People: Bertram Feldman

by on 17th April 2016


Bertram Feldman was born in Hull in 1874. His father Marks Feldman had a music shop on Whitefriargate and Bert worked there as a youth.

Bert moved to London in 1895 and established himself as a song plugger – buying songs cheap from writers then employing singers to promote the songs whilst aggressively plugging sheet music sales.

As such he set the pattern for a music business which was to exploit musicians and writers for years. Bert Feldman is in many ways the founding father of British popular music.

In 1907 he visited New York’s Tin Pan Alley and bought the UK rights to (amongst others) “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” – huge hits selling many copies.

On his return Bert established his publishing company in Feldman’s Arcade in Blackpool, later opening offices in London.

In 1913, for five quid and no royalties, he bought the exclusive rights to the biggest song of the First World War – “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” – from the writers Jack Judge and Harry Williams – and built his fortune on it.

War favoured Feldman – he was also the publisher of Vera Lynn’s hit “White Cliffs of Dover”.

Feldman’s publishers are now owned by EMI.

When Bert died in 1945 he left an estate of £2million.

(Matt Stephenson)