Four months after male artists dominated the list of performers and winners at the Grammy Awards, longtime Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow said today that he will exit the job next year.
The move comes after a trophy show that was dogged by a #grammyssomale backlash, which included music executives pressuring the Academy to do something about gender disparity. Some of the focus was on a quote Portnow gave to our sister publication Variety after the Grammys in January: “It has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level,” he said, adding that women need “to step up because I think they would be welcome.”
Today, Portnow — the longest-serving president in the Recording Academy’s 60-year history, having held the top post since 2002 — said in a statement announcing his pending exit in July:
“The evolution of industries, institutions and organizations is ultimately the key to their relevance, longevity and success. Having been a member of the Recording Academy for four decades, serving as an elected leader and our President/CEO, I have not only witnessed our evolution, but proudly contributed significantly to the Academy’s growth and stature in the world. When I had the honor of being selected to lead this great organization in 2002, I vowed that on my watch, for the first time in our history, we would have a thoughtful, well-planned and collegial transition. With a little more than a year remaining on my current contract, I’ve decided that this is an appropriate time to deliver on that promise. Accordingly, I’ll be working with our Board to put the various elements in place that will ensure transparency, best practices, and the Academy’s ability to find the very best, brightest, and qualified leadership to take us into our seventh decade of operation. I truly look forward to continuing my role leading the Academy in the year ahead, and to continuing the pursuit of excellence and the fine missions we embrace and deliver.”
Meanwhile, the Recording Academy today detailed Portnow’s plans for the next year and focused on the positive aspects of his tenure:
President/CEO Neil Portnow will begin preparing for a leadership transition after choosing not to seek an extension on his current contract, which expires in July 2019. Portnow shared his plans at the Recording Academy’s semi-annual Board of Trustees meeting last week. Throughout the next year, Portnow will work with the Board to chart out an organizational succession and transition plan, while continuing his current work as active President/CEO of the Recording Academy and MusiCares, and Chair of the Board of the GRAMMY Museum.
Said John Poppo, Chair of the Board:
“Since taking the helm in 2002, Neil has been instrumental in evolving the Recording Academy to address the needs of our creative community in a changing music landscape. From critically-important music advocacy initiatives and financial assistance for our music community, to the music education and preservation programs of the GRAMMY Museum and GRAMMY Music Education Coalition, Neil has not only advanced the Academy’s mission, he’s extended its reach and impact. The Board and I are indebted to Neil for his years of heartful stewardship and visionary leadership. And, as we thank him for all he’s done, we also look forward to finding the right person to build on our solid foundation as the Recording Academy continues its work to ensure that music and the recording arts remain a thriving part of our cultural heritage.”