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TikTok Hires Former Warner Exec to Lead Label Licensing Negotiations

TikTok owner ByteDance has brought on an insider to lead its record label licensing efforts as the company works through contract negotiations that have been ongoing since April

Following the hiring of former Warner Music Group executive Ole Obermann as vp and global head of music earlier this month, the Chinese company has brought on Obermann’s WMG colleague Tracy Gardner as head of label licensing, Billboard has confirmed.


Gardner joined WMG as part of its digital legal affairs team in 2011 and most recently served as the company’s senior vp, global business development and strategy. Previously, she was an associate in the intellectual property group at the New York City law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. News of her hiring was first reported by Music Business Worldwide

Sources have told Billboard, ByteDance's planned streaming service will be “a whole new take on streaming” through its heavy incorporation of a number of social networking features. A report in The Financial Times revealed that the service’s social features will include a library of short vertical videos that users can pair with music and share with friends, and that the cost would be lower than other major music streaming services. FT additionally reported that the service could launch by the end of the year in markets including India, Indonesia and Brazil ahead of a U.S. release. A report in Bloomberg earlier this week bolstered that claim, noting that ByteDance had been testing a music app called Resso in India and Indonesia for the last six months as part of a plan to compete in markets where leading services like Spotify and Apple Music have yet to scale.


The London-based Gardner appears to be well-suited for her new role. At WMG, she was tasked with evolving the company’s global strategy in the streaming arena, and during her tenure she negotiated and drafted agreements with powerhouses including Spotify, Apple, Google/YouTube and Pandora, giving her valuable experience on the label side of the streaming equation.

The new hires come at a precarious time for ByteDance, which recently settled a $1.1 million class-action suit in the U.S. over child-privacy concerns and is still under investigation for the same issue in the U.K. In October, the National Music Publishers' Association lobbied Congress to open an investigation the company over alleged copyright theft. According to reports, the company — whose U.S. video-sharing app TikTok recently hit 1.5 billion downloads in the U.S. —  is also currently the subject of a national security review by the U.S. government over concerns of Chinese censorship and potential national security risks.