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Warner Music’s Head of NFTs and AI Departs: Report

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Warner Music Group’s chief digital officer has spearheaded the major label’s embrace of emerging technologies including blockchain and AI for the last three years. But this week, she left the post.

Oana Ruxandra resigned from the position and will soon announce her next move, according to internal company emails first reported by Billboard. According to a memo circulated within Warner Music, the split is amicable—and there are already plans in the works for Ruxandra’s successor.

“We’ve… been the first to forge innovative partnerships with a wide, diverse, and thriving network of gaming, Web3, and AI companies,” Ruxandra wrote to her now-former colleagues. “ I wholeheartedly believe that the future of our industry lies in the dynamic relationship between artist and fan, and the incredible explosion in creative and commercial possibilities created by that interplay.”

During the executive’s tenure, Warner Music—home to leading music acts like Cardi B, Ed Sheeran, Madonna, Dua Lipa, and Coldplay—pushed aggressively to encourage its artists to incorporate technologies like NFTs and AI into their acts and promotions. Over the last two years, the label has launched pilot programs and signed partnerships with numerous blockchain-backed companies and projects, including Polygon Labs, NFT marketplace OpenSea, NFT music platform LGND Music, digital fashion startup DressX, and metaverse platform The Sandbox, among others.

Most of these initiatives have focused on forging closer ties between music artists and their fanbases, as alluded to by Ruxandra in her departing words. In August, for example, the Warner-signed rapper Earl Sweatshirt debuted a long-rumored album as a collection of NFTs on the decentralized streaming platform Gala Music. Owners of those tracks were able to collect reward points that could be exchanged for live experiences with the artist, including being featured in one of his music videos, FaceTiming with him, or meeting up with him in person—to smoke a joint.

While the reasons behind Ruxandra’s departure are still unknown, the shake-up is unlikely to signal a change in the centrality of technologies like NFTs and AI in Warner’s current business strategy.

The label’s CEO, former YouTube chief business officer Robert Kyncl, has gained a reputation as a fierce advocate for emerging technologies. When Warner Music spared all blockchain- and AI-related roles during a round of company layoffs in March, a source close to the matter told Decrypt that embracing cutting-edge technology will be as important for Kyncl now as it was for the executive at YouTube, where he drove the expansion of the video platform’s creator ecosystem and was known to champion technological experiments and innovation.

A spokesperson for Warner Music declined to comment for this story.

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