Op-Ed: Neil Portnow Must Go


And he needs to be replaced by a woman.

Neil’s been there over 15 years, longer than most record company execs whose behinds he so busily kisses.

Instead, the Recording Academy continues to look backward, living in the past, just like the recording industry did for so many years confronted with digital disruption, isn’t it time to have someone lead us into the future?

Neil was a caretaker in the wake of the tumultuous reign of Mike Greene. Now it’s time to have a leader.

I could point out Portnow’s flaws, including the ill-advised New York Grammy journey wherein millions were lost, but this is not about his failings so much as an opportunity to move the organization forward, change it for a changed environment.

As for the task force, it resembles nothing so much as a movie cliche, ROUND UP THE USUAL SUSPECTS AND DO NOTHING!

So the Grammy organization needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.

And a woman must head it.

The men are gonna say there’s no female qualified. They always say this. They don’t mentor women, they don’t lift them up, they just throw their hands in the air after declaring their hands are tied. The greatest musical artists inform and lead, whereas the Grammy organization is run like the worst of bureaucracies, with little transparency and no change.

So it’s time to give a woman an opportunity! Hell, maybe even hire a manager from the outside, some new blood with fresh insight. Or maybe even a woman musician, like saxophonist Mindi Abair, who has been involved with the organization for years. Not that I’m positing she’s the right person for the position, I’m just saying the net should be cast wide and there are many women who can STEP UP and fill Portnow’s shoes.

But the Trustees are blind, so busy giving Grammys to their cronies they completely miss what is happening in popular music.

The Oscars are castigated for being too white and the organization shakes out dead wood and actively seeks new members, AMPAS reacted immediately, whereas NARAS did nothing, waiting for the storm to pass, which is amazing, since music is more topical and reacts more quickly than film.

Anybody can misspeak.

But not anybody can be asleep at the wheel.

When organizations don’t reinvent themselves, they die, just like the Grammy ratings. Produce those numbers in Silicon Valley and you’re ousted, immediately, because shareholders are afraid of totally losing their investment.

It’s time for the Grammys to pivot. Instead, the organization is staying on its lazy course.

As for Mr. Portnow’s contract/salary, let’s not forget this is the man who moved the organization to new digs without selling the old building. If it was about money, he would have been bounced long ago.

But it’s not about cash, it’s about meaning, it’s about direction, it’s about doing what’s right.

Let’s not allow them to get away with it. Let’s not let the uproar fade. Let’s keep the pressure on. How are we supposed to have faith in the organization if it can’t clean and take care of its own house?

Portnow has to go.

The rolls must be cleaned.

New members must be signed up.

Transparency must be instituted.

This fiasco cannot continue.

Because although the Grammys always lacked credibility, now they’ve become a joke.