Music Industry Powerhouse Neil Portnow On The Past, Present & Future Of The Recording Academy

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7/8/2019 by Jimmy Kontomanolis

This month, Neil Portnow is stepping down from one of the most important jobs in the music industry. For 17 years, Portnow has been at the helm of the Recording Academy and has watched the organization evolve in astounding ways under his leadership. And if you think the Recording Academy is just GRAMMY Awards and Halls of Fame, think again. Working closely with the Academy’s Board of Trustees, Chair, 12 Chapter Boards and Officers, and senior management, Portnow has helped advance the organization’s goals and mission in strategic and much-needed ways.

Music was in Portnow’s blood from the very start. A love for music that ran in his family led him to aspirations of becoming a musician. But while that didn’t pan out exactly as planned, that road led him to the Recording Academy, where his work to create change in the industry is unprecedented.

Los Angeles Confidential chatted with Portnow about the work of the Academy, the positive change he enacted, and the future, both for the Academy and himself.

On the programming he helped spearhead

“There are a probably a number of things that didn’t exist that now do,” Portnow says. Mainly, four pillars were identified for the Academy that have been built on over the years: Awards, membership, philanthropy and advocacy. “When I started,” he continues, “we did not have an advocacy department, but now we are one of the leading organizations in the United States when it comes to artists’ rights and the creative community, because we speak for the entire community, not just one segment.”

And with philanthropy and charity being a growing pillar for the Academy, Portnow and his team did a lot of work with MusiCares. “Most people in the music industry, unless you’re working for a company, you don’t have insurance or a steady income, so what happens when you’re in trouble? We’re there for that or the more serious issues of substance abuse and addiction recovery; in that case, we are saving lives,” Portnow says. “Over the years, that’s over $60 million in aid given to our community. No one else is doing that.”

Another big milestone? The GRAMMY Museum. “That had been a dream for decades for the Academy,” says Portnow. “It made sense that we have that. It’s hard to do—it’s not exactly a thriving commercial business to be in, and yet we finally found a way. And I’m proud on my watch to get that in place and opened, and now, ten years later, we have four different locations for the Museum.”

On helping pass landmark legislation

One of the major milestones of Portnow’s administration is undoubtedly the Music Modernization Act, which was many years in the making—and a reality that Portnow saw through to the end. “The reality is that there has not been much in the way of legislation relating to the music industry for decades. There was legislation many decades ago that were based on an environment that is no longer in existence. So the bottom line is that we’ve become a very highly regulated industry based on a business environment from 50 years ago,” says Portnow. His goal: to create an environment within the diverse and divergent constituencies in music so that the industry can be unified. Portnow started the CEO Group, to which he invited the heads of 25 leading organizations representing these various constituencies in the industry, to create trust and build relationships. “So in 2014,” he continues, “I called for that plan during our GRAMMYS on the Hill, and here we are five years later with help and support from all of the other organizations, and with hard work on everybody’s behalf, we crossed that finish line. So it is landmark, but really many, many years in the making.”

On the Academy’s future and continued growth

“Everybody has their own management style,” Portnow states. “So having a change and objectivity will be healthy and serve us well. What’s important, I think, is that we make sure that we do a lot of listening because we are a membership organization, and we serve a constituency and we work within an industry, and it’s those two elements that make up the reasons for our existence, so we need to be good listeners.”

“The way we leave the company going forward,” he continues, “is such that it’s a very healthy, robust, solid, well-respected organization. That allows you the freedom, flexibility and the ability to focus on the future and the evolutionary pieces. That would be a great legacy for anyone to leave behind.”

And what will he miss most about the Academy? For Portnow, the question was an easy one to answer: the people. Like a true humble leader, Portnow points to the work and accomplishments of the entire team, who for 17 years, worked together to achieve a common goal.

On what’s next for Portnow

The trajectory of Portnow’s career has been, as it is for many, mostly nonstop. However, in the 1980s, during a stint between jobs, Portnow had the chance to “get out from the bubble that we get in.” From that short break came a left turn in his career that ultimately led him to his role at Zomba Group, where for 13 years, he helped lead the company that kick-started the careers of iconic acts like Britney Spears and ‘NSYNC. His advice? “Get outside of the bubble, have an open mind, take the phone calls and be willing to get into or look at something that was unpredictable or unexpected.”

In the meantime however, Portnow calls out a mailer he received at home with an ad that struck his attention. “Get paid to snuggle dogs” was the headline, with the potential to earn up to $1,000 per month. “I thought, you know, there might a future to that.” Something tells us Portnow won’t be having to snuggle up to the dogs for too long, though.

How Recording Academy President Neil Portnow Made The Most Of His 17-Year Tenure

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6/26/2019 by Ogden Payne

Neil Portnow’s tenure as the Recording Academy’s president and CEO comes to a close after 17 years. 

The landscape of music looked completely different when Portnow took the helm of the Academy in 2002. During his career, he saw one of the most seismic shifts in music distribution and technology, specifically with the advent of YouTube and streaming services. He led the Academy in redefining the Grammy Awards categories and nomination process, as well as advocated on Capitol Hill (evidenced by the passing of the Music Modernization Act) on behalf of the music community. Prior to being the Recording Academy president, Neil served in a number of positions within the industry on both the creative and executive side. 

Portnow will officially hand over the position in August. As his departure draws near, he opened up about his role as a leader and his potential endeavors after the Academy. 

The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

Ogden Payne: As the distribution of music and its culture shifted, there were likely lofty expectations for the Recording Academy to reflect the changing landscape and immediately get it right. How did you deal with those expectations? 

Neil Portnow: I think it’s a combination of things. My background is kind of a mix. [I] started on the music side as a musician, but at the same time I had also been an entrepreneur and started my own little company. I think [my] perspective was a little bit unique, it wasn’t strictly from a creative side or strictly from a business side, but a combination. I think that probably gave me a few things. The first is some great insight in terms of what it takes to make music and what the creative community actually goes through, lives through, and feels, [as well as] what their fears and concerns are. The other piece is being a business person and having run my own little business, as well as larger ones over the years and seeing the corporate structure. I think I had my ear in a lot of different places on the street, on the ground, and in the world. The bottom line for me over the years has been that […] music is never going to go away. People’s appetite for it is larger than ever. It was just a matter of how to manage the business piece so that it would accommodate whatever the business climate was from a consumer’s standpoint. 

Payne: Because the Academy is such a large organization, with so many genres and groups being represented, did you ever feel the need to keep everybody happy? 

Portnow: I think in business, and in a place like the Academy, you have to realize that no matter what you wish you can do, you just can’t keep everybody happy. I think that you can look for consensus. It’s all about a couple of things: one, it’s about transparency so people know what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, and how that’s being rolled out. It’s also about collaboration. Anybody who thinks they’re the smartest person in the room is going to find that they’re sadly mistaken over a period of time. I think a great manager has a few things that they need to consider. The first is you need to know what your strengths are. You need to know what you don’t know. When you come to the realization of what you don’t know, then the [next] move is to surround yourself with people who do know, who know way more than you do, and frankly, if possible, who are smarter than you in those areas. When you put that all together, you may not make everybody happy, but I think people will feel that they’re heard and that they have a stake in what’s going on. It’s also about being able to be flexible. The minute that you think you’re number one and get complacent about it, there’s going to be someone right behind you who’s going to take that place for sure. You can never be complacent about where you are. You always have to look at what’s next.

