Incorporating Tech and Vintage Radio Concepts
Sheryl Underwood may be most familiar to many readers as one of the hosts on CBS TV’s The Talk but Radio Facts readers may also know that Underwood has been featured on many syndicated radio shows over the years like Tom Joyner and she’s a natural. To that end, her love for radio started by being on and watching industry icon Tom Joyner noting his dedication to the HBCUs and the community. Nobody can deny that out of all the syndicated hosts old and new Joyner has been at the forefront of the community and used his show as a platform on many occasions (Joyner will be retiring at the end of 2019).
Currently, Underwood is running her own syndicated radio company, Sheryl Underwood Radio, in many markets and worldwide. She targets the often overlooked college radio industry in the states like HBCU’s but she’s also got a bigger plan. Currently, Sheryl Underwood Radio hosts four shows: Sheryl Underwood Radio (afternoon drive show) Late Night Cupcaking (R&B slow jams), Da House Party (Hip Hop/ R&B) and Spiritual Nourishment (Gospel Music).
Underwood is very knowledgeable about how the radio industry works but she also has great ideas to use that knowledge and take her brand and leverage to the next level. I can honestly say it is rare that I talk to someone who does an urban radio show who is also committed to the future of digital technology and podcasting the way she is. Many seasoned radio pros look at doing a podcast as extra work not grasping the fact that it could literally be their OWN radio station and a greater financial ticket.
We have been talking about the podcast explosion on this site five years before it happened. To that end, it’s incredibly refreshing to talk to someone who gets it and is ambitious about the future of the industry and merging all the tools to create a great overall brand.
Kevin: How’s your day today?
Sheryl: You know, everything is going very, very well. I am really excited about even talking to you because, I just think that right now, more than ever, radio, as it evolves, it can still do some great good and speak to the people. We’ve got to get people ready for the evolution of our country.
Kevin: What do you think about the state of urban radio right now
Sheryl: I think it’s very exciting. When I was working with Tom Joyner, and I was like, “well I want to do an afternoon show.” You know, mornings wasn’t really my thing. I learned a lot from what Tom was doing. Tom has always been the place to go, if you wanted to get elected to something, the City Council, Congress, Senate, even President, you had to go through Tom Joyner to reach the community. And I always admired how he was doing something for higher education with HBCUs. So, looking at that, and that history and when you’re talking about keeping R&B and Funk alive too he’s made the best effort, you know, it was just a combination of things and I was like, Wow! I want to be a part of this, but then I want to do something that’s my own thing, my own signature too. So then, when you go, “hey, I want my own show, well you know, Urban radio can be considered patriarchal in some ways, even though your audience is almost 52 to 53% female, your leadership is male.
Kevin: Got it
Sheryl: So, then they say, ‘Well, nah, you know, a girl can’t do that.’ But then, other people get a show. I’m proud that Rickey Smiley, DL and Steve Harvey got their shows. What it showed is, comedians, especially those who have something to say, be it entertaining or be it political or both, we could be this next wave, so when it came time for me to do what I wanted to do, I just looked back to old school radio, and I looked to Cathy Hughes, we are both girls that grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and I’m like, listen, I don’t take your ‘no’ as the final word, I say, I take it as a ‘no(t) right now!
So, I’ve got to put myself in the position, so when you say, what do I feel about the state of urban radio? I’m very excited, because, you’ve got internet radio, you’ve got HBCU radio, you’ve got satellite radio, you’ve got Low Power FM radio, you’ve got commercial radio. You’ve got companies, mainstream companies that bought up all these spaces, selling them, now at pennies on the dollar, because, it wasn’t that you can’t make money off of them, you just don’t know how. That’s the first thing. Then the second thing is, this is supposed to be the place where the new jock and the new radio talent, learns its zone, and we’ve got to make syndication something that keeps jobs, not something that gobbles up jobs.
Kevin: Yeah. my radio brethren will get pissed at me for saying this but I personally think urban radio has been too comfortable for too long and the advent of not just the various kinds of radio that you mention but also internet radio, podcasts, audiobooks, streaming and personal options for music on cell phones have all weighed heavy and created massive competition for urban radio and at the end of the day, it’s all about leverage.