Artist Publishing Group (known as “APG”) has become one of the top, independent music publishing companies. Founded in 2004 by Mike Caren (CEO of APG and sister record company Artist Partner Group, and Creative Officer for Warner Music Group), APG has had many chart hits and currently has about 40 active songwriters (including both writer/producers and writer/artists) signed to the company.
Angie Pagano, General Manager of APG, joined the company in 2014, and she’s played a key role in their growth and recent success story. She has been involved with building APG’s creative team and launching APG’s new studio complex, A Studio. Pagano runs the day-to-day operations of the company and has streamlined the organization to keep APG running smoothly and efficiently. Additionally, Pagano handles A&R duties for a number of writers signed to APG.
APG and its songwriters have been a mainstay on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for a full decade. Currently, they have hits with “Bad Things” (by Machine Gun Kelly & Camila Cabello) and “Bounce Back” (Big Sean). In the past two years, they’ve also had chart success with “See You Again” (Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth), “Work From Home” (Fifth Harmony feat. Ty Dolla $ign), “What Do You Mean?” (Justin Bieber), “Want To Want Me” (Jason Derulo), “One Call Away” (Charlie Puth), “We Don’t Talk Anymore” (Charlie Puth feat. Selena Gomez), “Marvin Gaye” (Charlie Puth feat. Meghan Trainor), “2 Phones” (Kevin Gates), “Never Be Like You” (Flume feat. Kai), “Somebody” (Natalie La Rose feat. Jeremih), “Hey Mama” (David Guetta feat. Nicki Minaj), Bebe Rexha & Afrojack), “G.D.F.R.” (Flo Rida feat. Sage The Gemini & Lookas), “Die A Happy Man” (Thomas Rhett) and “Wasted Time” (Keith Urban).
APG, which is administered by Warner-Chappell Music, has been involved in many hits since its inception. Here’s a list of APG’s other previous hits: “Timber” (Pitbull feat. Kesha); “Wiggle” (Jason Derulo feat. Snoop Dogg); “Super Bass” (Nicki Minaj); “Boyfriend” (Justin Bieber); “Dangerous” (David Guetta feat. Sam Martin); “Good Feeling,” “I Cry,” “Whistle,” (Flo Rida); “Right Round” (Flo Rida feat. Kesha); “Wild Ones (Flo Rida feat. Sia); “Yeah 3x” (Chris Brown); “Airplanes” (B.o.B. feat. Hayley Williams); “Laffy Taffy” (D4L); “Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You)” (Enrique Iglesias feat. Ludacris & DJ Frank E); “Right Above It” (Lil Wayne feat. Drake); “The Show Goes On” (Lupe Fiasco); “Daylight” (Maroon 5); “Bottoms Up” (Trey Songz feat. Nicki Minaj); and “BedRock” (Young Money feat. Lloyd).
The songwriter roster for APG includes such hit writer/artists and writer/producers as Charlie Puth, Kevin Gates, DJ Frank E, Sam Martin, Jacob Luttrell, The Futuristics, Breyan Isaac, MdL. Sermstyle, Kane Beatz, Sofly & Nius, Xplicit, JHart, Yung Berg, JMike, Andrew Cedar, and Cook Classics.
In 2016, the company opened a new studio and office complex in Los Angeles called A Studio. The complex consists of four studios, writing rooms, multiple lounges and the company’s A&R, synch and marketing offices. The APG staff now includes Mike Caren (CEO), Angie Pagano (General Manager), Jeff Vaughn (VP, A&R), Miles Beard (VP, A&R), Franny Graham (Senior Director, A&R), Gabz Landman (Director, A&R), Edgar Machuca (Director, A&R), Jared Lane (A&R), David Phung (A&R), Olly Sheppard (Synchronization) and Chelsea Gavin (Marketing).
We are pleased to do this Q&A interview with Angie Pagano of APG. She discusses her role at APG and what makes the company a best in class independent publisher.
DK: How did you get into the music business, and when did you start working at APG?
Angie Pagano: I’m grew up in the Chicago area and have always been a big music fan. In 2006 I moved to Los Angeles without knowing anyone and made my way around town trying to get to know people in the music industry. What I tell anybody who asks me, is that I got extremely lucky. There happened to be a position open at a Chrysalis Music Publishing, which was just blocks from where I lived. I received a call to fill in for a temp position so I walked over, and I didn’t end up leaving the company for eight years – four years with Chrysalis and four years with BMG after it acquired Chrysalis.
DK: How did you make the switch from BMG to APG?
Pagano: I cold emailed Mike (Caren, CEO of APG) one day, we set up a meeting, and that was the start of the story. We had about a two-hour meeting at his office, where we talked about music and where the industry was going, and how streaming was coming into play, etc. It was a very open-ended conversation about all things music. We discovered that we both were extremely hard-working, passionate about music people and we wanted to try and find a way to work together.