Payne: Chance the Rapper became the first streaming-only artist to win a Grammy. What did that moment mean to the Academy? 

Portnow: Chance was and is a maverick. He is a very forward-thinking artist and is entrepreneurial. He decided to release his own music and not necessarily get involved in the major label system. In these times where you have so many avenues through social media, digital media, and so-on, there are opportunities that didn’t exist before, for independence to reach a level that before was very difficult to reach. The reason that Chance was in the Grammy process is because as an Academy, two years before Chance’s album came out in [the digital] format, we recognized what our awards process needed to be and tried to anticipate what’s coming. We went to work to revise the rules and regulations and fortunately that happened before Chance’s album came out. [We] can’t always be quite as effective and efficient because we don’t have a crystal ball, but that’s a good example of how we were right on point. 

Payne: How did you perceive the era of technology and embrace the advents of streaming platforms? 

Portnow: In the history of the music industry and music in general, technology is typically our friend, because more often than not it expands the reach of music that is getting the creators to the fans who want to hear it. Over the years, when you look at that in my tenure – that would be from vinyl to cassettes to CDs, mp3s – we had all of those different technologies but essentially, it was a means of distributing music to consumers and fans, and that changed over the years. In almost every case, the advent of those technologies was very scary to the music industry and weird. 

Now, with Spotify and the other streaming services, it’s essentially a change in the distribution of music. I think at the end of the day, the one thing we haven’t quite figured out yet is the business model. The Academy’s greatest role in this has been trying to bring together the disparate interests in the music industry at first so that we could have a unified approach to deal with these issues on the tech side. The Music Modernization Act was a giant step and leap forward, not only between the music industry and Congress, with a recognition of how antiquated and how out-of-touch and unnecessary some of the regulation was, but also a watershed moment for the industry because everybody was willing to step back a little bit from their top-line vision of interest. 

Payne: When you first began your journey in the music industry, I assume that holding the title of President and CEO of the Recording Academy was viewed as success to you. Now that you’re at the end of your tenure, how do you define success looking forward? 

Portnow: I would have never in a million years thought that I would be sitting in this job, especially for this amount of time. It wasn’t an early aspiration, something I planned or something I worked towards. This was the benefit of living life with an open mind. Going forward, I’m embracing that same principle which is, this will be the first time in many many moons where I’m not going directly from one position directly into the next one. I have not made a specific plan, deliberately. Somebody asked when was the last time I took two weeks off in a row, and I said I don’t think I ever did. I’ll probably want to do a little bit of that and see if I can grow any tomatoes in the yard. Beyond that, it’s about being open and looking for things. I would sum it up by saying I’m hoping and looking forward to doing more good things with people that I like. 

When Musicians ‘Crash and Burn,’ MusiCares Is There to Help

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2/12/2019 by Elias Leight

In its 30th year, organization dedicated to assisting “music people in times of need” wants to change the conversation around mental health and help fight the opioid crisis

Not long after Travis Meadows, an aspiring singer-songwriter, moved to Nashville over a decade ago, he hit a wall. “Every possible crisis a man could have, I had: a marriage crisis, a crisis of faith, a career crisis, all at the same time,” he says. “I crashed and burned, went back to the one thing that worked, drugs and alcohol. It got so bad that I pretty much threw up the white flag like, I can’t live like this anymore. I’m gonna die, I know it, and I don’t want to die.”

Meadows woke up the next morning in rehab thanks to MusiCares, an organization founded by the Recording Academy that provides financial and healthcare assistance to “music people in times of need.”

“We have an addiction recovery program where we’re able to get an individual into treatment in a matter of hours,” explains Debbie Carroll, vice president of MusiCares. “We’re one of the only organizations I know of that provide in-patient treatment nationwide to a specific population.”

Carroll joined MusiCares in 1998, and during her two-plus decades with the organization, it’s grown rapidly. “We served less than 200 individuals when I first came on board,” she says. “At that point in time there was one person located in the LA office and they had not expanded to anywhere else in the country.”

Compare that with 2018: “Last year, in totality, we served close to 15,000 people, and over 8,600 received financial assistance from us,” Carroll continues. “We distributed $6.5 million in aid.”

Making a life in the music business has never been easy, but it’s likely that MusiCares’ safety net is even more necessary now than it was 20 years ago: As album sales continue to plummet, musicians are increasingly reliant on meager profits from streaming for their income. In addition, the quality and affordability of healthcare in the U.S. varies wildly, depending on what state you live in, and natural disasters appear to be happening with greater frequency. Reynolds says MusiCares’ “core programs” include “emergency financial assistance to cover expenses for disaster relief — new to us after Hurricane Katrina — and we cover a lot of medical and dental expenses, whether that’s handling those directly or providing basic living expenses while an individual is on their journey to recovery from a major medical diagnosis.”

These benefits are not limited to members of the Recording Academy. “I am not a member, and I was stunned to find out that I qualified for their program,” says Sandy Carbary, a jazz singer in the Seattle area who has received financial assistance from MusiCares to help pay for surgeries. “I thought it would be for cardholding union people, and I thought I was going to have to write a novel [to apply for aid]. But I was amazed how easy it was to receive help from them.”

In addition to help with bills, MusiCares also offers “a variety of preventative services,” according to Carroll. “We offer over 300 different preventative health initiatives annually across the country — hearing, dental, vision, sober jams, panels and workshops that address health and wellness topics of interest to the music community,” she says.

MusiCares is celebrating its 30th birthday this year, and the organization is continuing to expand its purview. “What’s really on our radar right now is anything around emotional health,” Carroll says — a subject that Lady Gaga also singled out onstage during the Grammys on Sunday. “The suicide rate in this country is staggering, and certainly that’s affected the music community as well,” Carroll continues. “We do a variety of programs around that topic to get people comfortable with discussing things that are typically uncomfortable. The more we do that, the more we de-stigmatize any type of mental health issues.”

In addition, MusiCares is trying to increase its efforts to combat the opioid crisis. “We’ve embarked upon several different educational workshops to address that topic in addition to expanding our addiction recovery services,” Carroll says. “We have also recently, within the last year, embarked on some NARCAN training, the drug that is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. We know that’s not going to solve the problem, but what it can do is keep somebody alive to get into treatment and get the help that they need. Our hope is that everyone on the road [touring] has access to NARCAN.”

