“[Choosing music for airplay is] not rocket science,” says 91X’s Robin Roth. “I always go with my gut.”
In June, Robin Roth was named music director of 91X FM. Roth is the midday host on the alternative-music station. She joined the on-air staff in 1986 and worked steadily for nearly 20 years. Then she “went to Rock 105.3,” she says, “for a little over three years.” Roth returned to 91X in 2010.
Roth was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She moved to San Diego with her family at the age of 15 and graduated from Patrick Henry High School in Del Cerro. “Then, onto the real world of college at UCSD, she writes in her 91X bio, “where I actually studied my butt off and double majored in drama and communications. I was an undeclared major for a few years, but the acting bug had bitten me very early in life so I knew that in some way, I was going to be an actress. Little did I know it would be with my voice.”
Roth is a working club deejay as well, with residencies around San Diego at Club Ascension, Club Sabbat, and Club Pussy Galore.
Congrats on the promotion. Was music director a gig you wanted?
“That’s a pretty obvious yes, don’t you think?” She laughs. “It’s a definite yes.”
How did the job come about?
“After Capone left and Christy [Taylor] moved to the program director position from music director, I volunteered to help out at music meetings, and one thing led to another.”
How much day-to-day influence does the music director have over the 91X playlist?
“The music director at 91X has as much influence as the program director. It comes down to what we decide together. We don’t always agree, but we work it out. This is the first time in 91X history, by the way, that two women have been in these positions at the same time.”
You say you and Taylor work out your disagreements — how?
“There are boxing gloves in the office. I’m not kidding. That’s what we do. We bring out the gloves.”
Will you bring any changes to the music programming?
“I like where things are right now. So, as of right now, no. The thing I’m looking to see is if we can play a little more new music on the weekends. Plus, we have this feature called ‘The 91X Local Break.’ That’s where a local band gets played for a month. Right now, it’s Oliver Trolley. In the past, we’ve aired the New Regime, Family Wagon, Low Volts, Little Hurricane, and one of my favorites, Grand Tarantula. We’re on the prowl for bands from TJ, so we’re putting out the word. We’re thinking of maybe including one of them as a ‘Local Break.’”
What stations do you see as direct competition? And how will you program against them?
“There are several stations that share the same ’80s–’90s music. My job and my goal is to make sure that we continue to represent the brand that is 91X in San Diego.”
How do you guys choose music for airplay?
“That question cracks me up. It’s not rocket science. Christy and I decide together. I always go with my gut. Plus, we keep an eye on what’s selling in San Diego.”
Does some of that intel come from music bloggers?
“I look at Pitchfork every single day. In fact, it’s one of the websites I look at a couple of times a day. And, I look at what people are posting on Facebook and Twitter.”
Are you surprised when a record you really believe in doesn’t work?
“Yeah. Like, when a club killer clears the floor? Yeah.” She laughs. “But, sometimes that changes after people have heard a new song a few times...they start to like it.” ■