Apple’s latest recruit isn’t a tech exec, it’s a DJ. The company has poached Radio 1’s Zane Lowe for an undisclosed role within its music team that – judging by the fact that he’s moving to the US – will be global. Not that Lowe, the BBC or Apple are talking yet, leaving plenty of room for speculation.
There are some pointers, not least the fact that Lowe was one of his station’s new-music figureheads, ideally positioned to take up a curatorial role within whatever iTunes, Beats Music and iTunes Radio becomes after their relaunch later this year.
Remember, too, that a number of Beats Music’s pre-Apple launch team were drawn from the radio world, albeit more from the playlister side than DJs.
Think too about the ongoing humans versus algorithms debate in the digital music space. The answer is always “both!” but figuring out the most effective balance is the thorny-but-fun challenge facing every streaming music service.
Apple may have secured a famous name for its curation efforts, but the existing teams within that company, Spotify, Google Play, MixRadio and others are just as key to tackling the challenge of navigating through the world’s music collection, rather than just your own.
So, Zane Lowe might be joining Apple to run a bunch of new-music playlists. He might be presenting a daily or weekly show on an iTunes Radio revamped around human DJs rather than algorithmic ones. He might be curating an expansion of the iTunes Festival, interviewing artists around exclusive releases through Apple’s platform, or simply shouting excitedly over the introductions to keynote speeches.
The what – for now – is less important than the why: hiring Lowe emphasises the pivotal role human curators will play in the next wave for digital music.