Robert Kyncl

Warner Music has announced the identify of its next chief executive officer, and it’s exactly who a flurry of well-sourced reports earlier this week claimed it would be. Former YouTube executive Robert Kyncl will be the successor to current WMG boss Steve Cooper.

The announcement came this afternoon, confirming that Kyncl will join WMG on 1 January 2023. He’ll be co-CEO with Cooper for the rest of that month, before taking the reins solo at the start of February. Kyncl will also join WMG’s board, taking the seat currently held by Cooper.

“After a thorough search, we’re delighted to be appointing Robert Kyncl, who will make an outstanding leader for WMG’s continued transformation and success. We thank Steve for his many accomplishments over more than a decade, and we look forward to welcoming our new CEO in January,” said a statement from the current WMG board.

“Robert is the right CEO to meet this moment. His command of technology to serve creativity will unlock new opportunities at scale for artists, songwriters, and their teams. He sees over the horizon to find ways to make world-class entertainment accessible for all,” added Len Blavatnik, the founder and chairman of Acess Industries.

Kyncl had recently announced that he was stepping down from his current role as chief business officer at YouTube, where he has been a prominent figure in the company’s dealings with music and other media industries down the years. Before YouTube, he spent seven years at Netflix.

“Music is an incredible creative force, with an unmatched ability to bring emotions, build communities, and propel change. We’re just at the beginning of what’s possible in recognising music’s true power, value, and reach,” said Kyncl in his statement today, while making a point of mentioning WMG’s recorded music boss Max Lousada and Warner/Chappell publishing chiefs Guy Moot and Carianna Marshall as future colleagues he was looking forward to working with.

That’s a nod to one of the first questions around any new appointment at this level: the extent to which a new CEO will want to work with the existing senior management (and they with the incoming boss, particularly if they had held their own ambitions for the job) or bring in their own executives. At the very least, it gives industry watchers a few-months window to speculate about whether there’ll be more changes to come.

In the meantime, anyone keen to bone up on Kyncl’s views on the music industry – albeit those from five years ago – may want to read our comprehensive notes from his 2017 book Streampunks: YouTube and the Rebels Remaking Media. “Now is actually a time for optimism in the music industry. I predict that its brightest years are actually ahead of it, not behind it,” wrote Kyncl then. Now as WMG’s new leader, he’ll be tasked with following that through from a rightsholder’s perspective.

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