Ian Koll Response paper II What and how did Jews contribute to Tin Pan Alley?

Largely dominated by the Irish and Germans in the early 19th century, American music had very traditional European roots in the days before Tin Pan Alley and the advent of “popular” music. Left to its own devices, however, American taste changed with the sociopolitical landscape, and soon music became a recognized form of mass media- with the majority of it being produced on West 28th street in New York City- in a long line of densely packed music publishing companies unanimously referred to as “Tin Pan Alley.” Tin Pan Alley was a place unlike any other in the early days of popular music- on the streets outside of these publishing companies a hodgepodge of different racial and socioeconomic denominationsblacks, whites, Eastern Europeans, the poor, the rich- they all mingled in unison, giving the publishing companies a truly diverse depiction of the average American life. The forerunners of this musical enterprise were, however, not the traditional Anglo-Saxon figures who had held the most influence in society at the time; rather, the emergence of Jewish-owned and operated publishing companies caused a sharp rise in sheet music production, which not only revitalized the industry, but also helped incorporate traditionally taboo African-American music into the homes of Tin Pan Alley’s patrons. Black music was merely one part of the equation, though, and the Jewish publishing company’s business models exuded success by their very design. Noted as being the “first firms to appreciate the possibilities of large-scale production and… mass exploitation…” (Goldberg, Tin Pan Alley 34,) these firms held the music market in chokehold- giving customers popular songs in an affordable, accessible and convenient package, while making their

products both catchy and sophisticated. By catering to the public’s wishes, and by aiding in the breakthrough of African American music into society, the contributions of Jewish producers and performers alike in the field of early Popular Music are impossible to overlook.

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