Beats 1

MTV died when videos became an on demand item online. What makes Apple believe the future of music consumption is radio?

I’d like Beats 1 to be successful. It would be great to add a bit of coherence to the music scene, to have international tastemakers leading us to the best stuff. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. Like the streaming service, Beats 1 will get some traction, it will have some effect, but it will not rule, because it’s based on a failed paradigm, that we want to wait to be served the same thing.

Pandora rules because each station is different.

SiriusXM offers a plethora of radio stations (US Satellite Radio). As any devoted listener will tell you, the satellite’s a button-pushing paradise. It’s hard to stay locked in to one outlet, you hear something you don’t like, or don’t love, and you see what’s playing somewhere else. Now we’re gonna be locked in to one person’s taste? Sounds positively awful.

Zane LoweAs does the concept of celebrity deejays. Credit Apple for hiring Zane Lowe, he’s a professional. But to believe Elton John and the rest of the rockers can create good radio is to believe Cousin Brucie should have number one records. Scott Muni too. And while we’re at it, Big Boy. Turns out deejaying is a skill, one honed over time. And if you think it’s easy to enrapture the audience, you’ve never attempted it.

As for the power of Mr. Lowe… He’s completely unknown in most markets. To believe he can take his audience away from the BBC and triumph elsewhere is to believe the host of “Morning Becomes Eclectic” can rule elsewhere. But this has never happened. Tom Schnabel, the progenitor of the show, has been forgotten to the sands of time. One can argue that Chris Douridas blew himself up, but he’s meaningless today. And Nic Harcourt, arguably once the most powerful deejay in adult music, is a footnote at best. Turns out the platform was more powerful than the deejay. Which doesn’t bode well for Mr. Lowe.

Then, of course, there’s Howard Stern. But the difference between Howard and the rest is Howard invented his own show, there was nothing like it previously, he was truly selling his own personality, still is, the records were irrelevant and then banished. So, Howard could take his audience from terrestrial to satellite, from free to behind a paywall. But, even Howard was marginalized until he started judging on “America’s Got Talent.” The platform is key.

As for Trent Reznor dreaming up the idea of an international radio station… That’s what’s wrong with the music business, aged people who remember how it once was. Sure, I was addicted to the radio back in the last century, but that was before I had options.

So what Beats 1 is asking for here is for you to throw away your remote and watch the same TV channel 24/7. It might be HBO (well, actually something more like Starz, at best), but if you want to live in a world with only HBO, you’re a zombie. I love Bill Maher, but I don’t want to watch “True Blood” or even “Game of Thrones.” So when I hear a tuneout on Beats 1…that’s exactly what I’m going to do, tune out.

As much as I deplore the techies’ lack of musical sophistication, all the advances of the last fifteen years can be laid at their feet, starting with Napster, evolving to Pandora. None of the usual suspects was responsible for the revolution. And now we’ve got oldsters trying to bring us back to the past?

Nearly laughable.

I mean if they got better-looking hosts on MTV and played just the best videos would you want to tune in?

Of course not.

Special thanks to Bob Lefsetz for allowing us to share his insights on RadioToday. You are welcome to join his mailing list here or check out his LefsetzLetter website.

Who is Bob Lefsetz

Bob Lefsetz is the author of “The Lefsetz Letter.” Famous for being beholden to no one and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to EVERYBODY who’s in the music business.

Never boring, always entertaining, Bob’s insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music’s American division and consultancies to major labels.


“The Lefsetz Letter” has been publishing for over 25 years. First as hard copy, most recently as an email newsletter and now, for the first time, in blog form.

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