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The Early Music Industry

Today it is hard to imagine there was a lively music industry before the age of recording, but at the turn of the century there certainly was a very competitive music business. Singing was a popular pastime and there was a lot of money in the sale of sheet music. Songs were usually introduced on stage. Audiences picked up tunes they liked, bought the sheet music and performed them at home.

For a song to become a hit, it certainly helped if a well-known artist launched the work on stage, so composers had to lobby the music publishers who would put up money for the promotion. The publishing houses were very influential with many trade links across the Atlantic and were in fact our early "multinationals".

To impress the publishers, composers used to tour playing their latest works in selected publishing houses but such was their fear of being overheard by the competition that the pianos in these establishments were muted with newspapers. All that could be heard outside was a percussive tinny sound like the banging of pans and passers by began to nickname the music publishing area "Tin Pan Alley".

Little is known about these composers now. We know their names because they appear in print on the music but seldom have we been able to find out anything else about the impressive craftsmen of this genre.

The Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra came together in 1997 to play through some interesting archive material that originated in Tin Pan Alley. We fell in love with the charming tunes and soon found that an audience for this forgotten music still exists.

With a little research, our repertoire slowly expanded and Aspidistra is now ready to bring the best of this stylish but lighthearted music to your drawing room or any other venue.