Recording Academy Job Listing Calls for New CEO to Continue Diversity Efforts & ‘Leverage Technology’


With the Recording Academy on target to announce its new president/CEO at the end of the month, Billboard has obtained the position specifications for the job circulated by Heidrick & Struggles, which conducted the executive search.

The document stresses that the new leader will continue the Recording Academy’s efforts to increase diversity, equity and inclusion, but nods to the work that has been done over the last two years already, and equally — and repeatedly — points to the need for a president/CEO who can move the Recording Academy ahead in the digital era.

“The Academy has already made significant strides to advance a strong global culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and respect at the Recording Academy, its affiliates and in the music industry,” the spec states. “While that work will continue under the leadership of the next CEO, there are other areas that this leader will drive, including ensuring the sustainability and long-term growth of the Academy’s business model. This will likely include leveraging technology in new ways that help the Academy diversify its revenue streams.”

The position will have seven direct reports, including the chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, a new position filled by Valeisha Butterfield Jones last April.

The broad job description does not include a specific mandate that the new CEO has led a large team before, only that the candidate has “a track record of leading through change and driving innovation,” as well as experience in developing revenue streams, and understanding the needs of helming a membership-driven organization. The position reports and “partner[s] closely” with the board of trustees.

Much of the description calls for someone who is a big ideas person, using such terms as a “critical thinker” and “culture shaper,” with a “track record and experience holding themselves and team members accountable to evolving cultures across complex global environments.”

The next president/CEO will inherit a Recording Academy that has undergone dramatic changes since it officially terminated former president/CEO Deborah Dugan on March 2, 2020, after she had been placed on administrative leave six weeks earlier. She and the Recording Academy are in arbitration over her dismissal.

Under interim CEO Harvey Mason Jr., who is also the board chair, the Recording Academy has hired Jones as well as formed the Black Music Collective. Organized in September 2020, the BMC includes a number of prominent Black music creators and professionals with “the common goal of amplifying Black voices within the Academy.”

More recently, on April 30, the Recording Academy announced the trustees voted to disband the nominations review committees in general and genre fields for the Grammy Awards. The committees had the final say in determining the nominees in 59 of the 84 categories (Two new categories were added in the same trustees meeting to bring the total to 86 categories). The reviews committees began in 1989 with the classical categories and was slowly adopted across many genre categories and the general fields over the years. Grammy voters will now determine the finalists in all but the craft categories, which will continue to use committees.

Heidrick & Struggles worked with the Recording Academy’s search committee, which included members of the board of trustees, staff, advisory committee and executive committee. Members of the Recording Academy’s board of trustees interview the finalists.

Mason tells Billboard that he will continue as interim CEO until the new CEO is “ready to do the handoff, whether they start June 1 or later, depending upon what they may have to wind up.”

The Recording Academy’s trustees will convene again on May 19, with the CEO expected to be announced shortly thereafter.

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