Music Biz Shakeup as James Donio Departing as President; Kill Rock Stars' Portia Sabin Taking Over

Courtesy of Dr. Portia Sabin
Dr. Portia Sabin

The Music Business Association (Music Biz) announced on Thursday that longtime president James Donio is stepping down after 15 years at the helm. Donio, who'll remain in an advisory role, will be succeeded by Kill Rock Stars label head Dr. Portia Sabin beginning on Sept. 3, the trade org said.

Donio joined Music Biz in 1988 as director of creative services, back when it was still the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM for short). He was named president of the organization in 2003, and is credited with expanding the org outward from its retail roots and growing its annual conference, which moved to Nashville in 2015.

"He has passionately guided the organization through any number of seismic industry changes and challenges during his tenure: the shift from a singular focus on the physical business to a broader identity embracing all forms of music consumption; a complete rebranding as the Music Business Association in 2013; and moving the annual Music Biz Conference to Nashville in 2015," said Music Biz board chairman Matt Signore. "The Conference has steadily grown in size, scope and recognition, with the 2019 event being the largest and most successful in 20 years."

Added Donio, "I have spent literally half of my life at this Association, and the memorable experiences I’ve had and the close relationships and friendships I’ve made in the industry are irreplaceable."

Sabin comes to Music Biz from Portland-based Kill Rock Stars, where she's been president since 2006. Since taking over, the label has released albums by The Thermals, Elliott Smith, Deerhoof, Horse Feathers and Wimps, as well as a slew of comedy records by Rhea Butcher, Emily Heller and Cameron Esposito, among others. In 2014, Sabin launched her music biz-focused podcast The Future of What, and has served on several industry boards, namely A2IM, the RIAA, and the Recording Academy. She began her music career as a drummer in NYC pop-punk band The Hissyfits and went on to manage the dance-punk band The Gossip.

"We are excited to have Portia coming on board," said Signore. "She is a thought leader in the industry and has her finger on the pulse of important issues facing our community. From spearheading the creation of the A2IM Libera Awards to starting a podcast to educate musicians and others, Portia has been a strong advocate for the music business as a whole."

In a statement, Sabin said she was "grateful to Jim for building such a strong foundation" at the organization.


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