It was ten years ago that producer Josh Abraham approached songwriters and longtime friends Scott Cutler and Anne Preven with a business proposition. The two members of mid-‘90s L.A. alternative group Ednaswap were known for writing “Torn” — which Natalie Imbruglia turned into a worldwide hit — while Abraham also had worked in the studio with acts ranging from Pink, Kelly Clarkson and Adam Lambert to Linkin Park, Slayer and Thirty Seconds to Mars.
With the three investing a total of $100,000, Pulse Recordings opened up offices in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake district as a nascent music publisher, with signings Bonnie McKee, producer Tim Pagnotta and Oliver Goldstein. McKee’s success with Katy Perry — co-writing hits like “California Gurls,” “Teenage Dream” and “Roar,” among others — helped get the indie up and running.
A decade later, the thriving Pulse Music Group — now comprised of Pulse Music Publishing and Pulse Management, which handles producers — is basking in the glow of client Starrah (Brittany Talia Hazzard), a Delaware native and 2017 ASCAP Songwriter of the Year who has co-writes on two of the biggest hits in recent memory, Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You” (featuring Cardi B) and Camila Cabello’s “Havana.” Another writer on the roster, Marty James, received credit for the English-language remix of Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s mega-hit “Despacito” with Justin Bieber. Other stars on its roster include Ty Dolla $ign, Run the Jewels, Miike Snow, Kaytranada, Borns and Rich the Kid.
Thanks to hits like these, the company’s revenue soared 205% in 2017 and is primed for growth thanks to a timely 2014 infusion of capital from Fujipacific Music Inc. Chairman Ichiro Asatsuma, who also holds a controlling interest in the Windswept publishing company.
“Josh and I have a similar pedigree,” says Cutler (pictured above, right, with Abraham). “We both bought failing recording studios to start our respective businesses.” With a total of seven no-longer-failing recording studios between their Silver Lake headquarters and Burbank, Cutler, Preven and Abraham started Pulse with the idea of creating an artist sanctuary that combined their creative instincts with a measure of financial acumen.
“At first, it was like making a record — you don’t stop until it comes out,” Abraham recalls. “And that was our m.o.: Just stay focused until we get it right.”
Aside from Starrah, Pulse has experienced recent successes with OZ, who co-produced and co-wrote “Sicko Mode,” from Travis Scott’s recent chart-topping album, “Astroworld”; OG Parker, a contributor to Migos’ “Walk It Talk It” (featuring Drake), and Abraham himself, who co-produced and co-wrote Foster the People’s current radio hit, “Sit Next to Me.”
“That made me feel like I still had my fastball,” he laughs.
Both Abraham and Cutler are eager to share credit with their staff, which includes President/Head of Creative Maria Egan; VP of A&R Ashley Calhoun (who brought in Starrah); veteran COO Jason Bernard; Head of Sync, Creative & Licensing Joe Rangel; and newly named digital SVP Joe Poindexter.
“I want to let them shine,” Cutler says. “When we started Pulse, I saw that as a weakness at other companies — not allowing their staff to step out.”
Abraham agrees the success with Starrah was a result of building a strong infrastructure. “Ashley stood on desktops until we agreed to sign her,” he says. “Her lyrics were unparalleled, her melodies unique and it all just seemed like it came very easy for her.”
On a day-to-day level, Cutler enjoys the art of the deal and running the office, while Abraham utilizes his deep connections in the music industry to attract new talent and steps in with any creative issues.
“I was always the guy in the band who drove the van, hooked up the U-Haul and handled the business,” says Cutler. “But I find creativity in making sure all sides are satisfied with any signed agreement; it feels like the same itches are being scratched. It’s what I love to do.”
While Preven is less involved in the day-to-day, she continues to be a partner and is involved in several different areas, including writing a musical and songs for animated films.
Cutler recalls working with Preven on the Beyonce’s 2007 song, “Listen.” “That was like a math equation Anne had to solve,” he says. “We had to make the song do all these things that all these people wanted it to do. It took about 16 rewrites, but Anne was like a novelist, weaving in all the elements. She’s a Harvard graduate — she has a big brain.”
Pulse Music Group also has joint ventures with Rick Rubin’s American Songs, Nas’ Mass Appeal, Marc Anthony’s Magnus Media and Beth and Luke Laird’s Creative Nation publishing/ management company. And with plans to get into the “master” business (i.e. starting its own label), is Pulse — like its former fellow indie Songs Music Publishing — seeking to sell?
“We’re still just grinding this out every day,” says Abraham. “Until someone grabs me by the shoulders, shakes me and says, ‘Here is another option,’ I’m not looking up because what we’re doing is pretty successful right now. But I’m sure, as the landscape changes, we will continue to be a part of it.”
“I don’t know,” says Cutler. “I’m always open to new ideas, but the best part of this job is going to work each day with my best friends.”