International radio personality Zane Lowe is a regular fixture both weekly on BBC Radio 1 as well as annually at a staggeringly long list of worldwide festivals. Known for his innate ability to discover up and coming talent, his ability to DJ across genres effortlessly and his ever-enthusiastic style, Music-News caught up with him during the Brunel branch of his Nokia Lumia Live tour.
You’re one of the most prolific DJs in radio. You’re known for helping to back and sponsor up and coming bands. Now with the power of social networks, Spotify and so on - does radio still have the same make-or-break factor for bands?
I believe it does. I feel that the internet serves an important purpose - in that it gives the audience a very direct connection to their interests and it gives them a voice, whereas before you had to earn that voice or know someone to get a chance to get an opinion across to artists. On the flipside, for fans rather than musicians, the options available in terms of listening to music are huge and they can be confusing. Which means that the filter is more important than it’s ever been before. The opportunity for radio is, as always, to create a very hassle free filter for people - you just you choose your station - and thats it. It helps people to find out more and develop more on what they’re interested in. As with film, or news, or any current events - the internet has so many different options and sources - but only a choice few can speak with authority. Radio is a very direct filter between music and an audience - it’s something they can trust.
You’re known for playing a real cross genre-style - artists in general at the moment seem to be doing a lot of blurring of genres. Do you think this is going to change the way music is promoted?
The way music’s promoted is now different full stop. It used to be promoted in a more controlled environment, where it was signed, put into a structure, given the time to grow or not and presented in a way to be bought. Now it doesn't really work that way because it's a more free market . Not completely free but more free than in previous years. That freedom certainly enables that cross genre approach to exist more freely. I'm a fan of that. As soon as you put something like Itunes into play, and people can create their own playlists, then people have a shorter attention span and that opens the opportunity for people to develop a more broad taste. People now listen to Skrillex, which leads them to heavy metal, which leads them to folky Frank Turner, which takes them to Ed Sheeran, which leads them to Dot Rotten... people are much more on a song-by-song basis now anyway, so the way music is promoted is much less genre-led as a result.
There's been talk of EDM penetrating every part of the music world -
That’s brilliant. That should be your headline. “EDM penetrates” Epic.
Waits for Zane to Stop laughing. So EDM’s been--
“Penetrating. That’s what EDM’s been doing”
...EDM’s been influencing lots of different areas of the music world. Is this a permanent movement or do you feel on the mainstream side it’s another phase?
Nothing ever really moves anywhere. It doesn’t work that way. Not everyone decides to wear blue jeans, or leather jackets. Opinions are like voices - everyone will always have their own. What you have now is an area of the cycle, where the necessary option with Pop music is to look for an aggressive dynamic but you don’t necessarily want that with guitar records anymore so you look for it in Dance. That’s why Skrillex has been so successful, because it’s rock n roll but it’s been done in an electronic way. Yes it’s become successful in America because it’s a recession buster, it’s cost-low - for artists, for promoters and for fans if you go to the right clubs. You can go and get seven or eight hours of entertainment for one figure rather than go see one band for 90 minutes, so all these things add up. The timing is perfect for it. However it’s not like the whole world’s gonna wake up one day and it’s going to be Tron . In fact it’s likely to be the opposite. There’s Swag and Rock music on the way up too, but then that doesn’t mean that dance music won’t go away. Really, it’s just a system of timing and cycles.
With the scene becoming ever more international, ever more global - do you think the traditional powerhouses of West Europe, bits of the US will remain, or do you think that that's all set to change?
Zed’s from Germany, Crowded House are from NZ / Australia , PSY’s from Korea and he has the biggest Youtube hit ever. The internet connects the world differently - so for popular music it’s now more about the song quality and the entertainment quality in terms of the internet and Youtube. I’m lucky - because at this stage I’m not yet being asked “how many records in your show got over a million hits on Youtube this month” but, one day that might change. That’s the future we’re facing, rather than a country or area rising to the front. For me, it’s the same way it’s always been - music should be assessed on whether it’s just good, or just different, or just feels right. We need to keep that balance with the youtube and internet popularity. Algorithm is an good addition to natural rhythm but it shouldn’t lead it - We should always be led by natural rhythm
You've got this ability to see upcoming talent -
I’m fortunate in that I get to to put my interest in music into practice with Radio 1 and ultimately you get credited with that because you have a big audience. However I can’t actually take credit. A lot of songs I’ve ‘discovered’ were played by niche local stations before me - I just played it several times a day! - DJ wise you have to put in perspective - it’s not about who plays it first, it’s about who plays it best and even then it comes down to whether the audience likes it. DJs only have so much power
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
The internet has given a lot more control to artists than they had before. The downside of that is a lot of people will form a band, take a photo and say “That’s it, we’re a band!” By rights you are, but what I really want is a band or an artist to go out there and be ready. When I go see you, just as a fan, I want you to be as good as the ‘Pumpkins were, or as good as a Tribe called Quest, as Adele. Sure, everyone aspires to be like that, but you need to be prepared, do your research. If this is going to be 20, 30 years of your life, then prepare to go out and play like it’s going to be your life. Then we’ll all believe in you.
Nokia Music is a free music streaming service available on the Nokia Lumia range giving users access to a catalogue of over 17 million tracks. The service is designed to encourage people to discover great new music and features over 150 playlists put together by a team of musicologists.
Nokia Music playlists span a wide spectrum of musical genres and also offers playlists created by artists such as Lana Del Rey, Lady Gaga and Rihanna. Nokia Music playlists can also be enjoyed offline so people can listen to their favourite playlists anytime, anywhere. Zane will be selecting playlists of his favourite past and present artists to give us a taster of what can be expected from his tour. For lovers of live music, 'GIG FINDER', which locates the user’s position and pinpoints live concerts, gigs and shows taking place in their local area.