Tin Pan Alley

Tin Pan Alley

"Tin Pan Alley" is the name given to the collection of New York City-centered music publishers and songwriters who dominated the popular music of the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

The start of Tin Pan Alley is usually dated to about 1885, when a number of music publishers set up shop in the same district of Manhattan. The end of Tin Pan Alley is less clear cut. Some date it to the start of the Great Depression in the 1930s when the phonograph and radio supplanted sheet music as the driving force of American popular music, while others consider Tin Pan Alley to have continued into the 1950s when earlier styles of American popular music were upstaged by the rise of rock & roll.

Tin Pan Alley was originally a specific place in New York City, West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. There is a plaque on the sidewalk on 28th St between Broadway and Fifth with a dedication. This block is now considered part of Manhattan's Flatiron district.

The origins of the name "Tin Pan Alley" are unclear. The most popular apocryphal account holds that it was originally a derogatory reference to the sound made by many pianos all playing different tunes in this small urban area, producing a cacophony comparable to banging on tin pans. With time this nickname was popularly embraced and many years later it came to describe the U.S. music industry in general.

The term is also used to describe any area within a major city with a high concentration of music publishers or musical instrument stores - a good example being Denmark Street near Covent Garden in London. In the 1920s the street became known as "Britain's Tin Pan Alley" due to the large number of music shops, a title it holds to this day. The Tin Pan Alley Festival is held there each July.


In the mid-19th century, copyright control on melodies was poorly regulated in the United States, and many competing publishers would often print their own versions of whatever songs were popular at the time. Stephen Foster's songs probably generated millions of dollars in sheet music sales, but Foster saw little of it and died in poverty.

With stronger copyright protection laws late in the century, songwriters, composers, lyricists, and publishers started working together for their mutual financial benefit.

The biggest music houses established themselves in New York City. Small local publishers (often connected with commercial printers or music stores) continued to flourish throughout the country, and there were important regional music publishing centers in Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis, and Boston. When a tune became a significant local hit, rights to it were usually purchased from the local publisher by one of the big New York firms.


The music houses in lower Manhattan were lively places, with a steady stream of songwriters, vaudeville and Broadway performers, musicians, and "song pluggers" coming and going.

Aspiring songwriters came to demonstrate tunes they hoped to sell. When tunes were purchased from unknowns with no previous hits, the name of someone with the firm was often added as co-composer (in order to keep a higher percentage of royalties within the firm), or all rights to the song were purchased outright for a flat fee (including rights to put someone else's name on the sheet music as the composer). Songwriters who became established producers of commercially successful songs were hired to be on the staff of the music houses. The most successful of them, like Harry Von Tilzer and Irving Berlin, founded their own publishing firms.

"Song pluggers" were pianists and singers who made their living demonstrating songs to promote sales of sheet music. Most music stores had song pluggers on staff. Other pluggers were employed by the publishers to travel and familiarize the public with their new publications.

When vaudeville performers played New York City, they would often visit various Tin Pan Alley firms to find new songs for their acts. Second- and third-rate performers often paid for rights to use a new song, while famous stars were given free copies of publisher's new numbers or were paid to perform them, the publishers knowing this was valuable advertising.

Initially Tin Pan Alley specialized in melodramatic ballads and comic novelty songs, but it embraced the newly popular styles of the cakewalk and ragtime music. Later on jazz and blues were incorporated, although less completely, as Tin Pan Alley was oriented towards producing songs that amateur singers or small town bands could perform from printed music. Since improvisation, blue notes, and other characteristics of jazz and blues could not be captured in conventional printed notation, Tin Pan Alley manufactured jazzy and bluesy pop-songs and dance numbers. Much of the public in the late 1910s and the 1920s did not know the difference between these commercial products and authentic jazz and blues.

Influence on law and business

A group of Tin Pan Alley music houses formed the "Music Publishers Association of the United States" on June 11 1895, and unsuccessfully lobbied the federal government in favor of the Treloar Copyright Bill, which would have extended the term of copyright for published music to 40 years, renewable for an additional 20, and also included music among the subject matter covered by the Manufacturing clause.

The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) was founded in 1914 to aid and protect the interests of established publishers and composers. New members were only admitted with sponsorship of existing members. By the end of the 1910s, it was estimated that over 90% of the sheet music and phonograph records sold in the U.S. paid royalties to ASCAP.

Up for sale

As of October 8, 2008, Tin Pan Alley is up for sale. A listing on real estate Web site LoopNet recommends that the buildings be torn down and a high-rise take their place.

