Ashley Calhoun, Pulse Music Group’s new head of creative, preaches the power of patience.
Calhoun knows a lot about long plays. She signed beloved R&B artist Kehlani to the publishing and label group in February, after five years of conversation. “There were just a lot of things, deal-wise, that needed to be worked out,” Calhoun says. “She was really focused on building out her catalog and her worth, which she did. And it was the right time for us to sign an artist at that level. It was all timing.”
But that five-year chase doesn’t mean the Calhoun isn’t able to act quickly when necessary — evidenced by her ability to sign songwriter Starrah (Camila Cabello’s “Havana,” Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You,” Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage”) to Pulse within her first week at the company.
Today, Calhoun’s own roster holds about 30 clients; her team recently signed breakout artist Trevor Daniel, following the success of his double-platinum hit “Falling.” She started in the music industry as an assistant at Cash Money Records, working her way up into A&R through various roles. In five years at Pulse, working alongside producer Josh Abraham and songwriter Scott Cutler, she’s been promoted twice. Even her relationship with Joshua Berkman, Cash Money’s head of A&R, proves that she has an innate knack for making connections: She introduced herself to the exec on Facebook, he invited her to a music-video shoot for Tyga in Malibu, and he offered her a job on the spot.
When Zach Katz eventually called with a job opportunity in A&R — a field she’d always imagined herself in — she made the jump over to Rondor, where she worked for four years. The idea of a producer and a songwriter running a company is what attracted her to Pulse, which is led by Abraham — who produced albums for the likes of Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and Pink prior to Pulse’s existence — and Cutler who co-wrote the hit single “Torn” for Natalie Imbruglia, along with a slew of other songs.
At Pulse, Calhoun works within a different range. “We can really just sign artists and talent that we believe in, which is usually early, before they start having real success,” she says of the company’s boutique nature. “We get to have our fingerprints on that success and help shape them, and develop their careers and trajectory. We definitely want to keep the family feel.”
Now, in her new role as head of creative, Calhoun also has the opportunity to work more on the executive side of the business itself. “It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do,” she says. “I’m really great at developing talent, I’ve been doing it for a long time, and it’s kind of easy at this point — but developing executive talent is a whole other beast. I’m excited to keep building the team out.”
Calhoun is devoted to keeping up Pulse’s current momentum. “We’ve had a string of Number Ones over the past several months,” she says. “I’m really focused to continuing that run.” In 2020 so far, Pulse clients have been a part of 13 radio chart-toppers, including Drake’s “Tootsie Slide,” Travis Scott’s “Highest in the Room,” and Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s “Rain on Me.” In July, Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” was certified nine-times-platinum, and in August, Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” went eight-times-platinum, both of which involve Pulse collaborators.
Calhoun says Pulse is particularly interested in hiring more executives and signing more artists at the moment: “In 2021, we plan to top what we’re doing now.”