A short history of Production Music
Today there are hundreds of production music libraries across the globe. But where did it all begin?
In the early 1900s sound on film didn’t exist. All music for film was scored out and performed live in theatres called Kinematograph Cinemas. Since 1888 attempts had been made at sound to picture but the technology simply wasn’t there. Finally, in 1925, American engineers Western Electric created the Vitaphone system, a device that could synchronise dialogue and music to film. Famously Warner Brothers acquired Western Electric and used the Vitaphone to produce ‘The Jazz Singer’, the award winning film that began the talkie revolution.
In London, 1927, musical entrepreneur Meyer De Wolfe founded the first production music library – De Wolfe Music. The company originally paired scored accompaniments with silent films. With the creation of recorded sound, they began offering recorded versions of their work on nitrate film. De Wolfe thrived, networking across Europe and eventually venturing to America. They provided soundtracks for film, training videos and news reads, as well as the UKs first TV advert in 1955.
By the 60’s TV had become a staple part of the family home, so library music was in high demand. Companies like KPM established themselves, now known for BBC theme tunes such as ‘Grandstand’ and ‘Mastermind’. Also becoming prominent in the field were major players Sonoton, EMI and Sony. Nitrate film had been replaced by vinyl LPs, some of which are highly sought after and often sampled in commercial music we know and love.
The 1980’s brought another invaluable advancement in audio, Phillips and Sony’s compact disc. The advent of CD meant catalogues could store music digitally and, unlike vinyl or cassette, audio wouldn’t be damaged after repeated playing. It was this decade that saw the rise of production music giants Audio Network and Universal Production Music.
Around 100 years has passed since the first library began, and thanks to online streaming, we are in what some call ‘The Golden Age of TV’. The model De Wolfe started all those years ago is more relevant and in demand today than ever before.