MusiCares’ operating expenses are covered by the Recording Academy, and it uses fundraisers to help raise additional money for its programs. Its national reach makes it a unique resource for musicians. “On that scale, nobody comes close [to providing those sort of benefits],” Meadows says. “We had a flood here [in Nashville] several years ago, and a number of friends of mine lost all of their instruments: MusiCares replaced all of their instruments. I have friends go through rehab because of MusicCares, medical bills taken care of, glasses and hearing aids bought for people.”

Carbary also testifies to the one-of-a-kind nature of MusiCares’ operation. “I’ve had to do a lot of research [about medical care], and there’s one [program] in the music industry in the Seattle area — the Washington Blues Society has a program,” she says. “But it’s a one-time, $300 maximum shot. I need more help than that.”

On Saturday, MusiCares’ Dolly Parton tribute brought in another $6.7 million. “We hillbillies need MusiCares too,” Parton told the crowd. “We may not have sex, drugs, and rock & roll, but two out of three ain’t bad.”

In This Article: Dolly Parton, Grammys 2019, Grammys2019

Grammys Add First Man, Transgender Woman as Trophy Presenters

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2/11/2017 by Associated Press

At Sunday’s Grammys, a man and a transgender woman will join the so-called trophy girls who bring music’s top honors onstage. It’s a change that puts the Grammys in the front ranks of awards diversity. “To be honest, the idea of a ‘trophy girl’ has felt antiquated for some time now,” Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, said in a statement Friday (Feb. 10). “Who wrote that rule anyway? The ability to present a trophy has nothing to do with one’s gender.” The change wasn’t made to be provocative or buck convention, he added, but to acknowledge that “music’s universal power lies in its spirit of inclusion” for all people and their voices. In recent years, the Academy Awards has replaced its female trophy presenters with male and female film students, both American and from countries including China and Zimbabwe. That mix stood in contrast to the largely white slate of nominees, finally relieved this year by several nods for African-American artists including Denzel Washington (Fences). Changing up the Grammy trophy presenters isn’t window-dressing. The awards increasingly have honored a variety of artists in different genres, from rap to country to jazz to classical, with Beyonce and Adele among the top contenders this time around. The three trophy handlers at Sunday’s ceremony are transgender model Martina Robledo; model and actor Derek Marrocco, and model and actress Hollin Haley. The ceremony airs live on CBS from 8-11 p.m. EST with James Corden as host. Robledo, who’s from San Diego, said she was honored to join Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox and other transgender people in the more-inclusive media spotlight. But she expects viewer reaction to her presence will be mixed. “I know it’s going to make some people uncomfortable and make others weep for joy,” she said. “I’m just going to step out there and strut and make sure I deliver my best, because there’s people out there looking up to me.” That may include transgender boys and girls or other minorities, she said, calling them “the people I want to speak for … to let them know that there is a better world out there for us.” Marrocco, who’s modeled for top designers including Valentino and Ralph Lauren, called his selection an honor that makes a point. “No matter what your gender is, if you’re qualified, you’re qualified,” he said. He may be scoring another first among presenters: Marrocco played football and basketball in college, for Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, before transferring to Fairleigh Dickinson University in his native New Jersey to earn his bachelor’s degree. Haley, a Texas native who moved to New York and then Los Angeles to pursue her career, said in a statement that being a presenter is a “dream come true.” She arrived in LA just weeks before she was selected for the Grammy job.

Recording Academy Urges Trump To Support Copyright Reform

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12/2/2016 by Emily Maxwell

Several members of the Recording Academy – including esident/CEO Neil Portnow – released an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump on Friday, congratulating him on his win and asking for his support in advancing copyright protection during his administration. “The laws governing the sale and distribution of music have failed to keep pace with technology, keeping music creators from receiving fair market value for their work,” said the group in its statement. “These outdated laws, stemming from the turn of the last century, have weakened the value of American intellectual property in foreign markets to the tune of tens of millions of dollars in unpaid royalties.” Read the letter in full below: Dear President-elect Trump: We, the undersigned members of The Recording Academy’s National Advocacy Committee, write to congratulate you and to reach out to you about the current state of the music economy for creators across America. The Recording Academy is the only organization that represents the interests of all music creators: the songwriters, performers, producers and engineers who create American recordings. As your administration begins to chart its course, this is an important moment to ensure the continued viability of music as one of America’s greatest exports and…

Neil Portnow & Corinne Bailey Rae on How The Recording Academy's MusiCares Gives Back

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10/27/2016 by Andy Gensler

Billboard’s Philanthropy Issue: Inside How the Music Industry Gives Back

As 20 Feet From Stardom star Merry Clayton sang “Way Over Yonder” at the 2014 MusiCares Person of the Year tribute honoring Carole King, little did the famed soul singer know that four months later she would need MusiCares’ help. That July, Clayton was in a near-fatal car accident that left her wheelchair-bound. “My wonderful manager gave them a call, and it was a done deal,” says Clayton of The Recording Academy’s organization that helped her rehabilitation and sent a repairman to her house to fix her stair lift.

“I hear these stories regularly and am moved beyond words,” says Neil Portnow, president/CEO of MusiCares and The Recording Academy. “It’s unbelievably gratifying.” Indeed, in 2015 MusiCares dispersed a record-setting $4.7 million to nearly 7,000 members of the music industry, ranging from former label executives to roadies in need of everything from rent and addiction recovery to dental care and funeral expenses.

Billboard’s Philanthropy Issue Photos: Snoop Dogg, Sting, Harry Belafonte & More
MusiCares’ honorary chairman (and Billboard’s 2016 lawyer of the year) John Branca cites the organization’s largest undertaking as the most inspiring: “During Hurricane Katrina, musicians in New Orleans lost their instruments and the ability to make a living.” MusiCares immediately pledged $1 million in aid for Katrina and, as Portnow proudly notes, “We were there before FEMA.”

“It’s easy for me to relate,” says Grammy-winning singer Corinne Bailey Rae, who performed at MusiCares ceremonies in 2008 and 2016. “I’ve been in that situation, thinking, ‘Can I afford to pay my rent or take a taxi to a gig?’ It’s really close to my heart.”

To donate or receive help, go to

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 5 issue of Billboard.

MusiCares, The Red Cross Brand For The Music Community

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5/17/2016 by Steve Olenski

Earlier this year, I wrote of the incredible job the Grammy Awards brand does in delivering the ultimate experience by partnering with other brands who, according to Grammy CMO Evan Greene “not only reflect positively on the Grammys, but also open up new opportunities for us to penetrate previously untapped marketing channels, enabling us to reach new audiences.” Today, however, is all about MusiCares, the brand that Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy refers to as “the Red Cross for the music community.” It is an arm of the Recording Academy that provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. “As far as charitable organizations go, we’re unique in that we offer a completely confidential support system to those in the music industry facing various personal and professional hardships,” says Portnow. MusiCares is all about giving back, and musicians supporting each other in a communal way. In the aftermath of Katrina alone, following the devastation of the hurricane, MusiCares moved fast to distribute more than $4 million in financial assistance to working musicians in the area.

