May 15, 2010 / 1:31 AM / 8 years ago

Swedish music publisher strikes gold with Nervo

LONDON (Billboard) - International success is proving as easy as two plus two for Swedish startup Razor Boy Music Publishing.

Launched just two years ago in Stockholm, Razor Boy has made a splash by placing a host of songs on high-profile pop albums.

At the heart of that success are two duos: Razor Boy co-founders Fredrik Olsson and Anders Bagge, and in-demand Australian songwriting team Nervo, comprising sisters Liv and Mim Nervo.

Nervo co-wrote three songs on David Guetta’s 2009 album “One Love” (Astralwerks), including “When Love Takes Over” (featuring Kelly Rowland), which topped the U.K. singles chart and peaked at No. 3 on Billboard’s European Hot 100 singles chart.

More recently, the duo co-wrote “VIP” and “Boots & Boys” for Ke$ha’s chart-topping debut album, “Animal,” which has sold 646,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The duo has also written for or co-written with the Pussycat Dolls, Miley Cyrus and Roger Sanchez.

Razor Boy’s global administration is handled through a subpublishing deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, with Kobalt Music Group administering Nervo’s repertoire in North America.

But the company itself still consists only of CEO Olsson and songwriter/producer Bagge, who have known each other for more than 20 years. While Bagge concentrates on studio work with songwriters, Olsson handles day-to-day affairs. That includes a burgeoning licensing business — he’s finalizing a Nervo deal for a Pan-European McDonald’s campaign.

Following stints at MCA and indie Scandinavia Records, Olsson became senior A&R (artists and repertoire) manager in EMI Music Publishing’s Stockholm office in 2000. While at EMI, his signings included Bagge, who has written for artists including Celine Dion, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez.

“One day, Anders came to me and said, ‘Hey, do you want to start up a publishing company with me?’” Olsson recalls. “And I said ‘yes.’ Simple as that.”

‘UNDIVIDED ATTENTION’

The pair launched Razor Boy in June 2008, and Olsson made Nervo its first signing. The Aussie duo had been signed to Sony/ATV and worked with Olsson in 2007 when he invited the duo to Sweden to collaborate with some of his EMI writers.

“Unless you’re one of the creme de la creme writers (at a major), it can be pretty hard to get your songs pitched,” London-based Mim Nervo says. “With indies, you get their undivided attention.”

Razor Boy’s first big break came during summer 2008 when Olsson pitched Nervo’s songs to Max Gousse, who was seeking writers for Kelly Rowland in his capacity as executive vice president of A&R and new business development at Music World Entertainment.

Gousse (now senior VP of A&R for Island Def Jam Music Group) liked Nervo’s material and Olsson arranged a co-writing session in Rowland’s hotel room in London.

“Kelly had some (basic) tracks from David Guetta,” Olsson says. “They wrote ‘When Love Takes Over’ in that hotel room. After that, the ball started rolling.”

The Ke$ha tie-in came when the singer — at that time being developed as a country artist — heard Nervo’s song “F—- Him, He’s a DJ.”

“She reached out to us, so we asked her to come over to the U.K.,” Mim Nervo says. “We really developed her style from country Nashville songs to kind of electronic, dirty British pop. Then she went back to America and turned it into something even bigger.”

Nervo has its own label contract as well. Under a Virgin/Astralwerks deal announced in March, the sisters are due to release their debut album in 2011 and will sign artists to their own Nervo Records imprint.

Meanwhile, their songwriting is still much in demand. The Virgin/Astralwerks connection led to Nervo contributing what Mim calls “a classic Kylie song” to labelmate Kylie Minogue’s “Aphrodite” album (due July 6), although she declines to reveal the title.

Olsson is keen to increase his roster to 20 writers from around a dozen, but suggests that other startups can learn from Razor Boy’s “small is beautiful” credo.

“You have to find a couple of writers that you really believe in,” he says, “and build from there.”

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