Neda Azarfar has resigned as VP of marketing communications for the Recording Academy and will serve as a consultant until the end of the year, the organization confirmed. She tells Variety that she aims to pursue a career in philanthropic work, which was a significant focus of her four years at the Academy.
“I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to lead and work with such an extraordinary group of people in implementing a broad range of programs and initiatives,” she said. “A key factor that attracted me to the Recording Academy four years ago was the organization’s philanthropic and advocacy work. While I have loved my time in entertainment, I plan to focus the next chapter of my professional life in the philanthropy and social-good sector.”
In a statement, outgoing Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow said: “When we first determined to create the role that Neda has taken at the Academy, we had high hopes and expectations about the value and contributions that might come from it. Having had the opportunity to work with her over these past years not only confirmed the wisdom of the decision, but Neda’s many skills, expertise, vision, and tireless work ethic has served the Academy well, and I am personally grateful for our work together. We all wish her well in what I’m sure will be an excellent new chapter and adventure.”
One of the Academy’s youngest and few female top executives, Azarfar has modernized and streamlined the organization’s public outreach and messaging since she joined from MySpace in 2014. She integrated its communication and marketing efforts, steered a company-wide rebranding initiative, created new social-media strategies and launched voter-awareness campaigns that contributed to a marked increase in participation. The rebranding initiative spanned the Recording Academy, MusiCares, and the Grammy Museum as well as its first-ever brand campaign: We Are Music.
She also had the challenging task of heading up the organization’s PR efforts in the wake of Portnow’s controversial comment in January that female musicians and executives needed to “step up” in order to receive the recognition they seek, and the dismissal of former MusiCares head Dana Tomarken and her claim that the Academy had steered money from that charitable organization to cover the shortfall from the Grammys’ relocation to New York for this year’s ceremony, which the Academy has denied.
In a separate move, the Academy recently switched its outside PR firm from Rogers & Cowan, which had worked with the organization for more than 20 years, to Sunshine Sachs. The move includes press oversight of the Grammy Awards and MusicCares.
The 61st annual Grammy Awards will take place at Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Feb. 9.