DK: When you joined APG, what were your job duties, and how has it grown and changed since then?
Pagano: My role has grown as the company has grown. When I came on, there were about six people at the company including myself. At that time, the company was at an inflection point of going from a small company of a few A&R’s to a fully staffed publishing company. Then and now, at the core of the company are very creative people who help create hits by working on different projects and being in and out of the studio.
Here’s the video of the hit “Bad Things” by Machine Gun Kelly & Camila
Cabello, which is co-published by APG.
I’ve done my best to bring everything into a circle, instead of having a lot of spokes. We’ve put a lot of work into building realistic operations that don’t bury the A&R’s in reporting and busy work, but which keep them focused on A&R while also making sure the company can function in a long term growth minded capacity. Mike and I have purposefully and strategically grown the staff from those six people in 2014 to now a team of about 18.
DK: Currently, how many songwriters are signed to APG?
Pagano: We have about 40 active songwriters and producers. The nice thing about our company, is that the success is spread over the majority of our songwriters. We’re not a company that is built around one or two hit songwriters. There’s so much of our roster who’ve had, and continue to have, big chart wins.
DK: As the General Manager of APG, what’s your typical day and duties?
Pagano: I think the majority of my time is spent with the staff whether it be in A&R meetings, research and new writer meetings, and/or marketing meetings. We do multiple of each kind to keep the creative running, the staff all well-informed, ensure our roster is being utilized to its fullest potential, and that all of the timelines of the artists’ projects are being met. On the creative side for me, I make sure all information and opportunities brought to me are shared with the staff and their rosters, and I personally handle day to day creative, calendars and sessions for three songwriters, Madison Love, JHart, and Xplicit.
DK: With APG’s connection to Warner Music, would you say that a good portion of the projects your writers work on are with Warner artists?
Pagano: On the publishing side for the writers, we work on absolutely everything, with many labels. We do have a great sense of where projects are in the Warner system, and which artists are currently working or looking for songs. But we also have great relationships with all of the other companies because we’re consistently talking to A&Rs at other labels, with managers, and with artists directly. Our successes are definitely across all the labels. I think we do an extremely good job of being across the whole industry.
DK: APG has been very successful, with many hits. What does APG do really well that perhaps sets you apart from other companies?
Here’s the video of Big Sean’s recent hit “Bounce Back,”
which is co-published by APG.
Pagano: There are two things. One, is that we keep our writer/producer/artist ratio to A&R person extremely low. We purposefully try to never have more than 10 writer/producer/artists per A&R person so that everybody can be extremely super-serviced, whether it’s with sessions, feedback on songs, feedback on productions, having their songs pitched, or making the artist’s 360 world view is being well run. So that’s something that nobody else in the industry does. And then the second thing I would say, is that our creative execs are truly creative. They know the ins and outs of making music, and they’re ahead of the trends. Some of our A&R execs were creatives themselves (producers, DJs, etc.); that’s why I feel our staff is highly skilled in what they do.
DK: I read that APG has a new, bigger studio complex. Can you tell me about this?
Pagano: It’s called A Studio. We have four fully equipped studios including vocal booths in each, and a full staff of engineers. Above the studios, are our offices which have all been designed to be writing rooms as well with microphone jacks in all of our offices and TVs which are linked to be monitors, so in one office you can be cutting vocals and writing in the other. We have a lot of space to work with. The studios are available to our APG songwriters, Artist Partner artists, Atlantic artists, and basically anybody that we work with.
DK: Is there anything else about APG that you’d like to mention, that we haven’t talked about yet?
Pagano: I hope that our releases and successes are reflective of how APG is a teamwork company. We all know that the success doesn’t happen in a vacuum, nor via any one individual. We’ll have a session set up by one A&R and the track A&R’d by another A&R, and the song placed by another A&R. We do our best to make sure everybody can keep on top of the best music that is happening in our whole system.
Our team is like our roster in that the success is spread over the whole company. It’s really that everybody works together and everybody’s enjoying success together.
For instance, our Artist Partner label is currently wrapping the soundtrack for Fast & Furious 8. Jeff Vaughn is the main A&R for the soundtrack, but almost the entire APG staff has contributed to the including significant work by A&R’s David Phung, Edgar Machuca and Matt MacFarlane.
Here’s the video of Thomas Rhett’s big country hit “Die A Happy Man,”
which is co-published by APG.
DK: In closing, what advice would you give to new songwriters and producers who are trying to break into the music business?
Pagano: I would say to hone your craft, because the cream is always going to rise to the top. And with all the new ways to put music out, people will find you. We do a lot of online searching (for new talent), as does every company these days. If something is really great, it’s going to stand out and be found. So if you are a songwriter, keep writing songs every day. If you’re a producer, keep working on beats every day. I would say, be the best you can possibly be at what you’re doing, and you will get noticed.