"To get on a bit of a soapbox, I’m really excited about the future."
Oana Ruxandra moved to the United States from Romania with her family as a child, and some of her important early memories of this country involve music. “I couldn’t speak any English, but I had started playing the violin when I was 4, and when I got here, I really related to people through music,” recalls Ruxandra, now Warner Music Group’s chief digital officer/executive vp business development, in her Manhattan apartment. She played in orchestras in school and started listening to louder rock, but “then I heard Leonard Cohen, and that changed what I listened to.”
Ruxandra worked for music companies while studying at Columbia University, then worked in finance, which included a stint as a quantitative analyst at BlackRock. (Her first job, at 14, was as a “gamemaster” at a laser tag center, and she’s still an avid video gamer; Animal Crossing is a current favorite.) After a few years, she went to Wharton business school at the University of Pennsylvania and, she says, “started stalking the person who ended up hiring me at Warner, former digital strategy executive Stephen Bryan, who now runs label relations at YouTube.” She went to Universal in 2016, then last year returned to Warner, where she oversees negotiations with digital business partners, from established services like Spotify and Apple Music to platforms like Twitch and TikTok. Some of those services have been at odds with the music industry since they don’t yet license content, but Ruxandra believes they represent an important part of the future of the business that will keep growing once subscriber numbers for traditional streaming settle.
“I’m really passionate about ensuring that artists can survive and thrive,” says Ruxandra. “It’s especially important because music can truly change culture — it can change the world.”