Recording Academy Chairman/CEO Neil Portnow's Welcome Letter To the Grammy Awards in Billboard's Special Issue

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2/4/2016 by Neil Portnow

Dear Readers, On behalf of The Recording Academy, it is my great pleasure to invite you to join us as we gear up for our 58th Annual Grammy Awards on Monday, February 15, 2016. We are proud to share in the celebration, and congratulate this year’s esteemed nominees across all 83 categories. I’m particularly delighted to see the ingenuity that makes up today’s musical landscape. What is particularly evident this year is the amount of ownership and risk artists are currently taking, not allowing anything to confine their art. Personally, I feel inspired by the innovation that musicians are bringing to their craft, which sends such a positive message to the entire creative community. After the nominations are revealed, the inevitable horserace storylines follow. It’s important for the music community to remember that the excellence exhibited in the Grammy Award elevates all of us by instilling a sense of pride among artists and by increasing the value placed on the art among fans. This year’s nominations are a reflection of what’s happening in music today; the reason you can see that so clearly is because they’re determined by serious and professional music makers who comprise our Academy membership. To preserve a space where craft is put first and artistry is revered, it’s important these members all participate in shaping the Grammy Awards process, first and foremost, by voting. What has distinguished the Grammy Award from all other music awards for 58 years is our artist-driven, peer-voting process, honoring musical excellence above all, regardless of commercial success. As an Academy comprised of members from all walks of life and disciplines of music, our role is to ensure that music remains a valued and celebrated part of our culture. It’s up to us to continue this legacy. Kind regards, Neil Portnow ​President/CEO The Recording Academy A portion of this letter originally appeared in the Jan. 2 issue of Billboard.

Meet The Recording Academy CEO Managing Music's Most Iconic Brand

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12/21/2015 by Julian Mitchell

Neil Portnow serves as the President & CEO of The Recording Academy, MusiCares, and the GRAMMY Foundation. With a multifaceted career that expands more than 40 years, the trailblazing music executive has dedicated nearly two decades to transforming the landscape of modern music. Also acting as Chair of the Board for the GRAMMY Museum, Portnow assures the appreciation and preservation of a rich music history through spearheading educational programs, artist initiatives and curated exhibitions that keep longtime legacies alive. The Grammy Award is widely regarded as the highest honor in music. Each year, on music’s biggest night, a plethora of stars are celebrated for their varying contributions, shedding light on the prolific producers, writers and engineers responsible for crafting the influential songs that dominate charts and shape culture. In 2015, under Portnow’s leadership, live streaming of the Grammy Awards increased by 40% from 2014, attracting 7.5 million streamers and 24.8 million television viewers, driving the total number to an astounding 32.3 million. These statistics placed the show as the season’s top entertainment program amongst the 18-34 and 18-49 demographics. Controlling the conversation across social media, the awards generated over 20.9 million tweets, reaching the highest number of twitter impressions according to Neilsen. Further, tweets related to the Grammy’s tallied upward of 1.6 billion views, with 17 million people accounting for more than 45 million twitter interactions. Yet, what the masses rarely see is the challenging pursuit these talented individuals endure to make their lofty dreams a reality. From studying the craft and fighting for experience, to spending years in the studio searching for that first hit record — few understand the grueling process that accompanies chasing visions of achieving success on the world stage.

Recording Academy President Neil Portnow Ponders What He’ll Talk About During Grammy Airtime

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2/4/2015 by Tony Maglio

Yes, he gets a vote. No, he doesn’t use it. Yes, he knows the winners beforehand — chief tells TheWrap in new edition of “Office With a View” 

Neil Portnow has a pretty good idea of what he is going to talk about during his podium time at Sunday’s Grammy Awards: As long as nothing big and tragic happens between now and then, expect the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences president to push copyright reform. “I’m guessing it will be advocacy-based,” Portnow told TheWrap of his Academy Message on Sunday’s CBS telecast. “But then again, we don’t control what happens in the world. And we hope there aren’t tragedies to talk about, but if all is well and good — it’s probably a year for advocacy.” “It’s really important that there be fair payment and compensation to all members of the creative community … across all of the platforms,” Portnow continued, pushing better financial incentives for songwriters and composers in the complicated digital era. “It’s going to take some solidarity in Washington.” Portnow’s Academy is a membership organization, approximately 24,000 strong. About 14,000 members vote for the Grammys, and while the group’s leader gets a vote, he doesn’t use it. The soft-spoken president never wants to be a potential tiebreaker, he said — as unlikely as that may seem. Here are some other fun facts Portnow shared during our interview for TheWrap’s Office With a View series, which highlights high-ranking executives in the entertainment and media industries: Yes, Portnow is among the select few who know the Grammy winners before the show. Also of interest, Portnow has four statuettes in his office right now — a regular Grammy Award, a Lifetime Achievement Trustees Award, a Technical Grammy Award, and the Music Educator’s Award. He also keeps a (non-engraved) gold gramophone at home for “business purposes,” he said. All are on loan from the Recording Academy. To speak with Portnow at length — which we did for this profile piece — it becomes clear that the man loves his job, his group’s causes, and music itself. Those passions all culminate — publicly, at least — with Sunday’s awards show, which he of course also reveres. Portnow is particularly proud to point out that the Grammys are not about sales, marketing, chart positioning or even a fan vote — rather it is simply peers analyzing what he calls “excellence” in music each year. “There’s nothing that’s a higher honor or more meaningful,” he said of the musician-on-musician lovefest. In addition to the prestige that comes from taking home a trophy, there’s also a “gravitas” to performing on his show that the growing competition of music awards shows lacks, Portnow added. “We are the best of the best,” he told TheWrap. “When it comes to music on television there is no entity that is more highly regarded or more watched.” Of course, being on top means there’s pretty much only one direction to go — something Portnow is well-aware of. “The downside of being the market leader is if you’re not careful … if you are perhaps a little bit cocky about it or don’t pay attention, it doesn’t take long for brands to lose their luster,” he said. Portnow added: “Part of what’s on my mind always is, ‘What’s next? How do we maintain? How do we move the needle on this and keep moving the agenda forward, and better, and bigger and expanding what is arguably the finest, more recognized, prestigious brand in music in the world?” The head honcho of the Recording Academy — which it is generally called for the sake of brevity — may have an editorial series-qualifying office with a view now, but he started on the creative side of the music business, being inspired by the view from his parent’s sofa. After seeing a musician by the name of Elvis Presley on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the executive picked up the guitar and never looked back. “It took the country by storm … it took me by storm,” he recalled. Portnow started with private lessons and joined the school band, playing the violin parts on his six string. Eventually, the music-obsessed teen graduated to being part of the “hot, cool rock band” — his words — in high school, The Savages, with whom’s members he remains friends and occasional jam-session partners with. In college, Portnow landed a record deal, which exposed him to the business side of the industry. Realizing that he could have a “good” career playing, or a “great” one on the business side, Portnow elected for the latter, he said. Portnow began producing, got hired at RCA Records, and was later promoted to A&R vice president. From there, he moved out west, networked and rose through the ranks to where he sits today. And in that aforementioned office with an aforementioned view, Portnow is likely fine-tuning his Academy Message for Sunday as you read this. If you’re a betting man or a betting woman, put your money on copyright reform and licensing issues as the core of his appeal. Also, expect a dollop of gratitude and a dash of excitement from the man who isn’t short on praise for the music gig he maybe didn’t set out to book, but is thrilled that he ended up with. “There’s never a moment of boredom, there’s never a moment of a lack of enthusiasm and every moment is something that I relish,” Portnow summed up his work. The 57th Annual Grammy Awards air Sunday on CBS at 8 p.m. ET. If you want to read more about Portnow’s stance on copyright reform, read his June statement to the U.S. House of Representatives here.

