Neil Portnow
Michael Zorn/Invision/AP
United States

The Recording Academy


From playing bass in his Long Island high school garage band, The Savages, to leading the annual Grammy Awards ceremony as President/CEO of The Recording Academy, Neil Portnow has dedicated his career to music, musicians and education. 

Portnow graduated George Washington University in 1971 and got his start as a record producer and music supervisor, later joining RCA Records as staff producer. Stints as VP A&R at Arista and EMI America led to Jive Records, where he spent a decade-plus running their West Coast operation, rising to VP and guiding the Zomba Label Group’s roster, which included some of pop music’s most successful acts ever, among them: Britney Spears and NSYNC. 

In Nov. 2002, Portnow became President of the then-National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), replacing the contentious Michael Greene, and proceeded to kick the much-criticized Grammy Awards ceremony into the 21st century by changing the voting process to en sure the results didn’t cause embarrassment (like Jethro Tull winning the first heavy metal award). Portnow has put his stamp on the institution, continuing to support the organization’s MusiCares foundation and opening the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles in 2008, followed by additions in Cleveland, Mississippi, Nashville and the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Portnow will help the Grammys celebrate its 60th anniversary with next February’s edition, at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where it hasn’t been held since 2003, with all voting now taking place online for the first time. He will step down from his position July 2019.


  • EMI Music
  • The Recording Academy
  • Jive Records


  • George Washington University (DC, USA)

Variety Honors

  • 2017 Variety500 Honoree
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News from Variety

Grammy Chief Neil Portnow: Nominees Reflect a ‘Tipping Point’ for Diversity

Grammy Chief Neil Portnow: Nominees Reflect a ‘Tipping Point’ for Diversity

As anyone reading this probably knows, the Grammy Awards, and Recording Academy chairman Neil Portnow in particular, received a firestorm of criticism in the months after this year’s ceremony due to the low female representation in the nominees, the winners and the show — and by extension the industry at large. Fueling the fire was an unfortunately comment Portnow made to a Variety reporter immediately after the show, in which he said female artists and executives need to “step up”...


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