Ole Obermann

Global Head of Music Business Development, ByteDance/TikTok

Credit: ByteDance
Ole Obermann

Ole Obermann is Global Head of Music Business Development at ByteDance – the parent company of TikTok.

Obermann is based in London, England.

Obermann previously served in various senior digital roles at Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment.

Ole Obermann: Early career

Ole Obermann started his career as a Marketing Manager for Bertelsmann/RCA Records from 1994-1998.

In this role, he was tasked with designing and executing advertising campaigns for Bertelsmann/RCA’s talent roster and their upcoming releases.

After leaving Bertelsmann/RCA Records, Obermann returned to education and attended Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management to pursue an MBA in Management & Strategy.

Towards the end of graduate school, Obermann took a position with McKinsey & Co. as an Associate.

In May 2000, Obermann took a position at Walmart as a Senior Category Manager in the company’s media department.

Obermann played a key role in constructing Walmart’s media marketing strategies, including films, television, and music.

Obermann was also responsible for dealing with Walmart’s media vendors. He remained with Walmart until 2003.

That same year, Obermann joined Liquid Digital Media as General Manager and eventually, Vice President.

At the time, Liquid Digital Media’s focus was the online distribution of video and audio.

Ole Obermann: Music career history

In 2006, Obermann left Liquid Digital Media to join Sony BMG Music Entertainment, a company he would remain with for the next decade.

His first role with Sony BMG was Vice President, European Digital Business, which gave him the leading role for all of Sony’s  European digital ventures.

In 2007, Obermann was promoted to Vice President, International Digital Business Development, elevating his priorities to include all of Sony’s non-US digital music happenings.

In 2008, Sony bought out Bertelsmann AG’s stake in their company and rebranded as Sony Music Entertainment. With the rebrand, Obermann was appointed Senior Vice President, International Digital Business Development.

His primary focus with this role was managing and cultivating new international digital distribution partnerships for Sony Music. Obermann served in this role for nearly five years, before being promoted once again to Executive Vice President, Digital Partner Development & Sales for Sony Music.

As an EVP, Obermann’s duties were broadened to include management of all digital partnerships, not limited to distribution. He was also given more control over Sony Music’s digital-focused teams and divisions.

Obermann is credited with constructing and brokering Sony Music’s early deal with Spotify. He also led the development of Sony Music’s predictive streaming analytic tracking technology.

Obermann would stay with Sony for nearly four more years until 2016.

At the end of 2016, Obermann jumped ship to Warner Music Group, becoming WMG’s Chief Digital Officer and Executive Vice President, Strategy & Business Development.

As his title implied, Obermann led all of WMG’s digital efforts and formulated the company’s global business development strategies.

Notably, he played a key role in WMG’s deal with Facebook, allowing users to create content with WMG’s extensive music catalog. He also launched the WMG Boost Fund, permitting the company to more readily and efficiently invest in music start-ups. Obermann worked at WMG for three years.

In 2019, Obermann was announced as Global Head of Music at Bytedance’s TikTok.

It was later confirmed that his role had expanded to become Global Head of Music Business Development and IP at ByteDance.

Ole Obermann: TikTok’s approach to music

In a 2023 interview with Music Business Worldwide, Ole Obermann said: “Every single user on TikTok gets a different feed. And our creators, our influencers, the community on TikTok decides what happens in the algorithm. It really does work that way.

“I understand that the algorithm resides with TikTok, but the users are the ones who give the signals to the algorithm, both [as an] individual [and] as a community.

“Every single individual user ends up getting a different feed, because they’re giving [individual] signals. The algorithm is different for everyone.”

“If we can get the use of commercial music to really flow freely [on TikTok], it will [produce] billions of dollars of revenue.”

Ole Obermann

Discussing the compensation that TikTok pays to music rightsholders, Obermann suggested that the platform’s Commercial Music Library – which enables brands to instantly license music for ads on TikTok – could be a source of significant income for labels and publishers in the years ahead.

“If we can get the use of commercial music to really flow freely, it will be in the billions of dollars of revenue,” he said.

“I don’t know about many-multiple billions, but [Obermann forsees] a couple of billion to $3 billion of [annual] business here. I’m fully convinced of it. Whereas today, the entire [music sync industry] is usually sized at six or seven hundred million dollars, somewhere in that range.”

The recorded music sync industry generated around $600 million in trade revenues in 2022, according to IFPI data.Music Business Worldwide

Ole Obermann In The News

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