Recording Academy's Neil Portnow Extends Contract Through 2019

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9/16/2013 by Phil Gallo, Billboard

He will remain in his post as president and CEO, where he will continue to advance the organization’s goals and purpose.

Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow has been contracted to remain in his post through 2019. The Academy’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to extend Portnow’s contract, which was set to expire in 2015.

“Neil is a dynamic leader whose collaborative, inclusive spirit and extensive experience and relationships across all aspects of music and entertainment have delivered dramatic financial, cultural and philanthropic benefits to the Recording Academy and its constituents,” chair of the board Christine Albert said in a statement.

Portnow, who ranked No. 56 on Billboard’s Power 100 earlier this year, will continue to work with the board of trustees and its chair, as well as the Academy’s senior management team to advance the organization’s goals and purpose, including the creative and strategic vision and the operations of the Academy and its related entities. He will also continue to represent the Academy on issues relating to the music industry, participate in national caucuses, and provide service/counsel to key domestic and international industry-related organizations.

Developing and managing strategic advocacy positions at the national, state and local levels in government and the music industry will also fall under his purview.

Portnow became president of the Academy in December 2002 and was promoted to president/CEO in September 2007. He is also president/CEO of MusiCares and the Grammy Foundation, chair of the board of the Grammy Museum, and a member of the board of trustees of the Latin Recording Academy.

In the last five years, the annual Grammy Awards telecast has been among the most watched live events on television with this year’s 55th annual show pulling more than 28 million viewers. Portnow negotiated a 10-year deal to keep the Grammys on CBS through 2021, while also extending the deal for the “The Grammy Nominations Concert Live! — Countdown to Music’s Biggest Night” and adding new Grammy specials.

Portnow launched MusiCares’ 20th anniversary giving campaign, the first ever for the charity, and has overseen record-breaking attendance and revenues for the annual MusiCares Person of the Year and MAP events, plus the creation of the MusiCares Hurricane Sandy Relief fund. This year also saw the announcement of the first Music Educator Award.

Making It In Music

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4/14/2011 by Christine Cole

Recording Academy President Neil Portnow, B.A. ’71, talks about his time at GW and career in the music industry.

By Christine Cole

To succeed in the music industry, Neil Portnow, B.A. ’71, says individuals need to be relentless, persistent, patient, unwavering and self-motivated.

“If at the end of the day this is what you’ve got to do,” he said, “keep going and don’t look back.”

This was just one piece of advice Mr. Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy — the organization that hosts the Grammy Awards — offered Tuesday night during the “How Do I Become a Music Industry Mogul” event.

Part of a series co-sponsored by the GW Alumni Association, Career Center and Class Council, the event brought a crowd of about 80 to the Marvin Center Amphitheater to hear about Mr. Portnow’s climb to the top of the industry.

Moderated by Frank Sesno, director of GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs, the casual discussion and question-and-answer session covered Mr. Portnow’s time as a GW student, his career trajectory, and the changing landscape and relevancy of the music industry today. It also included GW and music trivia questions; correct answers were rewarded with “Grammy swag.”

Mr. Portnow, who started playing guitar at the age of 7, came to GW with thoughts of law school and running for office. He was even elected student body president; however, his experiences at GW ultimately brought him back to music. “Once a musician, always a musician,” he said.

While Mr. Portnow played guitar and bass professionally after graduation, he wasn’t sure he’d make it in the music industry as a performer. “I thought, maybe there’s another way to stay connected to the industry,” he recalled. “I was a good bass player, but I was up for a great career.”

Not knowing anyone in the industry, Mr. Portnow knocked on a lot of doors and became accustomed to hearing “no” a lot.

But he persevered and went on to hold senior leadership positions with the Zomba Group of Companies (including Jive Records and Zomba Music Publishing), EMI America Records, Arista Records and 20th Century Fox Records. As a record producer and music publisher, Mr. Portnow has touched almost every aspect of the industry.

In addition to his position as president of the Recording Academy, he also serves as president and CEO MusicCares and the Grammy Foundation, and as chair of the board for the Grammy Museum.

GW senior Sam Lawrence said “it’s pretty amazing” to hear how Mr. Portnow’s time at the university changed his path and career goals.

Other advice Mr. Portnow offered the audience centered on relationships and partnerships, saying that there’s nothing better than having a mentor.

The discussion about the importance of finding an advocate resonated with Jason Steinhauer, B.A. ’02, a liaison specialist at the Library of Congress, who also is in a two-man band.

“That’s true in any profession,” Mr. Steinhauer said. “You need people who’ve been there and in the thick of it to be on your side, to see potential in you and to help you grow.”

One of the final questions Mr. Sesno threw at Mr. Portnow was, “what is the best investment people can make with their time at GW?”

While everyone has different passions, Mr. Portnow said it’s about getting involved in what interests you and the “ability to learn how to learn.”

“You look back at the bigger picture, and it’s about how you learn to deal with life,” he said. “Life gets interesting once you leave campus.”

To return to the George Washington Today homepage, click here.

The Recording Academy's 'Man In Washington' Talks Grammys On The Hill & What's Next In D.C.

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4/15/2019 by Robert Levine

In 2001, the Recording Academy organized the inaugural Grammys on the Hill Awards in Washington, D.C., a modest event for about 70 policymakers and music creators. On April 9, this year’s dinner — held the night before the Grammys on the Hill lobbying day, which brings songwriters and performers to congressional offices — was expected to draw about 300 guests, including members of Congress from both parties. (Billboard went to press before the gathering occurred.) It’s one of the few events where the politicians who debate policies that shape the music business can meet creators affected by their decisions.

Honorees announced March 26 were Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth and gospel singer Yolanda Adams, the respective recipients of the Philanthropist and Creators Leadership awards (both were slated to perform that night); Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., who championed the Music Modernization Act; and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who moved the bill forward in the Senate. “It’s a celebration, and the next day we get down to business,” says Daryl Friedman, The Recording Academy’s chief industry, government and member relations officer. “We have 100 people in 25 groups on Capitol Hill making the case for creators’ rights.”

This year’s event holds particular weight since it comes six months after the passage of the Music Modernization Act. The landmark legislation, which became law in October 2018, will change the way mechanical royalties are collected and will require digital services to pay to use pre-1972 sound recordings, among other points.

