Ukulele and Tin Pan Alley

The American music publishing business in the period from the 1890's to the 1940's was unique and will never again be what it was. In the beginning huge amounts of money were made selling sheet music to amateur musicians, mainly piano players, as the piano became an affordable item to middle-class people. Many of the great popular composers, such as Irving Berlin, opened their own publishing houses and wrote for Broadway shows and vaudeville and later for dance bands and radio performers. During this period the writers wrote and the performers performed and the results were professional quality all the way around. Later the movie studios bought out the publishers and the business was turned over to executives and a predictable decline ensued. In the modern era, after the Beatles, the performers began to write their own songs and the lyrics in particular became repetitve or just unrelated groups of words. Modern rap songs cannot be performed by anybody but the original artist. Therefore, as a ukulele player you should become familiar with the composers and performers of the Tin Pan Alley era. There you will find abundant material to play and enjoy. These days the talent is elsewhere and the music is for teens, the most reliable purchasers. As for the future, the circumstances that produced Tin Pan Alley will never happen again. Fortunately the first half of the 20th century produced enough for a lifetime. As a start check the Performers page on this website.

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