Sustaining a business of any kind during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge, but to sustain and grow a minority-owned business during these difficult times is a sign of diligence. Recently, Darvio Morrow, CEO of FCB Entertainment — consisting of several recording labels and a series of internet radio stations — signed a digital distribution agreement with Sony Music Publishing that will allow him to broaden his company’s reach even further.
“By Sony being the administrator of our publishing, they’re also pushing our music content for placement in TV, film, commercials, etc., which is a total game changer for us,” says Morrow.
Morrow currently owns six radio stations, all available through iHeart Radio, and produces more than 20 diverse podcasts, ranging from arts and entertainment, sports, politics, religion, public affairs, relationships, and more. Morrow got his feet wet in the podcasting arena in 2013 while hosting a show on local terrestrial radio, but his true foray into podcasting began in June 2015, with the debut of The Outlaws Radio Show, an entertainment-based podcast focusing on celebrity interviews and current events.
“When we first started, we were doing podcasts and streaming,” says Morrow. “The company responsible for the streaming went bankrupt, shutting down all the streaming shows with it, and podcasts were all we had left. My focus then turned to investing all my time and energies into podcasting and trying to reach a younger, more diverse audience than we were reaching on the air.”
After 6-8 months of growing an audience for The Outlaws, Morrow began to develop more shows. It goes without saying that podcasts have exploded in popularity over the past year, largely due to social distancing protocol brought on by the pandemic, but Morrow feels the podcast world was already expanding before the drastic changes brought on by the ‘new normal’ way of life.
“I think the growth of podcasts accelerated because of COVID-19; because everyone’s at home, looking for stuff to do, looking for more options for their news and entertainment,” says Morrow. “The media landscape, in general, has been moving more in the direction of on-demand content anyway, with the Netflixes and the Hulus; it just so happens that the disruption happened in television first. Podcasting is a natural extension of that; it’s an audio Netflix.”
Among Morrow’s bevy of podcasts is “The Outlaws Radio Show” which Morrow co-hosts; “The Jeff Brown Show” examines life, love, and relationships; “Just Listen to Yourself,” hosted by Kira Davis; “Sounds Right” offers politics and pop culture; “America’s Next Top Model” finalist Victoria Henley hosts “Backstage Pass,” offering celebrity interviews. The latest addition to the FCB Radio family is “Baddie Vibez with Lexy and Abbie,” a podcast hosted by singer/influencer Lexy Panterra and on-air personality Abbie Knights. The first episode of “Baddie Vibez” premiered on FCB Radio in May.
Since December 2020, “The Outlaws” have two extensive interviews with Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson under their belt, the most recent interview being just after his announcing that he would not seek a fifth term in office.
The podcasts employ more than 20 radio personalities and are accessible through various platforms including iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn and Stitcher Radio.
“We’re one of a handful of independent, black-owned podcast networks in the state, and across the country. Our content often goes viral, and I think it’s a huge benefit for the city to have a local business with the type of reach and presence we have created.”
Born and raised in East Cleveland, Nate Paige has contributed more than 25 years to local journalism. He got his professional start at the Cleveland Call & Post and would later get his foot in the door at Cleveland.com as a copy editor. While there, he held a number of positions including entertainment reporter, community editor, hyperlocal producer, and social media coordinator. He currently handles social media for the city of Shaker Heights.