Charese Fruge Talks To Christy Taylor

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on March 03, 2020

This past Sunday we celebrated “International Women’s Day,” a day recognized as early as 1909 to help women gain full and equal participation in global development. March is “Women’s History Month,” one dedicated to reflecting on the often overlooked contributions of women to United States history. “Women To Watch” is a weekly feature developed to recognize remarkable women who are unapologetically making their mark in a constantly changing, still male-dominated, industry. Christy Taylor is one of today’s women deserving of that recognition, particularly in the radio business, as one of the 12% of female programmers in the United States (a statistic that hasn’t changed in 14 years), according to the latest MIW Gender Analysis study. Christy is currently the Program Director and midday host for Go 96.3, an alternative station in Minneapolis.

I first met Christy when she was programming the legendary 91X/San Diego. She was officially given the PD stripes there in 2012. I’ve always admired her ability to pick, defend and launch new music no matter who the debate was with. Today she’s no different.

Her career in radio began with a high school internship at her hometown station of WFAS in White Plains, New York. “After that, I was hooked,” she says. She continued to grow her chops at small stations in the New York area, then finally, she got the opportunity of a lifetime. “One of the most exciting things I’ve achieved in my career was getting hired to do weekends and fill in at K-Rock in New York City,” says Taylor. “It changed my career trajectory. Not only was it amazing to be on a station I grew up listening to, but without that experience I can’t imagine Trip Reeb would’ve considered me for the job I got at 91X. It truly was a career defining moment.”

She chose this industry because of her passion for music and radio. “Music brings to life the emotions words can’t explain. It is a powerful unifying force across the world and being able to help unify people over a common love of music is truly special,” says Taylor. Her passion for music inspired her to launch the highly popular “Females First” feature which airs daily on her show on Go 96.3. “It’s a 3-song segment where we feature female artists. Typically these songs are from female fronted bands like No Doubt, Alanis, Billie, and sometimes even Avril! I sometimes use them to champion and highlight other members of bands like Noelle from Fitz and the Tantrums, or Nana from Of Monsters and Men, etc.”

“The inspiration for ‘Females First’ comes from simply wanting to champion the great females in Alternative music that the format seems to have forgotten about or maybe they’ve ignored,” says Taylor. “Our audience at Go 96.3 calls us out if we don’t feature female bands on our big summer and winter shows because they pay attention to these sort of things. In fact, I find the average Alternative listener to be more socially conscious than people who listen to other formats, so this feature made a lot of sense. It’s important to put flags down on things that matter, and while Alternative is thought of as a format with a 50/50 gender split audience, women are wildly underrepresented on the airwaves. It’s actually starting to look like there is a movement happening across the country and in other formats in regard to this exact thing.”

According to Taylor, it’s important to mentor young women who want to survive in the industry to help close the gender gap. “It’s one of my personal missions to try to lift up females in the biz. If I can help in some small way I always will,” she says. “It’s not easy to do what we do! The incentive to get more of the younger generation involved in radio, she says: “Increase the pay!!!…Ha!” But what’s really important to Christy is giving more shots to people who show they have a desire to learn and the basic ‘know how’ to do the job. All too often experience is viewed as more valuable than someone with fresh ideas and a background as a Music Director or Assistant Program Director. If we continue to feed the experience model of hiring, then of course we will have only men, because they are the ones who currently have the wealth of experience. But it’s 2020, whatever worked last century isn’t how it works today. Whatever worked 10 years ago isn’t how things work today. Fresh blood might actually help us evolve more quickly, and we do need to keep up with this ever evolving competitive media landscape.”

One thing that is necessary to be successful in radio in a dual role like Christy’s is to find a balance between being a good manager and hosting a great shift. “It’s quite a task in this world filled with alerts and emails,” she says. “But it’s really just a matter of knowing where to direct my energy at any given moment, and trying to limit at work distractions. I make it a priority to make time to sit with each member of my team one on one. It’s important to me that they know I care about them and what they need. This helps create an inclusive atmosphere that people buy in to,” according to Taylor. “Plus, my first job as Program Director is to be an assistant of sorts, it is my job to clear the runway and give them the space they need to do their jobs as best as they can.”

So what keeps her sane and helps her find her own balance? “My dog, my friends, and coffee. How does anyone live without these things?” Amen sister! Let’s talk about her dog Bubba (the bulldog) for a minute. He is an Instagram star! I love watching stories of the chaotic joy he brings to Christy’s life. It’s not surprising that he keeps her balanced. He’s like a child. “Bubba is definitely like a child! He even goes to day care,” she says. “But the best story about Bubba is how I ended up adopting him,” she says. “Back in 2012, I was talking to Kat Corbett (KROQ) about her bulldog V, as I was looking to adopt one too. You see, I had Googled the best dog for lazy owners, and bulldogs came up in the top 10! Kat explained that she had gone through Southern California Bulldog Rescue, and when I logged on to the website, one of the first dogs I saw was my Bubba, who happened to be called Boomer at the time. As it turned out, the family who was fostering Bubba was actually the real estate agent who sold me a condo in San Diego about 10 months earlier!!!! So I like to believe that the stars aligned to bring Bubba into my life!”

The stars have definitely aligned for Christy. She’s survived not only the roller coaster ride that is the radio industry and made it into management, but also the transition from San Diego weather to Minneapolis weather. That in itself is a major accomplishment! As for what’s next for Christy: “Honestly all I want to do is continue to grow as a manager while continuing to grow Go 96.3’s cume and ratings.”

You can watch her do so, and catch “the adventures of Bubba” by following her on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok @christy_taylor