As a radio executive for nearly 30 years, Kathy “KB” Brown, the program director at South Carolina-based Cumulus Media since 2017, knows her craft. In fact, in 2019, the expert in hip-hop and adult contemporary urban music spaces and much more received the coveted Living Legend Award for her longevity, knowledge, and the respect she has garnered in the industry that had few women in leadership roles when her career began. While grateful for the recognition, it was even more meaningful to Ms. Brown that her parents, James and Bobbie Brown, were in attendance to witness the honor and were applauded as well.
Revered by colleagues as a woman of her word—always following through with what she says she will do—Ms. Brown has distinguished herself by investing in people rather than companies. Investing in people, she says, changes their lives, which ultimately helps companies. A member of the National Association of Broadcasters, she believes her own success is the result of staying prepared along with studying and continually seeking to make a difference in the radio industry.
Ms. Brown pursued higher education in preparation for her storied profession, earning a Bachelor of Science in communications from Illinois State University in 1984. Born in Chicago, Illinois, it was there in her hometown she started her career at the local radio station SoftTouch, which had an all-female, on-air staff and was owned by the famed, historic Johnson Publishing Company. By age 26, Ms. Brown was the station’s program director. She then moved to a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, station and started as the on-air morning talent for music and talk segments before being promoted to program director within four and a half years.
Ms. Brown later moved to Radio One in Baltimore, Maryland, where she became a program director turned operations manager, rising again to regional program director in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia. She was proud, along with her peers, that Radio One was, as its name seemed to profess, the number one urban contemporary station during her total tenure with the company from 1996 to 2010. From there, Ms. Brown worked as the assistant program director at CBS Radio in Atlanta, Georgia, then spent several years at iHeart-St. Louis in Missouri before starting her current position at Cumulus Media. Looking into the next decade, Ms. Brown is open to making her voice-over work more of a priority to perform from her home if she decides to cease on-site radio commitments.
For now, Ms. Brown is enjoying her work. In her personal time, she’s committed to giving to her community and society at large and likes watching movies and traveling. In September 2023, she went to Cuba to help orphans as part of mission work. Also, putting her professional skills sets to use for a worthy cause, Ms. Brown volunteered as the media and entertainment coordinator for the nonprofit organization Caring For Others from 2011 to 2012. Inspired to help others, she often recalls that her mother used to tell her, “Kathy, just remember, all closed eyes and sleep,” meaning that someone is always watching and paying attention to whatever she is doing.