Music Publishers Miscellaneous 1922-1962

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
  • Dates of Creation
      1922 - 1962
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Primarily English, although some papers are written in foreign languages.
  • Physical Description
      21 files (c1 linear foot)

Scope and Content

The files contain miscellaneous clumps of papers relating to the hiring and purchasing of musical works from music publishers before 1963. (The official dates for this Registry sequence were for papers created between 1922 and 1962, but Accession Books list files as dating from the 1930s onwards.)

These papers usually refer to those publishers who had few or no transactions with the BBC before 1963 and were not considered to have enough paperwork to warrant their own personal file. If a publisher is not listed in the run of files for RCONT1 , they may have unlisted papers held within the RCONT8 files.

The papers mainly consist of correspondence between the BBC and music publishers, sellers and distributors. The publishing companies would send in suggestions of music compositions that were available for hire or purchase. These letters of suggestion were usually accompanied by items of sheet music, pamphlets, leaflets and catalogues of available items. Some of this material can be found within the papers of this series, although few pieces of sheet music are included as they were often forwarded to the BBC Music Library or returned to the publishing company.

The correspondence from the music publishers was directed towards a number of different areas and contacts across the BBC such as the Music Library, the Director of Music and Music Programme Organisers. Some suggestions were submitted for consideration for specific programmes such as Music While You Work and Children’s Hour .

The papers also include internal BBC correspondence from employees across the Music Department, who would forward the requests and suggestions to the relevant area within the department.

Contracts for the hire and purchase of the music are not generally held within these files, although there are some references to payments. Contractual paperwork would have instead been created and managed by the copyright section, which is often copied in on correspondence. See ‘Related Units of Description’ for further details.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Central Registry administered large quantities of contracts and correspondence with contributors to various radio programmes. Different types of programme contribution required different types of contract, which were issued by different offices. Therefore, separate file sequences were held by the Central Registry for material concerning artists, speakers, scriptwriters, composers, music copyists, music publishers, children’s programmes, light entertainment and gramophone programmes. The copyright section also had its own sequence of files that covered television and radio contributors.

Whilst larger contract files were amalgamated into one sequence of personal files for main contributors, the files of smaller miscellaneous clumps retained their separate runs according to type of programme contribution and the different offices they originated from.


The series is arranged in a run of folders, each containing a number of small clumps of papers that are grouped together for each contributor. These clumps of papers were not deemed sufficiently bulky enough to warrant their own personal files, and so were filed as ‘miscellaneous’.

The papers are arranged alphabetically according to the name of the music publisher. The files containing the papers are therefore arranged in alphabetical sequence.

The files are unnumbered, but each file is labelled with the alphabetical range it covers. There are currently no file lists of individual titles or file level descriptions available.

The files were ‘weeded’ (the process of appraising and removing material deemed not to be of historical significance) between May and July 1987 by the Written Archives Officer.

The papers in this sequence are held within grey file covers, distinguishing them from the buff coloured personal files of RCONT1 .

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Grey files containing written material pinned in clumps.

Custodial History

These files were originally created and held by the Central Registry. Papers were forwarded to the Registry from the relevant booking departments of the BBC, who were responsible for booking artists for performances.

The continual increase in paperwork holdings led to difficulties with storage space in the late 1960s. At the time ‘nominal’ files were housed in the Central Registry, registry stores, and other locations across the BBC, such as Ware.

The process of reorganising the Central Registry holdings began towards the end of 1968. A proposal was put forward to amalgamate all holdings and then to split the files into two distinct groups according to date. Papers dating to 31 December 1962 would be stored at Caversham, whilst later papers would remain with the Registry in London. Semi-current files from 1 January 1963 to 31 December 1967 would be held in a storage area of the Langham whilst files dating from 1 January 1968 would be kept as the current group of files on the ground floor.

It was originally suggested that the grouping of files would continue in five year runs. When the ‘current’ grouping of files reached the end of the five year period they would be moved to the store to make space for new run of files to be opened on the ground floor. Those already held in store would be transferred to Caversham. This arrangement led to the first three sequences of radio contributor files covering the following periods; circa 1922 to 1962, 1963 to 1967, and 1968 to 1972. However, in 1976 the Chief Registry and Records Officer suggested that the next split should be made after 10 years rather than 5 due to space and the costs incurred by the purchase of new file covers.

In 1975 the Written Archives Centre in Caversham assumed responsibility for the pre-1963 files it had been storing on behalf of the Central Registry. These files would be accessioned as the RCONT1 series. The Written Archives Centre also assumed responsibility for the concurrent runs of ‘miscellaneous’ files, which were accessioned as RCONT2 - RCONT11 .

Due to the transfer of the files from being stored to permanently held by Caversham, the date that these files were received by the Written Archives Centre has been recorded as 1975 in the accession books.

Whilst the RCONT8 series was accessioned, no shelf list or similar finding aid was created.

Related Material

BBC/R/RCONT/RCONT1 is a concurrent run that consists of files for individual contributors. The files hold correspondence and contractual papers before 1963. These are ‘main’ files where there were sufficient papers on one contributor to warrant personal files with individual titles. The files for these contributors from different departments were amalgamated into one run within the RCONT1 series.

BBC/R/RCONT/RCONT2 - RCONT7 and BBC/R/RCONT/RCONT 9 - RCONT11 are concurrent runs of miscellaneous papers dating before 1963. Similar to RCONT8 , they hold the papers of those who generated an insufficient quantity of material to warrant the creation of a personal file. They originated from the different departments under radio and hold papers for those who were not classed as music publishers. The RCONT7 series consists of files dealing with requests for permission and payment to individuals or bodies for the use of their copyright material in television and radio programmes.

Later radio contributor papers are held in continuing sequences under the sub-sub-fonds BBC/R/RCONT: Radio Artists and Contributors .

The BBC/R/OM/R27: Music: General series consists of papers that relate to the workings of the Music Department.