Ryan Wines, from volunteer radio gig to music industry

Sound Design: SOU alum’s journey from college radio to global music agency

Ryan Wines remembers the first time he stepped into the student-run KSOC radio station in 1999. He was a junior studying marketing and political science, and KSOC was just a year old. “It was a two-room closet, tucked out of sight in the basement of the student union,” he recalls.

Wines never would have imagined how a volunteer gig, playing hip hop and garage rock on a campus radio station, could be a catalyst for a career.

Wines in 2010 co-founded Marmoset Music – a Portland-based global music agency that provides music for brands, ads, television and film projects. What began as just an idea kicked around by two friends at a Portland coffee shop has turned into a rocketing creative industry powerhouse. Marmoset is one of the fastest-rising companies of its kind – meticulously curating rare, vintage and emerging artists, bands and record labels for music licensing opportunities, while also forging an award-winning original music studio that crafts original scores and sound design for virtually any creative need imaginable.

Marmoset, for Wines, is the culmination of his early work as a college radio DJ, a band manager and a self-described “marketing nerd.” He held down a variety of marketing and creative agency roles after graduating from SOU in 2001, steadily building his “side hustle” of working with record labels and bands such as The Dandy Warhols, Dolorean, The Dimes and indie filmmaker Margaret Brown.

Marmoset collaborates with clients ranging from filmmakers to creative execs at Apple, Wieden and Kennedy, Nike and Vice TV, helping them find that perfect song to help shape the stories they’re trying to tell. Scouring through Marmoset’s roster of rare, vintage and emerging artists can be both fulfilling and time-consuming. Its catalog holds thousands of songs – including music by The Jackson 5, Duran Duran, Shuggie Otis, Typhoon and Y La Bamba – and finding just the right song can take hours or even days. But the final result is always worth the wait, as projects have been featured in the Academy Awards, Super Bowl commercials, the Cannes Film Festival and award-winning films.

Marmoset had just four employees in 2012, and by 2014 the “Marmogang” had quickly reached 15 people. “Today, we’re a crew of more than 60 full-time family members and collaborators, many of whom make art, release records and tour with their bands,” said Wines, whose title is Fearless Leader in addition to CEO and co-founder.

The company has picked up numerous awards, including a Webby and an SXSW Interactive award, and it is regularly recognized as one of the state’s fastest growing and best places to work.

Wines is a vinyl record junkie who says his experience at SOU helped him find his true self and gave him the confidence to start his own company.

“SOU’s business program definitely planted the seeds for my entrepreneurial aspirations,” Wines said. “But it’s also where I learned to be active in my community, to stand up for what’s right and pursue things I believe in. All of that has helped shape and form the way I think about and lead my business today.”

Wines is especially thrilled about the opportunity to become a Certified B Corporation, which recognizes companies that balance both profit and purpose. B Corps consider their impact on customers, employees, communities and the environment.

“We’re super excited about the B-Corp certification,” he said. “We’ll be the first company in our industry with that honor and distinction. And it aligns so naturally with our approach to business, always working to be fully transparent, sustainable and focused on the greater good.”

The B-Corp label seems appropriate for a company that has defined its core purpose as “community.” The Marmoset website boldly declares community as its highest calling. “It’s the thing that everything we do and everything we are is informed by and filtered through … what really drives us is supporting, educating, advocating for and serving our community: the people, artists, musicians and creatives we work with on a daily basis.”

Wines is justifiably proud of what he has accomplished and the clarity of Marmoset’s values. He credits much of his vision and success to his time at KSOC radio – which closed in 2013 – and his experiences at SOU.

Shared from the Fall 2018 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine