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Neil R. Portnow is the president of The Recording Academy. Portnow was formerly the vice-president of the West Coast division of Jive Records.

Neil Portnow
Neil Portnow 06ac05b4-a87f-48a0-b11c-15836ec6b53f.png
Background information
OriginGreat Neck, New York
Occupation(s)President of The Recording Academy


Early careerEdit

Portnow grew up in Great Neck, New York. He played the bass guitar in a high school rock band, The Savages,[1] who released a 45 rpm record "Cheating on me"/"Best thing you ever had"[2] on Red Fox Records. The record did not achieve serious commercial success, but was included in a compilation of garage bands.[3]

Portnow graduated from The George Washington University in 1971, where he served as president of the GW Student Association.[4] 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.

Jive RecordsEdit

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

Portnow (to the left of US President Donald Trump) as the Music Modernization Act is signed into law in 2018

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.[4][5] 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.[6] 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.[7]

In October 2018, Portnow was present at the White House for the signing of the Music Modernization Act. Portnow had been a vocal supporter of getting the bill passed and signed into law.[8]

Controversy Surrounding the 60th Grammy AwardsEdit

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.[9] Later that year, Neil Portnow announced he would step down as President of the Recording Academy on July 31, 2019 after his contract is up. He will be replaced by Deborah Dugan, who will become the first woman to serve as President of The Recording Academy when she takes over on August 1, 2019.[10][11][12]

Concerning the controversies of hosting the 60th Annual Grammy Awards in New York, Dana Tomarken, the former Executive VP of the MusiCares foundation claimed wrongful termination. She alleges that she was fired for pushing back against the academy's "boys club". She claimed that by having the MusiCares Person of the Year Tribute to Fleetwood Mac at Radio City Music Hall, the event had to forgo its traditional VIP dinner and silent auction. She had already been offered a deal to have the event at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Barclays Center is owned by AEG, which competes directly with The Madison Square Garden Company which owns Madison Square Garden and Radio City. Irving Azoff who then had a joint venture with the Madison Square Garden Company told Tomarken that the event can't be held at the Barclays Center and instead had to be held at Radio City. Oak View Group which is associated with Azoff received 300 of the highest price tickets to the MusiCares event at Radio City. Oak View Group was supposed to sell them as a package deal which also included tickets to the Grammy Awards itself. MusiCares was promised to received $1.5 million from those tickets according to Dana Tomarken. Those 300 tickets were never sold and were then returned to MusiCares, which resulted in a loss.[13]

Portnow also came under heavy criticism at the 60th Grammy Awards for suggesting that women in the music industry need to "step up". He later apologized for the statement saying that it was a poor choice of words.[14]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "CelebrityAccess Industry Profiles". Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-02-03. Retrieved 2012-06-09.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Turn Right To Open: Wyld Sydes Vol. 4". 2007-12-17. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  4. ^ a b "GW Magazine". Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  5. ^ Bernard Weinraub, "Recording Executive Will Lead Group That Runs the Grammys", New York Times, October 2, 2002
  6. ^ "Neil Portnow, President of The Recording Academy, Delivers Statement …". July 8, 2012. Archived from the original on July 8, 2012. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  7. ^ "Berklee to honor Lionel Richie, Lucinda Williams, and Todd Rundgren at commencement - The Boston Globe". Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Top Artist Managers Express Concern for MusiCares Amid Turmoil as Recording Academy Announces Record Dollar Distribution". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-02-14.
  10. ^ D'Zurilla, Randy Lewis, Christie. "Recording Academy President Neil Portnow stepping down in 2019". Retrieved 2019-02-14.
  11. ^ Deborah Dugan to Succeed Neil Portnow as Recording Academy Chief
  13. ^ Was the Grammys ‘boys club’ behind the firing of two women at its charity?
  14. ^

External linksEdit