For music fans everywhere, Apple's Beats 1 radio has become known as the definitive stop for breaking news of the musical variety. It's the radio equivalent of a nightly cable news desk; a platform that has the latest scoop on prestige releases and features both rising artists and bona fide icons revealing intimate secrets on their latest work. And it's all thanks to the triumphant triumvirate of DJs who make it all happen: Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden and Julie Adenuga.
Amazingly, this month marks the 2nd year of their Beats 1 show, a true landmark given the incredible work they have managed to produce in just two years. To celebrate their anniversary, we spoke to all three of them for a retrospective look at their achievements with Beats 1 so far.
What drew you all to join Beats 1 in the first place? What were you doing beforehand?
ZANE: The timing was perfect. There was an opportunity to move with music. It felt like music and its audience were heading into a place where On Demand culture was thriving and streaming was learning fast.
EBRO: I’ve been in radio since the age of 15. It seemed a natural evolution to continue my journey in terrestrial radio while also stepping into the digital space via this gig at Beats 1. Before this I was/am also doing a show called "Ebro in the Morning" on HOT97 in NYC.
JULIE: I was in a place where I was subconsciously looking for my next life mission. I was hosting the drive time show on Rinse FM and had been doing so for three years. Even though I was very happy there, being a part of a team of people that constantly believed in being innovative and different, I felt like I’d learned everything I could and I was ready to fulfill my next purpose. Then I met Zane Lowe, he told me what he was working on with Apple and it was a wrap!
What has been one of the most memorable interviews or moments in your time on Beats 1?
ZANE: I’ve been blessed since I've been at Beats 1 to be able to interview and have an incredible amount of experiences in such a short amount of time. There are obvious examples that spring to mind. Getting to spend time talking with Chance the Rapper was a real moment for me, but also I really enjoyed meeting and talking to Lady Gaga for the first time around that record. She was in an incredibly honest and forthright mood and I found her to be a really compelling conversationalist. I’d probably say talking to Kendrick Lamar recently was one of the high points for me on an interview level. That was the first time to discuss in depth his craft and where his inspiration lies. That has gone down as one of my favorite interviews ever. That said, I feel like every day we have an opportunity to do something which is a really exciting experience to carry out and listen to, whether it's Vince Staples live in the studio with a record we found out about last minute and playing it nonstop for 30 minutes straight and getting all the details to talking to Edgar Wright about his new movie Baby Driver and playing the soundtrack. We’re enjoying every aspect of music right now and we’re trying to keep pace with it. It moves so fast and for us it’s really about helping to make it as exciting as possible for people.
EBRO: I’ve been fortunate over my career to have had the opportunity to sit with so many legends. There have been countless memorable interviews. That being said, Beats 1, as a new music service, has given me the opportunity to sit with the up and comers who will likely be tomorrow’s legends. Young artists like Dave, Los Rakas, Anik Khan, Abir, Chronixx and Khalid. It’s been dope to spend time with future stars early in their careers — sitting down with them and experiencing that gut feeling that they’ll be around a very long time.
JULIE: It’s got to be Britney Spears man! That’s Britney! What?! Britney Spears and Pharrell Williams are definitely up there as memorable interviews. Never would have dreamed of those moments in a million, trillion years!
What’s been one of the most surprising things to happen to you during your tenure?
ZANE: When I found myself in a room with Drake and Oliver and Future for the first time, talking about what OVO SOUND Radio would feel like, that was only a few weeks after I arrived. That was a pretty mind blowing experience to have. The quality and vision of that show. I get that feeling every time I turn on Beats 1 and Mike D is doing a radio show or Lorde is taking over the station and playing in a personal and talking about us in a personal and engaged way. Every time something exciting happens on Beats 1 we get closer to our goal which is to be the ultimate clubhouse for artists to be able to express themselves and enjoy the process of sharing music and sharing information.
