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|Origin||Great Neck, New York|
|Occupation(s)||President of The Recording Academy|
Portnow grew up in Great Neck, New York. He played the bass guitar in a high school rock band, The Savages, who released a 45 rpm record "Cheating on me"/"Best thing you ever had" on Red Fox Records. The record did not achieve serious commercial success, but was included in a compilation of garage bands.
Portnow graduated from The George Washington University in 1971. He began his career as a record producer although he has only four production credits and music supervisor. He worked with RCA Records as staff producer, and as vice-president of A&R at Arista and EMI America. He was senior vice-president, then president, at 20th Century Records.
Portnow moved in 1989 to Jive Records, where he oversaw the expansion of their West Coast operation. In this position, he played a small role in the careers of some of the biggest acts of the late 1990s and early 2000s, including Britney Spears, NSYNC, and R. Kelly. He worked alongside Jive's president Clive Calder who ran Jive's parent company, the Zomba Label Group.
President of the Recording AcademyEdit
In November 2002, Portnow became the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) (also known as The Recording Academy) – replacing C. Michael Greene, who served as president from 1988 to 2002. At the 45th Annual Grammy Awards, he made his first Grammy night address as president.
Portnow led efforts to help musicians affected by Hurricane Katrina through the Academy's MusiCares Foundation. He has also played a significant role in the digital music revolution, lobbying on Capitol Hill regarding artist compensation rights, particularly with regard to the Performance Rights Act, which requires artists to be paid for airplay on the radio. During the 51st Annual Grammy Awards in 2009, Portnow spoke about the election of President Barack Obama and encouraged his administration to add a cabinet-level position for Secretary of the Arts.
In May 2017, Portnow was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music.
In May 2018, it was revealed that money intended for the Recording Academy charity MusiCares was siphoned off to pay for the cost overruns of hosting the 60th Annual Grammy Awards at New York City's Madison Square Garden.
In February 2019, Neil Portnow announced he will step down as President of the Recording Academy in July 2019 after his contract is up.
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