Composers and lyricists

Leading Tin Pan Alley composers and lyricists include:
*Milton Ager
*Thomas S. Allen
*Ernest Ball
*Irving Berlin
*Shelton Brooks
*Nacio Herb Brown
*Irving Caesar
*Hoagy Carmichael
*George M. Cohan
*Con Conrad
*J. Fred Coots
*Buddy DeSylva
*Walter Donaldson
*Paul Dresser
*Dave Dreyer
*Al Dubin
*Dorothy Fields
*Ted Fio Rito
*Max Freedman
*Cliff Friend
*George Gershwin
*Ira Gershwin
*Charles K. Harris
*James P. Johnson
*Isham Jones
*Scott Joplin
*Gus Kahn
*Jerome Kern
*Al Lewis
*F.W Meacham
*Johnny Mercer
*Ethelbert Nevin
*Maceo Pinkard
*Lew Pollack
*Cole Porter
*Andy Razaf
*Harry Ruby
*Al Sherman
*Ted Snyder
*Kay Swift
*Albert von Tilzer
*Harry von Tilzer
*Fats Waller
*Harry Warren
*Richard Whiting
*Harry M. Woods
*Jack Yellen
*Vincent Youmans

Biggest hits

Tin Pan Alley's biggest hits included:
*"After the Ball" (Charles K. Harris, 1892)
*"The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo" (Charles Coborn, 1892)
*"The Sidewalks of New York" (Lawlor & Blake, 1894)
*"The Band Played On" (Charles B. Ward & John F. Palmer, 1895)
*"Mister Johnson, Turn Me Loose" (Ben Harney, 1896)
*"A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" (Joe Hayden & Theodore Mertz, 1896)
*"Warmest Baby in the Bunch" (George M. Cohan, 1896)
*"At a Georgia Campmeeting" (Kerry Mills, 1897)
*"Hearts & Flowers" (Theodore Moses Tobani, 1899)
*"Hello! Ma Baby (Hello Ma Ragtime Gal)" (Emerson, Howard, & Sterling, 1899)
*"Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage" (Harry Von Tilzer, 1900)
*"Mighty Lak' a Rose" (Ethelbert Nevin & Frank L. Stanton, 1901)
*"Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home" (Huey Cannon, 1902)
*"In the Good Old Summertime" (Ren Shields & George Evans, 1902)
*"Give My Regards To Broadway" (George M. Cohan, 1904)
*"In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree" (Harry Williams & Egbert van Alstyne, 1905)
*"Shine Little Glow Worm" (Paul Lincke & Lilla Cayley Robinson, 1907)
*"Shine on Harvest Moon" (Nora Bayes & Jack Norworth, 1908)
*"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (Albert Von Tilzer, 1908)
*""By The Light of the Silvery Moon" (Gus Edwards & Edward Madden, 1909)
*"Down by the Old Mill Stream" (Tell Taylor, 1910)
*"Come, Josephine, in My Flying Machine" (Fred Fisher & Alfred Bryan, 1910)
*"Let Me Call You Sweetheart" (Beth Slater Whitson & Leo Friedman, 1910)
*"Alexander's Ragtime Band" (Irving Berlin, 1911)
*"Some of These Days" (Shelton Brooks, 1911)
*"Peg o' My Heart" (Fred Fisher & Alfred Bryan, 1913)
*"The Darktown Strutters Ball" (Shelton Brooks, 1917)
*"K-K-K-Katy" (Geoffrey O'Hara, 1918)
*"God Bless America" (Irving Berlin, 1918; revised 1938)
*"Oh by Jingo!" (Albert Von Tilzer, 1919)
*"Swanee" (George Gershwin, 1919)
*"Whispering" (1920)
*"The Japanese Sandman" (1920)
*Carolina in the Morning (Gus Kahn & Walter Donaldson, 1922)
*Lovesick Blues (Cliff Friend & Irving Mills, 1922)
*"Way Down Yonder In New Orleans" (Creamer & Turner Layton, 1922)
*"Yes, We Have No Bananas" (Frank Silver & Irving Cohn, 1923)
*"I Cried for You" (Arthur Freed & Nacio Herb Brown, 1923)
*"Everybody Loves My Baby" (Spencer Williams, 1924)
*"All Alone" (Irving Berlin, 1924)
*"Sweet Georgia Brown" (Maceo Pinkard, 1925)
*"Baby Face" (Bennie Davis & Harry Akst, 1926)
*"Ain't She Sweet" (Jack Yellen & Milton Ager,1927)
*"My Blue Heaven" (Walter Donaldson & Richard Whiting, 1927)
*"Happy Days Are Here Again" (Jack Yellen & Milton Ager, 1930)


External links

* [http://www.parlorsongs.com/insearch/tinpanalley/tinpanalley.asp Parlor Songs: History of Tin Pan Alley]
* [http://community.mcckc.edu/CROSBY/tinpan.htm A History of Tin Pan Alley]
* [http://tinpanalleyfestival.co.uk/ Tin Pan Alley Festival (UK)]
* [http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081009/ap_en_mu/tin_pan_alley_sale]
* [http://www.loopnet.com/property/13806616/845-Tin-Pan-Alley/]

Bibliography for Further Reading

*Bloom, Ken. "The American Songbook: The Singers, the Songwriters, and the Songs". New York: Black Dog and Leventhal, 2005.

