The man who helped 91X regain its mojo, Garrett Capone, is leaving the station to work in artist development with the New York–based Crush Management company, which handles acts such as Train, Wavves, Gym Class Heroes, Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco, Cobra Starship, and Foxy Shazam. Capone will be based in Los Angeles and flying cross-country to try to get airplay for the artists in his management stable.
Capone, 31, came to 91X in May 2007 from a station in Albany, New York. Hired as afternoon DJ and music director, he moved up to program director about three years ago. Recognizing the huge impact that 91X had on music and culture locally in the ’80s and ’90s, he brought back DJs Oz Medina (mornings) and Robin Roth (midday) and Mike Halloran and Steve West (weekends), who were part of 91X’s golden era, when it was known as the “cutting edge of rock.” Capone also refocused on artists he says that 91X should have never backed away from, “like the Cure, U2, Depeche Mode, and Oingo.” Capone also tossed out its all-talk morning show and started playing music during the morning drive time.
About a year and a half ago, a Capone-driven 91X started showing a significant increase in ratings. It currently shows a 3.0 ratings share among all listeners; its closest competitor, FM94/9, has about half that (1.6), according to Arbitron.
Capone says that 91X had some rehabilitation to do. “When Noble ran it [1983–’96], it was a tremendously well-run station. When Jacor/Clear Channel came in, they killed it. They did seemingly irreparable damage to the brand. When [Clear Channel] sold it and it was relaunched as an independent station, it started to come back. People in San Diego were very aware of the corporatism versus local. 91X means more to San Diego than any other station means to any other city.”
The tarnished Clear Channel/corporate image surrounding 91X prompted FM94/9 to switch to modern rock in 2004. Capone countered 94/9’s playlist by giving significant airplay to up-and-coming national artists such as M83, the Naked and Famous, and Florence + the Machine and local artists Deadfeather Moon and Transfer. “Every month we give a local artist as much airplay as we give a national artist,” says Capone. “When we started playing [local band] Little Hurricane, they went from two kids [originally] from Bakersfield to where they now have management, a lawyer, an agent, are getting radio airplay in other cities, and they are actively being pursued by labels.”
Capone feels he was slandered on FM94/9 last October when he put on two days of commercial-free radio against a 48-hour all-talk “Mikeython” on 94/9, which was anchored by morning host Mike Esparza. “They said on air that I hate kids and that I am against charity and for autism. They said I was the bully who beats up special-needs kids in the classroom. They said the yellow and black of the 91X logo represents hate.”
So, why no lawsuit?
“I know who I am. I know our listeners know how to tell truth from lies.”
I ask if the outburst could be tied to a frustration that the Mikey Show is getting trounced in the ratings by 91X?
“Yes, I imagine getting beat like that could cause some frustration, but I don’t know what’s going on in Mike’s head.”
Capone leaves at the end of February. His successor has not been named.