EBRO: People think I’m "the hip-hop guy", and I am that. But I’m also a music fan across the board. I’m amazed at how much great music is out there from all around the world. I get put on to new sounds from a myriad of genres and countries every day. There are tracks in other languages that I don’t understand, but I feel the message regardless. Beats 1 has definitely expanded my worldview.
Think back to where you were in 2007. How would you compare yourself then to where you are now?
ZANE: In 2007 I found my voice at Radio 1 and I had a great team. Our show had struck a really good rhythm. We’d established ourselves as a place where artists come to play music. I’d started to develop a pretty consistent and exciting career around DJing and playing festivals and nightclubs and touring with artists. I really enjoyed that aspect of it. I was still on MTV doing Gonzo and I think at that moment in time it was the perfect balance across those three areas, across TV work at MTV2, my radio work at Radio 1 and my touring on my own terms. Now in 2017 I’m still doing TV but I’m doing a show called Planet of the Apps which is Apple’s first foray into episodic television, and I’ve just started touring and DJing again.
EBRO: Ha! I’m the same old G. The only major difference is that I’m now a father. That’s my most important job at the end of the day.
JULIE: I would say I was definitely more free ten years ago. This time ten years ago I was heading towards my 18th birthday, planning my first holiday away with my best friend at the time... we went to Majorca. I had less to care about then, just wanted to make money working in IKEA and spend it on raves and holidays!
What has been one of the most difficult moments you’ve been faced with?
ZANE: We had three months to build Beats 1 from scratch... the first question we asked on Day One was... is this even radio? Radio had been driving pop music in the world for 50 years, and for all of those years, that was the only way to get a hit record. I’m not sure that's still the case. Radio listenership like that is declining and in some cases gone. The Norwegians are turning off their FM signal. Where does new music fit on most terrestrial radio these days? With few exceptions, mainstream music radio has not been a driving force for change for some time. That’s why college, pirate, digital and blogs do the ground work for it. More music is being listened to than ever before. Old statistical records are being broken by new ones. As streaming services have begun to grow, we've seen the trusted industry tentpoles---Management, Record Labels, Publishers, and Media---begin to adapt. Now, the common ground is data, transparency and creativity. A strong foundation upon which trust can be rebuilt. Technology will continue to unfold in front of us. Creativity and technology exist in tandem. But only because music has always been about finding an audience; it’s never changed. It’s just harder work than ever before.
We had to face up to the reality that the old expectations may not fit the artist anymore. We have to trust the artists. Let them drive their own conversation. Trust that they know their audience. They know how to get the results. They know how this works. With that in mind, we built Beats 1, where artists can own their own real estate, drive their own message, satisfy their audience in their own voice, and hopefully, add value. Free has to lead somewhere. It has to collaborate. It has to build trust. And it’s working.
JULIE: Interviewing Take That and realizing after that sometimes you just have to keep asking questions, because everyone isn’t going to entertain banter the way people like Vince Staples or Kyle do.
If you could throw a tea party with any three guests you’ve ever interviewed on the show, who would you invite and why?
ZANE: That’s a hard question to answer. I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the company of so many incredible artists. I’d want them all to be there.
EBRO: I'd have a tea party with SZA, Young Thug and Shakira... because that's a fucking party!!
JULIE: Vince Staples, Big Baby D.R.A.M. and Kyle, because they live on the banter bus 24/7!
If you were forced to abandon DJing forever, what do you think you’d be doing?
ZANE: I can’t imagine my life without music in it. The future is unwritten. Music fans, myself included, will always need to adapt, but I’ve never been more excited about where Beats 1 is at this moment, and this is just the beginning.
EBRO: Teaching kids history, sociology & anthropology... and having more kids!
JULIE: If I had to abandon radio presenting I’d stalk Aziz Ansari and make him promise to never stop making Master of None, and then I’d watch it everyday.
Listen to each of Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden and Julie Adenuga’s shows Monday-Thursday on Beats 1 in Apple Music.
For more of our features, take a look at our chat with Vince Staples on the release day of his new album 'Big Fish Theory' right here.