Have you ever wondered why some people think "Theologians" is Wilco's best song, while others favor "Candy Floss" or "She's A Jar" — and will argue feverishly all night long as to why? It's the same with almost any popular band and song you can name, and therein lies the simple business plan that a pair of recent Terry grads were beta-testing on the streets of Athens when Wilco played the Classic Center in April 2009.
Employing "guerilla marketing strategy," Adam Wexler (BBA '07) and Danny Kirschner (BBA '08) mingled with Wilco devotes on Broad Street and ultimately created a significant point of interest on the Classic Center plaza because they were wearing handmade sandwich boards that listed the top seven Wilco songs as listed on iTunes.
"The idea was to create give-and-take discussions among Wilco fans as to whether a group's most popular songs are actually their best songs," says Wexler, whose real reason for donning the signboard was to tout his emerging online music information service, known as Rank 'em, which is dedicated to people's love affair with both music and lists.
Wexler, a real estate major at Terry, was refining the Rank 'em concept as he was participating in the college's Institutional Leadership Advancement program.
"I wondered, Is there anything else like this out there that allows people to rank their favorite songs and also dialogue with other music fans about their choices?" says Wexler. "I knew if there was, I'd be using it every day. When I realized there wasn't, I knew I had to start one."
Since creating an invitation-only website in February 2009, Wexler and his team — which includes chief strategy officer Kirschner and chief of technology Adam Blashke (who was UGA's Student Employee of the Year in 2008) — have been tinkering with the details, preparing to take the site live.
"Our site provides a platform for 400,000 artists and 7 million songs," says Wexler, who refers to Rank 'em as "the ultimate resource for accelerating music discovery." Okay, but how does the site make money?
As an associate music retailer, Rank 'em earns a small percentage of website sales from companies like iTunes and Amazon, and Wexler envisions a number of new revenue streams.
"We're talking to radio stations, and to the artists themselves," says Wexler. "We're especially interested in top 40 stations that have a playlist of 30, maybe 40 songs. We're saying to them, 'Give us your 30-40 songs and we'll populate that list (on the site). All of a sudden, you've got a day-to-day preference list that's not based on random requests, but collective choices. Rank 'em could replace a radio station's entire research department."
Since participants on Rank 'em must provide their age, gender, and zip code upon registration, Wexler believes the data collected on the site has the potential to interest a variety of music-business entities.
"It's all about interaction," he says. "Everybody wants to feel involved, like they can make a difference. And Rank 'em can help them feel that way."
Wexler says Terry's ILA program — in particular, its emphasis on team building and working together for a common goal — has had a profound impact on the way he leads his Rank 'em team.
"My favorite class was Executive-in-Residence Pat Pittard's (BBA '67) Lessons in Leadership," says Wexler. "Pat brought in highly successful leaders and asked them to describe what it meant to be a leader. The power of one simple quote has stuck with me since a guest speaker, Bob Cross of Revenue Analytics, spoke to our class. He told us that he was "disappointed by how little one person could do, but at the same time amazed by how much a small group could do together."
Wexler and Kirschner have other musical interests. Wexler helps manage the Nashville-based Minor Kings; Kirschner manages a local band called Monahan and plays guitar and bass in another group, the Great Society. Both agree that their Terry College experience was beneficial in the development of Rank 'em.
Kirschner, whose degree is in MIS, watches over the Rank 'em website — and hones his html skills as an employee of UGA's Enterprise Information Technology Services department.
During the summer, Wexler was able to utilize the online funding platform known as Kickstarter to raise several thousand dollars to pay for site-hosting fees. He hopes to see some of his Terry College peers following his example of entrepreneurship.
"The economy is affecting everybody in different ways," he says. "We want to show recent college graduates that we're not waiting on the economy to come back around to make our mark. And we hope to be reaping the benefits soon."