Don’t Touch That Dial

Beats 1 and why you’ll be Wolfman Jacked


Back when I was walking uphill both ways to school we had this old fashioned thing called a radio. It had a dial for volume, a dial to change the channel, and a few buttons to save preset stations.

You’d listen to music for awhile. A DJ would come on and tell you a bit about the music. Then more songs. Occasionally you’d pull up next to another car and you could tell by the motion of the driver’s head that he was listening to the same song as you.

Those were music’s dark ages. Technology changed everything. Limits were removed. We could listen to any song we wanted, we could stream customized radio stations, we could put on our headphones and create a personal listening experience to last all day long. Finally, technology had freed us to self-actualize as music listeners.

But what if we were wrong? What if what we were actually doing was thinking about what the technology could accomplish instead of focusing on how we wanted to listen?

What if the way we organized old school radio was not simply all we could do, but instead was exactly what we wanted?

What if the most popular and innovative thing about Apple’s new music service ends up being its oldest and most familiar feature: A radio station.

I will not be surprised. DJs are good (even when they’re referred to as human curators). Sitting back and listening is nice. Discovering a new song and then being told a bit about the artist is pretty cool. And seeing a few other heads moving to the same beat is something we’re yearning for now more than ever.

For the past several years, I’ve had SiriusXM in my car. Me and my kids listen to the same stations. We’ve discovered new artists. We listen to DJs play the top songs of the week and argue over what will come in at number one. (Of course, when my kids get out of the car, I immediately return to listening to Howard Stern.)

Am I glad I can augment that experience with on-demand music? Of course. One can only take so much Hozier. But I like the radio experience. And my kids, who have no idea what radio is, also like it.

This is just the beginning for Apple’s new music effort. As you’d expect, there were a few complaints and issues that arose. But a year from now, all the little bugs and UI issues will be forgotten. And this day will be remembered as the moment Apple reminded people that they like radio.

Apple’s Beats 1 radio station will be the most popular part of its music service. And it will spawn additional stations. And we’ll realize that while it sometimes pays to follow the technology, it can be just as fulfilling to follow the beaten path. And along that path, if you happen to see a few other heads moving to the same beat, all the better. Rock on.


Dave Pell writes NextDraft, the Day’s Most Fascinating News. Subscribe or get the app here.

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