Did you ever wonder how Tin Pan Alley got its name? Judy Rosen explains that and more in an engrossing Slate article called Oh! You Kid! How a sexed-up viral hit from the summer of ’09—1909—changed American pop music forever:
Copyright law had not yet caught up with the pop song business in 1909. Plagiarism was a thriving Tin Pan Alley institution; a pilfered song was, in the language of the trade, “a steal”—a fact of life in a cutthroat industry that thrived on trendiness and topicality, and held as an article of faith the belief that every hit could and should serve as a launching pad for dozens of light rewrites. The situation was exacerbated by the proximity of rival song publishing companies, which were clustered, in box-like offices, in the buildings that lined West 28th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. In this cheek-by-jowl setting, new melodies could filter through walls and windows and be co-opted by competitors; songwriters threaded folded newspapers between piano strings to mute the instruments. The result was a tinkling, tinny piano sound, ringing out of the windows of song publishing firms, a din that earned the West 28th Street strip, and the song business at large, the moniker Tin Pan Alley. The nickname was bestowed by journalist Monroe Rosenfeld, who, according to legend, coined the term while interviewing Harry Von Tilzer at the songwriter’s office in 1900.
|The Duke and The First Lady of Song|