Dr. Harald Heker will retire as chief executive officer of German collection society GEMA after 17 years on September 30, with Dr. Tobias Holzmüller set to succeed him on October 1.
Heker has been a member of GEMA’s board since 2006 and has been the chairman since 2007. He was at the helm of the company when it enforced music authors’ copyright on digital platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, and the EU Copyright Directive adopted in 2019.
Under Heker’s leadership, GEMA said it consistently boosted overall revenues for its members since 2006 and achieved record earnings at the close of the 2022 fiscal year. And for the first time in its history, GEMA distributed more than €1 billion to its members.
Reflecting on Heker’s departure, Dr. Ralf Weigand, Chairman of GEMA’s Supervisory Board, said: “For 17 years, Harald Heker steered GEMA with a crystal-clear, analytical eye and a sure hand through turbulent and, most recently, very disruptive times.”
“Under his leadership, GEMA has mastered the profound changes incurred by the world’s move from analog to digital music very successfully. His great achievements in enforcing and strengthening copyright for music authors set standards that will remain, as will GEMA’s organizational and cultural development, which bears the hallmark of his creative power.”
“For 17 years, Harald Heker steered GEMA with a crystal-clear, analytical eye and a sure hand through turbulent and, most recently, very disruptive times.”
Dr. Ralf Weigand, GEMA
“He thus leaves his successor a well-ordered house, but also the challenge of similarly successful strategic action. We sincerely thank Harald Heker for his outstanding work and wish him all the very best for the future,” continued Weigand.
GEMA’s new CEO, Holzmüller, is also a seasoned legal expert in copyright matters. He has been an integral part of GEMA since 2013, leading its legal department. Additionally, he served as CEO for ZPÜ (Zentralstelle für private Überspielungsrechte, Central Organization for Private Copying Rights) from 2016 onwards.
Throughout his tenure, Holzmüller played a pivotal role in significant licensing contracts and projects, including establishing the joint venture ICE with sister societies PRS for Music and STIM, as well as the acquisition of the digital distribution company Zebralution.
Notably, he was instrumental in the adoption and implementation of the DSM Directive, actively championing GEMA’s interests in both Berlin and Brussels. Prior to joining GEMA, Holzmüller worked as a lawyer at Gleiss Lutz.
Commenting on Holzmüller’s appointment, Weigand, said: “With Tobias Holzmüller, not only an excellent, globally respected copyright expert but also an extremely well-connected and commit ted advocate for our concerns is taking over GEMA management.”
“We look forward to continuing GEMA’s successful trajectory with him and tackling the immense challenges that lie ahead for us and the entire music industry. In particular, the topic of artificial intelligence in creative processes will keep us creators fundamentally busy in the coming years.”
“This will be comparable to the challenges of digitalization over the last decade. The entire Supervisory Board and I myself are very much looking forward to working with Tobias and are convinced that we have found the best person for this tough job,” Weigand continued.
Holzmüller also expressed his enthusiasm for his new role, saying: “I am very much looking forward to the new task and to working with the entire team and my fellow board members. From my predecessor, I am taking over an excellently positioned organization that achieves economic success for our members and is committed to a strong copyright law.”
“The music industry is in a state of upheaval. We want to accompany our members on their path into the future with attractive remuneration, modern service and development of new market opportunities.”
Dr. Tobias Holzmüller, GEMA
“I would like to continue the process of modernization, growth and openness. The music industry is in a state of upheaval. We want to accompany our members on their path into the future with attractive remuneration, modern service and development of new market opportunities.”
GEMA, representing the copyrights of nearly 90,000 members, including composers, lyricists, and music publishers, as well as over two million rights owners worldwide, stands as one of the largest authors’ societies for musical works globally.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, GEMA launched an emergency fund for songwriters worth up to €40 million in Germany, which was provided via a two-stage program.
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