The Grammy fiefdom of C. Michael Greene was dissolved April 27 when the Recording Academy’s board of trustees decided enough was enough and voted to oust their embattled president and CEO.
A hurried meeting was called by former Greene supporter Garth Fundis, and after the trustees went over a report on sexual harassment charges in the academy’s front office, an $8 million buyout of Greene’s contract was approved. The trustees also agreed to say they saw no evidence of harassment on Greene’s part and pledged to revamp the Grammy organization.
Greene had been synonymous with the Grammys since he stepped into a leadership role nearly 14 years ago. He took an org that had no leader and shaped it over a decade to his own ends and to fit his own talents, even as he reshaped the formerly cozy Grammys into a more professional competition.
He pulled down a $2 million salary that dwarfed that of every nonprofit exec in the country and enjoyed a country club membership and a luxury vehicle.
The Grammys org, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, theoretically won’t let that happen again — no matter what the benefit.
The new head will certainly be given a much shorter leash, and — because NARAS prides itself on serving local musical communities — will likely be someone with philanthropic experience. (Greene was a saxophonist with a fondness for photo ops.)
Greene was not to the music industry what Jack Valenti is to the movie biz — that’s Hilary Rosen’s job with the Recording Industry Assn. of America — but outsiders probably see Greene’s departure as the elimination of the music industry’s most visible spokesman. He spun his deeds so well that he was often perceived as the superhero out to get the notes right — stop piracy, help needy artists, reward the deserving and deliver a star-studded Grammy telecast.
But NARAS now must decide what it really is — the music world’s benefactor or an awards agency.
It’s no secret NARAS needs a strong leader. It’s clear, though, that the org shouldn’t be paying anywhere near $2 million per year to get this job done.
But once Greene’s replacement is named, the org would be wise to state its mission more explicitly: A little clarity will go a long way in allowing NARAS to move beyond this expensive debacle.