Zane Lowe Leaves Radio 1: How He Created A Rare New Music Empire

It’ll be your final chance to get “on board”: Thursday 5 March. Say goodbye to ‘the hottest record in the world’, ‘verses’ and ‘mics down’. For 12 years, Monday to Thursday, 7-9pm, Zane Lowe’s presented Radio 1’s evening show but now he’s off to take up a role working for Apple in the US. For a lot of UK music fans, this is big news.

First, let’s get a few criticisms out of the way. Zane Lowe wasn’t everyone’s idea of pleasurable listening. The arguments of his detractors are well known: they say he’s overly enthusiastic, relentlessly positive and panders to his interviewees. Sure, some people won’t be upset to see him go, but he’s also consistently secured the best new music first for British fans for well over a decade – and it’s all of us that are going to miss that.

Starting out in the UK with XFM and MTV’s Gonzo (remember the brown couch? The jams on miniature instruments with the likes of Josh Homme?) he went on to secure the evening slot in 2003.

Throughout his time Zane Lowe never had the biggest audience on Radio 1 but he consistently got the biggest exclusives. Features like ‘hottest record in the world’ gained so much traction they placed Radio 1, and the UK, at the centre of the world’s music universe.

The reason? Pretty simple: over that time he’s built deep, trusting relationships with the biggest acts in the world. All the DJs at R1 are big music fans, but Lowe is truly an obsessive. Think about it. How many other UK broadcasters can you think of that can seamlessly segue between Slipknot to Catfish & The Bottlemen, Bobby Shmurda to Alesso without a gap in their knowledge?

When not on air he’s trawling music sites, listening to demos and creating music. You may remember his band Breaks Co-Op, but lesser known is that in recent years, he’s been co-producing and co-writing for acts like Sam Smith, Example, Chase & Status, Tinie Tempah, Professor Green and Future.

Away from the mic, amongst his peers, he’s well respected. It’s no fluke that in recent years that’s translated into securing headline-grabbing interviews with music’s biggest stars – Eminem, Jay Z, and who can forget, Kanye West the interview that gave birth to as many pull quotes as Noel Gallagher’s entire career. It’s no doubt part of the attraction for Apple.

Radio 1 will miss his craft, too. There are some DJs who script their shows, but the few times I was with Zane Lowe in the studio when I worked at Radio 1 I saw that the passion and knowledge just flows out of him. That’s a rare, innate quality for any broadcaster.

There are no details about what Lowe will be doing at Apple in the States yet. We can speculate that he’ll be part he brand’s grand plans for Beats Music – and some kind of curation role wouldn’t be a surprise.

From March 9 Annie Mac, who started her BBC career as a broadcast assistant on Zane’s show, will step up. She’s a more than worthy replacement, but it’ll be a completely different vibe and Mac will make that show her own thing.

But for many people who grew up with the ritual of listening to Zane Lowe into the night, it’s a sad loss. We’ve been “on board” and it was a great ride.