*Forte, Allen. "Listening to Classic American Popular Songs". New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.

*cite book | author = Philip Furia |title = "The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America’s Great Lyricists" | year = 1990 | id = ISBN 0195074734.

*cite book | author = Philip Furia and Lasser, Michael |title = "The American’s Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley" | year = 2006 | id = ISBN 0415990521.

*Goldberg, Isaac. "Tin Pan Alley, A Chronicle of American Music". New York: Frederick Ungar, [1930] , 1961.

*Jasen, David A. "Tin Pan Alley: The Composers, the Songs, the Performers and Their Times". New York: Donald I. Fine, Primus, 1988.

*Jasen, David A., and Gene Jones. "Spreadin’ Rhythm Around: Black Popular Songwriters, 1880-1930". New York: Schirmer Books, 1998.

*Marks, Edward B., as told to Abbott J. Liebling. "They All Sang: From Tony Pastor to Rudy Vallée". New York: Viking Press, 1934.

*Morath, Max. The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Popular Standards. New York: Penguin Putnam, Berkley Publishing, a Perigree Book, 2002.

*Sanjek, Russell. "American Popular Music and Its Business: The First Four Hundred Years, Volume III, From 1900 to 1984". New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

*Sanjek, Russell. "From Print to Plastic: Publishing and Promoting America’s Popular Music, 1900-1980". I.S.A.M. Monographs: Number 20. Brooklyn: Institute for Studies in American Music, Conservatory of Music, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, 1983.

*Tawa, Nicholas E. "The Way to Tin Pan Alley: American Popular Song, 1866-1910". New York: Schirmer Books, 1990.

*Whitcomb, Ian. "After the Ball: Pop Music from Rag to Rock". New York: Proscenium Publishers, 1986, reprint of Penguin Press, 1972.

*Wilder, Alec. "American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950". London: Oxford University Press, 1972.

*Zinsser, William. "Easy to Remember: The Great American Songwriters and Their Songs". Jaffrey, NH: David R. Godine, 2000.

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  • Tin Pan Alley —   [englisch/amerikanisch, tɪn pæn ælɪ; wörtlich »Blechpfannen Allee«], von dem Komponisten Monroe H. Rosenfeld (1861 1918) 1900 in einem Artikel für den New York Herald aufgebrachte Bezeichnung für den New Yorker Verlagsdistrikt, damals in der… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Tin Pan Alley — um 1900 Als Tin Pan Alley (engl.: Blech /Zinnpfannengasse) wird die 28. Straße zwischen Fifth Avenue und Broadway im New Yorker Stadtteil Manhattan bezeichnet. Hier waren zwischen 1900 und ca. 1930 die meisten US amerikanischen Musikverlage… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Tin Pan Alley — (англ.)  «улица жестяных сковородок» (или «жестяных кастрюль»)  собирательное название американской коммерческой музыкальной индустрии. История Первоначально название относилось к 28 й улице на Манхэттене в Нью Йорке, на которой с… …   Википедия

  • Tin Pan Alley — hit song writing business, 1908, from tin pan, slang for a decrepit piano (1882). The original one was 28th Street in New York City, home to many music publishing houses …   Etymology dictionary

  • Tin Pan Alley — noun uncount INFORMAL the people who write, produce, and play popular music, or the part of a city where they work …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Tin Pan Alley — ☆ Tin Pan Alley n. 1. a district of New York, where there are many songwriters, publishers of popular music, etc. 2. a) any similar urban area b) the publishers, writers, and promoters of popular music …   English World dictionary

  • Tin Pan Alley — 40°44′44″N 73°59′22.5″O / 40.74556, 73.989583 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Tin Pan Alley — Este artículo o sección necesita referencias que aparezcan en una publicación acreditada, como revistas especializadas, monografías, prensa diaria o páginas de Internet fidedignas. Puedes añadirlas así o avisar …   Wikipedia Español

  • Tin Pan Alley — 1. the district of a city, esp. New York City, where most of the popular music is published. 2. the composers or publishers of popular music as a group. * * * Genre of U.S. popular music that arose in New York in the late 19th century. The name… …   Universalium

  • Tin Pan Alley —    This term, purportedly coined by composer Monroe H. Rosenfeld, identifies two blocks of 28th Street between Fifth Avenue, Broadway, and Sixth Avenue where many song publishing companies operated beginning in the late 19th century, thriving… …   The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater