same time”, which is as revolutionary as you’d expect from Apple. Thank goodness they've invented internet radio!

Beats 1 has three announced presenters: Zane Lowe in Los Angeles, Ebro Darden in New York and Julie Adenuga in London. Two of those will be familiar voices to UK radio listeners.

Probably best known, Zane Lowe, 41, is a New Zealander: but after a stint at London’s Xfm, he moved to BBC Radio 1 to present the evening show. He has a reputation for being the new music guru, and rightfully claims to have broken many bands. His show had a market share of around 6.7%. Wikipedia claims: “A key feature of his broadcasting style was to avoid the use of the fader to reduce the volume of the track being played during intros and outros, rather he talks or shouts gibberish over the tracks which are played at undiminished volume.”

Ebro Darden, 40, isn’t known to UK audiences. He was formerly VP of Programming for Emmis station Hot 97, a hip-hop station in New York; he was also a co-host of the breakfast show.

Julie Adenuga is the interesting signing. She’s presented Rinse FM’s drivetime show; yet you’d be forgiven for not knowing much about Rinse FM. It’s a former pirate, playing grime, dubstep, house, jungle and other stuff like that; and it has a community radio station licence, which gives it a tiny little transmission area. Yet, Rinse FM continually punches above its weight, with a strong appearance on social media. I can’t find her age, but it’s fair to say that she’s closer to half the age of her co-presenters on Beat 1.

It’s an interesting mix of a commercial programmer, a “new music guru”, and fresh young talent. Beats 1 will be free to listen to if you've an Apple device; and if you use Android, you'll have to pay.

That's an ad for it, above. I'm sure the "listening to online radio while in a moving New York subway train" is aspirational, rather than, you know, possible.

“So, are we going to a fiery cartwall hell?”, asked a colleague after Apple’s WWDC announcement. I’m distinctly underwhelmed.

The streaming service, and “curated” genre streams, offer little different to other streaming services. Slacker - and Pandora, to an extent - have been humanly curated for some considerable time, after all.

But with Beats 1, I think they’ve missed an opportunity. Live, simulcast radio is actually not doing very well on mobile. iHeart Radio shows, charitably, static figures over the past year or so. In Norway, internet listening is also not growing. Independent online stations I talk to also say that they’re not growing. A recent internal memo from NPR says that member stations are seeing a decline in live streams.

Beats 1 could have shown the radio industry how to do great radio, tailored for mobile. Content that is atomised and personalised, yet feels live, real and relevant. A blend of on-demand and live, playout done by the device, live radio with the skip button.

But, as it is, we have a very niche service, with limited appeal, and a non-interactive service on the most interactive thing in your pocket. It’s a lovely thing for Apple to do; but I don’t think it’s a fiery cartwall hell just yet for us. Indeed, it might convince some people that radio has a future.

So, that’s all good.

Other industry pundits have also had their say:

Their arrival doesn’t scare me. I’m still much happier in the radio business than in the streaming music business that’s for sure.

... says Matt Deegan

In some respects [...] another free online radio station. There are many of those already; licenced or not. But I wouldn’t underestimate the power of this station. Apple can throw more money at this project than any radio broadcaster in the world.

... says Adam Bowie

So if Apple is launching its own version of radio, where does that leave a station such as Radio 1? And if Apple’s idea of radio doesn’t turn out to be radio as we know it, what does that mean for the very notion of radio?

... says Peter Robinson in The Guardian

More information

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.


5 years, 11 months ago

For those of a certain age, Zane Lowe's Beats 1 pitch sounds uncannily like Virgin Radio's 1993 UK launch pitch. It's every bit as bombastic, which is unfortunate if you think radio should enchant and seduce. And we know what happened at Virgin. Even so, there's only around 350 daily slots, tops, to play all this brilliant new music that they love; less if they do interviews, even less if they do any kind of power rotation on music they really love to build that station vibe. So in the end I don't see many new opportunities for all that hot new music that they're going to source worldwide.

But, hey, it's Apple, they've got marketing muscle and they're not on AM.

5 years, 11 months ago

I'm probably one of the few people who has heard Julie Adenuga on Rinse FM. Clearly Apple see something in her that I can't. Fairly average community style jock who rambles on a bit too much, but does know her music.

5 years, 11 months ago

For a radio station selling itself as truly "global", its launch line-up looks awfully western. Sure, it's early days, but I have a feeling the US/UK focus will gloss over the strong music scenes elsewhere in the world - in Australia, in Asia, in Europe. Why not an outpost in Tokyo, arguably a center of cool? Why not Seoul, home of the more interesting pop hits in recent years? At the very least, why not Sydney or Melbourne?

Beats 1 interests me because it can truly be a "global" radio station, much like Monocle 24 is attempting in speech. Up to now music tastemakers on the radio have been rooted to a sense of place, representing their scenes and exporting their best to the world. It's how the Aussies sent Courtney Barnett over, for instance. Apple's project could add an interesting element (and should push more people to their streaming service) but this thought is setting me up for disappointment. I hope I'm wrong.

5 years, 11 months ago

It's totally impossible for a single radio station to be global. The essence of community radio is its concentration on the LOCAL news/music/ads and that's what keeps the local audience faithful. Even the great Radio Caroline (in Ramsey Bay) was a local station but its locality was pretty wide - over a great patch of the Northern and the English Midlands and extending westwards to delight listeners in North and Mid Wales. And - would you believe we all regarded it as our station - plenty of talktime to give "shoutouts" (ugh!) and play the most wonderful records all the way through. (Eat your heart out Luxy). Listening to it gave us all a delicious feeling of naughtiness. Some could even go there despite the geographical barriers. There was something very appealing about the mid-Atlantic accents. At the age of 76 I still regret not going to the States or Canada in order to catch this "must-have" for many DJ's at the time (and possibly even now). If "the good guys" at Apple can distill their fare
to get anywhere near Radio Caroline in the mid-Sixties they'll have a great station

5 years, 11 months ago

Wow, Radio Caroline.

Meanwhile, back in today's world... It turns out that Julie is 26 according to this profile of her.

5 years, 11 months ago

The article James highlights shows how Julie managed to get a drive show on Rinse. Her brothers are well known grime MC's.

This means Julie is well connected to the movers and shakers (old term I know!) in the underground music scene, which would have got Apple excited as well as her broadcasting experience on a London radio station.

5 years, 11 months ago

I wouldn't dare criticise something or somebody that I haven't seen or heard. I'm delighted that time is on Julie's side but sadly, I'm not familiar with these genres. My thesis attempted to highlight how a radio station should be familiar with the locality it wishes to serve and to point out that there are anomalies - BBC Radio Two (and probably all the other BBC stations) attract an audience of British ex-pats and the Beeb's World Service is intended to serve overseas audiences. I haven't seen the detail re Apple's intended offering. For it to be a global station I believe that it should provide programming in more languages than just American English and provide teams of reporters worldwide. But hey - I'm sure that the "good guys" (old fashioned deejay slang for deejays and producers) at Apple will come up with an elegant and popular conclusion.

5 years, 11 months ago

I don't think you'll ever be able to programme a truly global music station. This one will be skewed towards English language alternative and urban music.

Apple are going to provide what they can market and they've found a niche in the market.

5 years, 11 months ago

Agree, Martin -- again, citing Monocle 24, their music selection is skewed towards the Scandinavian, the Korean and occasionally the British. But it wouldn't hurt for Apple to try. Yes, it'll have to be mostly in English (and any foreign-language songs, however, hip its scene may be, will be limited to niche programs, if any) but it would be a shame if they only look at the predictable places.

To bare my biases here -- the Philippines, my home country, has a burgeoning indie scene, and it's mostly in English. Same with Singapore, same with Malaysia (the latter having actually exported acts like Zee Avi and Yuna to the US). But maybe eventually Apple will get to that... but maybe by then I'd have decided Beats 1 isn't worth tuning in to.

5 years, 11 months ago

It also comes down to that English language music is universal in many respects. The likes of NRJ owned Nostalgie will playlist English classic hits alongside the French tracks in both it's Belgian and French markets.

5 years, 10 months ago

I'm not going on a "beat up Apple" rant which some, but not all comments above seem to be heading towards. Instead I look at this in a different light.

For me, Apple has just validated internet radio as a credible market, and maybe that is why some traditional media types are putting out stories and comments, with a negative spin on the announcement.

Apple needed a USP for their music offering, and Beats 1 is it. The starting line-up is obviously only the beginning (duh!), and no doubt they'll add other stations to cater for other regions, hence Beats 1 as a station title.

But more importantly they're taking a gamble on internet radio, which means they're taking it seriously. When a tech company with a market cap of $734.16B (currently), and an iTunes user base of 800 million accounts (as of 2014 - Forbes) decides to launch an internet radio station, other companies best pay attention. I know I am.

Apple changed the face of podcasting, but they didn't start podcasting. Are they about to do the same to internet radio?

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