Talking Tech With Apple Music 1 Host Zane Lowe

Zane Lowe
Zane Lowe is co-head of artist relations at Apple Music and an Apple Music 1 host. APPLE MUSIC

Zane Lowe is the person that every notable musical artist aspires to talk to about their music. From Taylor Swift to Muse to Vince Staples and plenty of emerging artists, Lowe has his finger on the pulse of popular music. Lowe rose to global prominence as the host of a BBC Radio 1 show for more than a decade. In 2015, he left to join Apple, where he helped launch the company's live and programmed music efforts, now called Apple Music 1, as part of Apple Music.

Lowe is a Grammy-nominated producer and musical artist himself, and you can listen to him live engaged with the people behind the most popular songs in the world regularly on The Zane Lowe Show. I chatted with Lowe on the phone about using technology during the pandemic, collecting vinyl and NFTs, as well as his love of lighting. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You were working from home during the pandemic. What was your setup and what was that like?

I'm working on Apple [laughs].

It's funny, you know, when everything went into quarantine, within a few days, we started to think, How can we get the studio back up and get broadcasting again and get the show up and get the conversations moving? To me, it was really clear from watching artists immediately move to their social media feeds that there was this real deep need for connection.

Within a few days, we had to plan to start recording shows from home using a very basic kind of podcast-type mic plugged into a laptop. And we were FaceTiming each other, recording our audio, and it was as rough and rugged as you could get. It was really fulfilling at that moment because we're all just trying to figure out like, What's going on? How do we stay connected to the ones we love? How do we stay connected to our jobs?

To get a little meta, when you're preparing some interview questions, do you use pen and paper or the Notes app? What do you do?

I used to use pen and paper years and years ago. When I first started, I would handwrite them out. And sometimes I still find them in a box. I'll find some handwritten notes that I might have gotten signed. And I'll find something I thought was the perfect interview at that moment. So I saved those questions, but most of them end up in the trash.

What I do now is I use my phone and I draft emails. I just draft an email. It's always the same format.

Sometimes I won't do any notes. Like if I feel good about it. If I love the music and I feel like I can just ride it.

What was the last piece of musical equipment that you got really excited about?

I get excited every time I get to download a new Logic update. A new version! I get very excited.

Also, I went out and I got a really lovely Fender guitar and an amp and nice bass and stuff. It was really a great day because I just rolled up to Guitar Center and spent a lot of time researching and talking to the people up there and figuring out what the vibe was, and then I just came back with a few items. I was really stoked about that.

In terms of technology, I just went through a whole bunch of boxes and stuff that I had from my studio in the U.K. and found a really old piece of equipment that I got years ago from Korg. It's literally smaller than an A4 piece of paper. It's called an Electribe. I have to figure out how to get that wired for U.S. voltage.

I hear you're a vinyl collector. What's your setup, and do you have any recommendations for people getting started?

Yes. I mean, that really started again in quarantine. I used to collect as a kid, but I never did so seriously. And then in quarantine I would go to a friend's house regularly—we had a Covid-safe environment with testing—and we would have dinner, and one of the parts of the experience was that we would sit around listening to records.

It just was inspiring to me, and I realized that I could have both. I could make the most of the streaming era, which I absolutely love because the access allows me to just discover things that I never would have had the means. At the same time, I just loved holding these things in my hand, so I started collecting again.

And then I'm like, Oh, maybe I'll go and join a record [of the month] club, and I did that. So now I get surprises once a month.

Turntable-wise, I've got Shinola, which I've had for years, which I love, and I've got a Rega Planar because it connects to the sound system in the house. So I love that, too.

Sometimes I honestly just scroll through my Discogs. I'll be waiting for my kids to come out of volleyball, and I have 5 minutes and take a look at my Discogs. I'm literally scrolling and admiring my collection, which is on my phone in small avatar forms.

On the collection front, do you have any thoughts on NFTs in the music space?

For me, it's exciting to see artists and technology find new ways to kind to create anything that feels collectible and exciting.

I have some pretty good friends who are very future-forward and tech-minded who were very early on it. So I was sort of there at the beginning, watching it starting to connect, and a lot of people were also drawn immediately into the flurry of activity around it.

I always like to hear what the artists have to say first, before the investors and before the futurists. Some people will say, well, by the time the artists get to it, it's too late. But I'm not thinking about it in terms of the business opportunity. No disrespect to anyone who is, but I'm thinking about, How does it benefit the art and how are the artists going to benefit from it? And then, What's the meaningful opportunity in terms of understanding it from that perspective? That's where I come from. So I'm all for it.

I could never get in the way of progress. I wouldn't be working in Apple Music in the streaming business if I was suspicious of progress. I'd still be in radio, only focusing on radio. So I'm all about what comes next.

But I like the dust to settle for a second just to see what the artist thinks. And I think what the artist wants is everything. And rightfully so. The artist wants collectible and accessible. I shouldn't have to choose.

I'm all for this collectible era, as long as it doesn't come at the expense of something else. We get obsessed with whatever comes next, and whatever comes next is going to be the death of what came before—and we don't learn it's not the case.

What was your favorite product that you bought last year?

I really covet these outdoor lights by Bover. I'm a real lighting person. This is something I've never talked about. I'm super obsessed with lighting in a work-at-home or work environment.

I went and got a couple of these outdoor lamps. They're pricey, but you know, if you love something, and I love lighting, I'm willing to sort of stretch into that space.

​​Newsweek may earn a commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we back. We participate in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.