At a time of unprecedented discord in Washington, the annual event once again demonstrated music’s power to inspire and unify: Politicians traditionally put aside their differences to close out the evening with a singalong. “It’s inspiring to see an artist like Little Big Town” — in 2018 — “bring onstage 60 members of Congress from both parties who spent all week fighting with one another,” says Friedman, who shared his thoughts on what’s ahead in Washington. “What they all have in common is that they all clap on one and three.”

There’s a new Congress that includes some very progressive Democrats. Where are they on music business issues?

We’ve yet to see some of them, but we have new members who grew up with the internet, and that’s new. We always try to identify some freshmen members who might be champions for music. Many years ago we identified Rep. Steny Hoyer [D-Md.] and Rep. Kevin McCarthy [R-Calif.] as members of Congress who love music. They ended up chairing our [Recording Arts and Sciences] caucus, and now they’re the majority and minority leaders of the House. This year, we met with a new member of Congress, Rep. Antonio Delgado [D-N.Y.]. He’s very interesting — worked at a major law firm, started a record label, released his own rap album. We want to make sure people like him know about music issues so they can protect the next generation of creators.

Any sense of where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might stand on music issues?

She’s one of the freshmen who’s very familiar with technology, and she’s also very interested in corporations that are becoming too powerful. So when the time comes to look at how Google and other technology companies are exploiting music, we can talk to her.

The Music Modernization Act passed last fall, but the provisions on producers’ royalties and mechanical licensing need to be implemented. How’s that going?

The AMP [Allocation for Music Producers] Act [folded into the MMA] codifies what SoundExchange was doing [with directing royalties to producers that had points on albums], so that’s really about education and testing the new provision. With mechanical licensing, two entities are vying to form the mechanical licensing collective, and now it’s up to the Copyright Office to evaluate their submissions and select one.

The whole industry came together to push the Music Modernization Act, and artists and songwriters really spoke up. How has that changed things for you in D.C.?

When we started this, artists never saw themselves as a cause to fight for. That has been ramping up for more than a decade, and there was an explosion last year. Now, every time I talk to a songwriter or artist or producer, they ask, “What can we do?” because they know their power.

So what’s next?

There are still unresolved issues. The Music Modernization Act didn’t address performance rights on terrestrial radio [so recording rights holders would be paid for radio play]. We’ve been having a lot of conversations with broadcasters over the years, and we thought there was a chance, but it didn’t happen in time. And there’s the consent decrees [between the Department of Justice and ASCAP and BMI, over competition issues].

Why is the issue of terrestrial radio coming to a head again now?

A few reasons. One is that every other platform, and every other developed country, is paying — so you have a spotlight on this one platform in the U.S. Another is that Rep. Jerry Nadler [D-N.Y.], the author of this bill [the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, introduced in previous sessions of Congress, which would require radio to pay to use recordings], now has the gavel on the House Judiciary Committee, where he could move it forward. Obviously, that’s hardly the Judiciary Committee’s sole concern at the moment. But his counterpart on the Republican side, Ranking Member Doug Collins [R-Ga.], has also been very strong on creators’ rights.

Where does the National Association of Broadcasters stand on this issue?

The NAB sees a need to resolve this. This was once seen as the music industry versus broadcasters — the NAB would say to members, “This is going to cost you money, and we should fight it.” But now, small and medium broadcasters know they need to get online [which the current online-radio royalty structure arguably makes challenging], and we’re open to finding a deal that makes sense for them in exchange for establishing a terrestrial royalty, which would also be done in a way that makes sense for them. And I think many of them see that there could be a resolution that would benefit them. So today it’s more about the music industry and small and medium broadcasters on one side; on the other side, the large broadcasters already have online platforms and may not see an incentive to cut a deal. I was in the negotiations last year, and I saw a bunch of small and medium players very interested in exploring how we get to a deal, and a couple of big ones that weren’t interested.

What about the consent decrees that constrict ASCAP and BMI?

There are two venues where this is being talked about. The main one is the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. ASCAP and BMI have been very strategic in discussing the issues there. Congress is also interested in the subject, though. And anyone who works in politics knows that the most important law can be the law of unintended consequences — and we don’t want to make matters worse.

What do you mean?

We have Makan Delrahim [assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division], who seems to understand the shackles that the consent decrees put on songwriters and wants to look at them. Generally, I’m optimistic. But if that happens, it’s possible — and I’m not sure this has even been contemplated — that Congress could take action that would move us further away from a free market.

The Recording Academy will soon have a new leader. How did current president Neil Portnow establish the D.C. operation?

When Neil started [in 2002], I was doing advocacy part time. In our first conversation, he said, “Why isn’t this its own department?” Within months he asked me to establish one. We did some market research, and one of the questions was, “If the Academy could only do one thing, what should it be?” The No. 1 reply was “advocacy.” That’s an important part of his legacy.

This article originally appeared in the April 13 issue of Billboard.

Recording Academy President Neil Portnow Responds to Kanye West's Offer to 'Fix' GRAMMYs

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2/24/2016 by Joe Lynch

While Kanye West might still be waiting from that phone call from Mark Zuckerberg, he can rest easy knowing he has the ear of Recording Academy CEO/president Neil Portnow.

West critiqued the Grammys as “out of touch” in a series of tweets on Wednesday (Feb. 24) afternoon, and publicly requested Portnow get in touch with him. “Neil please reach out as soon as possible so we can make the Grammys culturally relevant again,” West tweeted.

Kanye West Critiques Grammys, Announces New Album for 2016

Not much longer than two hours after his tweet, Portnow provided Billboard with the following statement in response’s to West’s criticisms.

“Kanye West is a creative pioneer who has been recognized and honored by The Recording Academy time and again. We value his input as a member of the creative community, and our doors are always open to him,” Portnow says. “I continue to welcome Kanye, personally, to engage in a direct and productive dialogue about the future of music and the important role that music creators play in shaping that future.”

Portnow also spoke out via the Grammys’ Twitter account.

So it sounds like his people call Kanye’s people and they’ll “do lunch” old school Hollywood style.

How The Organization Behind The GRAMMYs Spends The Other 364 Days

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1/24/2014 by Mandalit Del Barco

This Sunday’s Grammy Awards ceremony is the annual big-ticket item for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. More than 28 million people around the world tuned in to watch the concert show last year. And this year’s telecast is once again being touted as the most complicated — and expensive — production on TV.

CBS has aired the Grammys for more than 40 years, and has an agreement with The Recording Academy to broadcast the live event annually until the year 2021. In its previous deal, CBS’s licensing fee paid the Academy $20 million dollars every year for the telecast, and the current agreement is reportedly worth even more.

“It’s the biggest music show in the world and it has to be fun, it has to be exciting and it has to be entertaining to the majority of the world, says host LL Cool J.

But some musicians and music lovers, like Bob Lefsetz, are underwhelmed. “It’s irrelevant and there are so many categories,” the online blogger and former music industry attorney says. “Who cares?”

