Tin Pan Alley

New York, NY, USA

Declined after 1930s

The Disappointed Tourist: Tin Pan Alley , Ellen Harvey, 2024. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 24 x 18″ 61 x 46 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

Requested by Jane D.

Tin Pan Alley is the name given to a collection of New York City music publishers and songwriters who dominated American popular music in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It originally referred to West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues which acquired the sobriquet around the turn of the century. “Tin Pan” was originally 1880s slang for a decrepit piano but its association with music industry changed its meaning to the business of producing hit songs. The area became less important after the 1930s when music tastes were increasingly influenced by radio, records and movies and the demand for sheet music declined. Harry Pace, the founder of Black Swan Records, an influential Black-owned record company, was originally a senior partner in Pace and Handy Music Publishing Company, the premier Black music publishing company on Tin Pan Alley. The painting is based on an uncredited old black-and-white photograph.