Neda Azarfar Resigns as VP at Recording Academy, Picks Sunshine Sachs to Take Over External Communications for Grammys: Exclusive

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Courtesy of the Recording Academy
Neda Azarfar

Azarfar will leave in December

Neda Azarfar has resigned as VP, marketing communications, of the Recording Academy, and will serve as  a consultant until the end of the year. 

In one of her recent moves, Azarfar also switched the Recording Academy’s outside PR company to Sunshine Sachs from longtime firm Roger & Cowan, which had handled the account for more than 20 years. The move includes press oversight of the Grammy Awards and MusiCares.

Azarfar, who joined the Recording Academy from MySpace in 2014, bridged the communications and marketing sides of the Recording Academy together, as well as helped develop its first branding campaign, dubbed We Are Music, which launched this summer. She also oversaw the rebranding of the Recording Academy and its affiliates through a new visual identity rolled out over the past year.

“I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with and lead such an extraordinary group of people in implementing a broad range of programs and initiatives—from managing promotions for the Grammy Awards to architecting the Recording Academy’s brand portfolio, visual identity, and voice," Azarfar says. "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. Now, more than ever, it’s important for me to know that my contributions are making a positive impact, within the organization I work and beyond.”

During her time at the Recording Academy, the organization renegotiated a lucrative 10-year deal with CBS that will keep the Grammy Awards on the network through 2026 and, more recently, was a pivotal player in the last week’s passage of the Music Modernization Act.

"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,” said Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow in a statement. “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."

But the Recording Academy has had tough times as well lately that have been difficult to navigate: Portnow announced his resignation, effective July 2019, after 16 years of leading the organization. The move came in the wake of his ill-considered comment about women needing to “step up” following a lack of wins by females on this year’s 60th annual Grammy Awards telecast, as well as an accusation from a former MusiCares VP that Portnow had steered money away from MusiCares. A charge the Recording Academy says is not true. 

Leading the Sunshine Sachs team will be Sunshine Sachs partner and managing director of Sunshine Sachs' Los Angeles office Keleigh Thomas Morgan, while Sunshine execs Michael Samonte and Paula Witt will run the day-to-day duties, assisted by a number of other Sunshine Sachs publicists. 

Azarfar and Sunshine Sachs representatives declined to comment, while a representative for Rogers & Cowan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The 61st annual Grammy Awards will take place at Los Angeles' Staples Center on Feb. 9.