Lefsetz complains that The Recording Academy is only concerned about the TV show. “The guy who runs it gets paid a fortune,” he says. “Their No. 1 mission is to get paid. Their No. 2 mission is to put on a TV show that gets ratings.”

“The Academy,” as it’s known, used to be called the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences — NARAS for short. It operates a number of 501 (c)(3) nonprofits. It’s made up of 22,000 members … musicians, singers, songwriters, producers and others in the industry. They pay $125 a year to belong, and, if they have enough credits on recordings, to vote in the Grammys.

President Neil Portnow says the Academy is a not-for-profit organization that gets donations and corporate sponsorship from the likes of AEG, Ford, Best Buy, Converse and Microsoft to run charities like MusiCares, which spends three and a half million dollars a year to help struggling musicians.

“You know, most musicians are not like the stars,” Portnow says. “Most of them don’t have health insurance or steady jobs. They go one gig to the next. That’s the more basics, to the more severe and tragic, which is substance abuse addiction and recovery. So we are the major entity in the music industry that offers assistance and counseling.”

In 2011 and 2012, the last year for which the Academy’s tax records are available, the organization gave more than six hundred thousand dollars in grants for music research and to preserve and archive recordings. The organization lobbies state and federal lawmakers on such issues as illegal downloading and performance royalties.

And the Grammy Foundation offers scholarships, grants and opportunities for music education.

This week, 32 high school students from around the country are in Los Angeles for what’s known as “Grammy camp.” They’re performing in a jazz combo, choir and big band for all the Grammy-related events, including a gig with Vampire Weekend. And they’re gearing up to play at the Grammys afterparty on Sunday.

“I’m nervous, personally,” says 17-year-old singer Cobly Ewatuya, from Dallas.

“I’m excited and anxious,” says 17-year-old crooner Stephanie Henson from Des Moines.

“Oh my god, ” says saxophonist Henry Solomon from Michigan. “We’re playing for Bruno Mars, or Carrie Underwood or Jack Black. You’re just like, wow!”

These students say it’s the experience of their lives.

“They teach not only the music aspect, but how to give a good performance,” Henson says.

“They treat us like professional musicians,” Solomon adds.

The Recording Academy also runs the Latin Grammys and The Grammy Museum in downtown L.A. The four-story museum hosts private concerts and exhibitions that feature Michael Jackson‘s jackets, Jenni Rivera‘s gowns and interactive displays where visitors can play drums and sing along with a virtual Ringo Starr.

In 1959, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences got its start when executives at four major record labels decided to start the awards show. Over the years, the organization was criticized for being out of touch — giving its first award to Alvin and the Chipmunks rather than Frank Sinatra. The Grammys ignored rock music until the 1970’s, and in the ’80s gave Jethro Tull the heavy metal award.

The list goes on.

But the biggest shake-up came in the early 2000s with the Academy’s then- president, Michael Greene. At the time, Greene was the highest paid non-profit executive in the country. But he came under fire for his brash style and questionable finances. Pulitzer Prize-winning investigations found the Academy’s charities saddled by high overhead. The Los Angeles Times reported the foundation spent less than 10 percent of every donated dollar on helping indigent, unemployed and infirm musicians. And critics saw red over Greene’s $2 million-a-year salary, with bonuses and perks like a Mercedes sedan and an exclusive country club membership.

The IRS was called in to investigate all of this, but no charges were ever filed, as current president Neil Portnow points out. “The risk you take when leadership becomes an individual, and about a certain level of bravado,” Portnow says. “Sometimes that invites scrutiny.”

Greene ultimately resigned after sexual harassment allegations, but not without an $8 million parachute.

Portnow, the former head of Jive Records, was brought on to change the tone and perception of the Academy.

“Frankly, part of the reason I was chosen for the job is what I like to think a pretty pristine and positive image set of relationships in the industry, my demeanor, my temperament, my style,” Portow says.

When asked what his salary is, he points to the Academy’s income tax returns. They’re hard to decipher, but the last return posted by the Academy shows Portnow earned a million and a half dollars in fiscal year 2012. He will not say what the Academy spends staging the Grammy Awards telecast, or how much of the $20 million it gets from CBS every year goes to grants and services.

But Charity Navigator, which evaluates non-profits, rates the Academy’s efforts pretty close to those of other charities. And critic Bob Lefsetz says he doesn’t have anything negative to say about the Academy’s charity efforts.

“It’s a very tightly controlled organization, but there isn’t a smoking gun here; there’s nothing hidden,” Lefsetz says. “They are raising money and, now more than ever, they are giving a higher percentage away. Those who deserve money, are they aware of the program? Some people are benefiting — it’s just a limited thing. But for somebody that puts on an international television show, I don’t believe their footprint in charitable efforts is commensurate.”

This Sunday’s Grammy Awards show is expected to be one of the most highly rated TV specials of the year. And the head of the Recording Academy is no longer the highest paid non-profit executive in the country.

The Recording Academy Extends Neil Portnow's Contract Through 2019

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12/2/2014 by

Now in his second decade of leadership at The Academy, President/CEO to remain at the helm of the premier music organization

The Board of Trustees of The Recording Academy has extended President/CEO Neil Portnow’s contract through 2019, it was announced by Chair of the Board Christine Albert. At its semiannual meeting in May, the Board voted unanimously to keep Portnow at the helm of the nonprofit music membership organization. Portnow, who had two years remaining on his existing contract, is now in his second decade at the helm of the premier music organization. He became President of The Academy in December 2002 and was promoted to President/CEO in September 2007.

“Neil is a dynamic leader whose collaborative, inclusive spirit and extensive experience and relationships across all aspects of music and entertainment have delivered dramatic financial, cultural and philanthropic benefits to The Recording Academy and its constituents,” said Albert. “As a musician, a member, a longtime elected leader, and industry executive, he is uniquely qualified to understand and address the ongoing needs of our music community — especially in today’s constantly evolving industry. Neil selflessly continues to advance The Academy’s profile and mission in everything he does, and he continues to innovate and expand the scope of events, programs and services we offer. His creativity, compassion, humility, and vision have served the organization well, and I, along with my fellow officers and our Board, look forward to our continued collaboration with him as he proceeds to reap even greater rewards on behalf of the organization we all love so much.”

“I am humbled and honored to continue to have our Board’s trust and confidence in steering The Recording Academy’s future,” said Portnow. “Together with our elected leaders from around the country and our tireless staff, we have reached new heights of growth and success, both domestically and internationally. We will continue to strive for even greater levels of excellence and achievement, for the organization and on behalf of our creative community, and I look forward to continuing my second decade of service to this exceptional organization.” 

