Grammys President Neil Portnow announced that he’ll step down from his position this year after 16 years as the head of the Recording Academy. The news comes after his controversial comments in January that women should “step up” if they wanted to be recognized at the award show, which caught widespread criticism, with six women executives calling for Portnow’s resignation.
It seems as though Portnow is giving them what they want, though it could be a case of convenient timing. His contract is up next year and he says he’ll step down instead of renewing.
In a statement delivered to Billboard, he said, “The evolution of industries, institutions and organizations is ultimately the key to their relevance, longevity and success. I’ll be working with our Board to put the various elements in place that will ensure transparency, best practices, and the Academy’s ability to find the very best, brightest, and qualified leadership to take us into our seventh decade of operation.”
The Recording Academy could replace him as early as this summer. Dana Tomarken, former VP of MusiCares, released a letter last week accusing Portnow of cutting the MusiCares’ fundraising funds by $4 million. The news of Portnow’s departure after a 16-year relationship with the company could be a signifier that change is on the horizon for how an institution like the Grammys operates.
This January, the world watched as Alessia Cara was the only woman to receive a Grammy during the broadcast. We watched SZA, the most decorated woman of the night, leave without a single win. Portnow’s departure is a pivotal moment for tearing away at the foundation of an antiquated system that allows inherent biases to make the case of who is worthy of recognition.
Kristin Corry is a staff writer for Noisey. Follow her on Twitter.