In addition to his role as President/CEO of The Recording Academy, Portnow is also President/CEO of MusiCares and the GRAMMY Foundation, Chair of the Board of the GRAMMY Museum, and a member of the Board of Trustees of The Latin Recording Academy. Under his leadership, and specifically in the past few years, some of his many accomplishments include:

  • A consistent and significant increase in ratings over the last five years for the annual GRAMMY Awards telecast. This year’s 55th GRAMMY show drew more than 28 million viewers, the second-largest audience for a GRAMMY telecast since 1993. In addition, the show drew 24.8 million social media comments, a nearly 50 percent increase over the previous year, and the highest for any awards show this year.
  • Negotiating a new 10-year deal that keeps Music’s Biggest Night, the annual GRAMMY Awards telecast, on CBS through 2021, further extending one of the longest broadcast partnerships in television history. The agreement also includes the continued annual broadcast of “The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!! — Countdown To Music’s Biggest Night” (now entering its sixth year), and the addition of new GRAMMY specials.
  • Creating an online listening function allowing Academy voting members the ability to review nominated music, and developing GRAMMY365, a site dedicated to Academy members only, among other online and digital initiatives and enhancements.
  • Establishing a full-scale production for the GRAMMY Pre-Telecast Ceremony and a new home at the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live. In addition, the Pre-Telecast has garnered a significant increase in attendance over the past several years, and the event continues to be streamed live on (which year over year has garnered increased viewership). 
  • A record number of entries in the Awards process in 2012, consistently high membership numbers, an expanded Member Services department, and redesigning the staff and operational structure of The Academy.
  • After three decades of dreams, the grand opening of the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live in December 2008, in partnership with AEG. Since the Museum opened its doors, it has explored music history through more than 25 special exhibits, connected audiences to musicians and industry icons via 300 evening programs, and brought hands-on music education to more than 120,000 children and youth. The Museum will celebrate its five-year anniversary later this year.
  • Launching MusiCares’ 20th Anniversary Campaign, the first-ever for the charity, further ensuring music people will have a place to turn in times of financial, medical, and personal need. Noted entertainment attorney and MusiCares Board Chair Emeritus John Branca and legendary record company executive Mo Ostin were the campaign Co-Chairs, and more than $12 million has been raised, thanks to a $5 million matching gift from Clive Calder and the ELMA Music Foundation, a significant gift from Olivia Harrison and the Material World Foundation and other generous donations by noted artists, music professionals, and industry groups. 
  • Achieving record-breaking attendance and revenues for the annual MusiCares Person of the Year and MusiCares MAP Fund events, and the creation of the MusiCares Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund in response to the devastating storm that hit the East Coast in May 2012, providing assistance and support to music people in need, with funds being distributed within 48–72 hours covering the most immediate and basic needs. Additionally, in 2010, other music industry friends and partners joined MusiCares in Nashville Flood Relief efforts, raising more than $1 million and assisting more than 300 people to date.
  • Expanding the GRAMMY Foundation’s celebrated GRAMMY Camp program — a 10-day interactive residential summer music experience for music students that focuses on all aspects of commercial music — to include experiences in New York and Nashville as well as Los Angeles. GRAMMY Camp will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2014.
  • Launching the GRAMMY University Network, created to give music students and students interested in a career in music access to programs, panels, performance opportunities, and leaders in the music industry, as well as other benefits, currently with a membership of more than 5,000; and hiring an Executive Director to further develop and expand the program.
  • Establishing the first-ever Music Educator Award to recognize music educators for their contributions to our musical landscape and their positive influence on their students’ musical experiences. The inaugural award will be presented as part of the Special Merit Awards Ceremony in January 2014 (the night before the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards telecast).
  • International expansion and outreach, including plans that will focus on developing GRAMMY-branded music education and entertainment programs in China; the launch of a new GRAMMY-branded broadcast designed for Europe (to debut at the O2 Arena in London); and The Academy’s first international GRAMMY-branded event in Mexico City in September 2010. Additionally, the GRAMMY Awards telecast is now broadcast worldwide in a record 193 countries.
  • Creating the GRAMMYs on the Hill lobbying day as a companion to the esteemed GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards event, both of which advance the rights of music creators through advocacy, education and dialogue, and represent the most significant and unified music industry presence in Washington, D.C.; establishing a strategic alliance with the Recording Artists’ Coalition that combines the efforts of both organizations to amplify artists’ rights on Capitol Hill, with RAC becoming a part of The Academy’s GRAMMYs on the Hill Initiative; developing and implementing the first-ever music CEO Summit meeting, which continues to be a semiannual gathering that includes leadership representation from key music industry organizations, resulting in new, unprecedented cooperation and collaboration between the various creative and business constituencies.
  • Extension of the organization’s mission and brand identity into the marketplace with a record level of corporate sponsorships and partnerships, and a highly successful partnership with world-renowned advertising agency TBWA\\Chiat\\Day, which has created award-winning ad campaigns for the 50th–55th GRAMMY Awards.
  • Groundbreaking and innovative social media efforts across The Academy’s official accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, GetGlue, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and YouTube), engaging music fans year-round, and establishing The Academy’s first-ever Digital Media department, which has produced GRAMMY Live (72 hours of live coverage on leading up to the annual GRAMMY Awards telecast), and helping draw 4 million unique visitors to during the 55th GRAMMY weekend.
  • Thirty-six Emmy nominations and 12 wins for the annual GRAMMY Awards telecast.
  • Continued collaboration with record labels on the successful annual GRAMMY Nominees CD releases, which have enjoyed record sales and chart positions, with a portion of proceeds benefiting MusiCares and the GRAMMY Foundation.

Portnow will continue to serve as the lead executive of The Recording Academy, working closely with the Board of Trustees and its Chair, as well as The Academy’s senior management team to advance the organization’s goals and purpose, including the creative and strategic vision and the operations of The Academy and its related entities (the GRAMMY Awards, the Latin GRAMMY Awards, The Latin Recording Academy, MusiCares, the GRAMMY Foundation, the GRAMMY Museum, the Producers & Engineers Wing, and other programs). Additionally, he will continue to represent The Academy to its many constituents and partners; serve as a trusted and important industry leader on issues relating to the music industry — including participation in national caucuses, seminars and similar events; and provide service/counsel to key domestic and international industry-related organizations. In keeping with The Academy’s position as an advocate for its constituents, Portnow will continue to develop and manage strategic advocacy positions at the national, state and local levels — both governmental and within music and related industries.

Portnow has served The Academy as a volunteer leader in a variety of roles, both locally and nationally, for more than 25 years. He was senior vice president of West Coast operations for the Zomba Group of Companies (including Jive Records and Zomba Music Publishing), responsible for the overall vision and direction of Zomba’s businesses on the West Coast, including sales and marketing, corporate and talent acquisitions, and management of all of Zomba’s creative talent, the film and television music division, Zomba Music Services, Segue Music, and Ingenuity Entertainment. Prior to Zomba, he was vice president of A&R, EMI America Records; vice president/general manager, West Coast Arista Records; and president, Twentieth Century Fox Records. He began his career as a musician, record producer, and music publisher. In 2003 he was honored with City of Hope’s Spirit of Life Award, the highest philanthropic honor bestowed upon an individual by the world-renowned cancer treatment and research center. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from George Washington University.