In 1811, a boutique shop selling sheet music and musical instruments first opened its doors on London’s Bond Street. Called ., the small family business quickly developed a reputation as one of the city’s premiere outlets for music products, and was soon counting among its clients the aristocrats, Royals and leading musical voices of the day. Two centuries hence, the global company that bears the Chappell name and reputation, Warner/Chappell Music, is one of the largest, most prestigious and most progressive music publishers in the world.
The story is an impressive one, even for the few companies that can look back on 200 years of history. Today’s Warner/Chappell is not only the creative home for songwriters from across the musical spectrum, it is also the steward for a library of more than one million songs written by an incredible 65,000 composers . This legendary catalog includes some of the most memorable music ever written and its roster comprises many of the world’s most renowned composers, including classic composers such as , Cole Porter, and George and Ira Gershwin, as well as modern writers including , , Roger Waters , and
Warner/Chappell is one of modern music’s most enduring legacies and its 200-year journey reveals an uncanny ability to adapt that is at the core of the company’s DNA. Today, Warner/Chappell’s passionate employees continue to forge new ground, driving the company forward in the digital marketplace and leading the industry in uncharted directions.

Samuel Chappell, the original shop’s founder, could never have dreamed that the modest business he was opening with his partners would grow into a worldwide operation with such an enormous impact on music and culture. Yet from its earliest days, Warner/Chappell helped to establish the very concept of music publishing. In fact, in 1819, before the end of Chappell’s first decade, a letter between friends expressed the personal praise of : “Chappell on Bond Street is now one of the best publishers.” Four years later, Chappell & Co. was given a Royal Warrant, making them an official supplier to the Queen.
By 1840, within a few decades of opening its doors, Chappell was selling sheet music to Queen Victoria and their . Not long after, in the middle of the century, Chappell took another bold leap forward, taking its first steps into the live music arena, with Thomas Chappell financing construction of St. James’ Hall in Piccadilly and his brother Arthur staging the esteemed Popular Concerts in the new theatre. A third brother, William, retired from the business in 1861, but before he did had worked closely with the —another famous name in the wider music publishing story—to establish the Chappell ballad concerts at St James’ Hall. The concerts were the forerunners of today’s Proms, which are currently held every year at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Chappell has also led the way on a number of critical legal issues that have had a defining impact on the business of song writing. Tom Chappell’s role as a founding member and first chairman of the new Music Publishers’ Association was a key early step in the company’s dedication to establishing and defending the principles of song ownership. Together with other publishers of the day he formed a Musical Defence League, which was instrumental in getting the passed, affording composers rudimentary protection against the rising problem of song piracy. In an echo of 21st century file sharing, many music-lovers of the time had been getting their sheet music illegally.

A HISTORY OF DEVOTION Two centuries from its origins on Bond Street, the Warner/Chappell ethos continues to offer songwriters the same dedication to protecting songs and creative works.

, frontman of much-loved British band - signed to Warner/Chappell throughout their career - describes its work succinctly. “Warner/Chappell have published us for every record. What other kind of business (a) lasts 200 years and (b) looks further than the next quarter? In a nutshell, a great publisher that has great taste in music.”

It was that very dedication that led the company to find and develop its first true song writing stars, Gilbert & Sullivan. The composing duo’s “Trial By Jury” was published by Chappell in 1875 and was the start of a string of massively popular comic operas that have been distributed, performed and loved by fans around the world. Soon after, Tin Pan Alley years brought forth the body of classic works now known as the Great American Songbook, and the modern-day Warner/Chappell is now home to such Songbook legends as , , Jerome Kern , Johnny Mercer, and .

Chappell also publishes a vast number of great musicals, including “No No Nanette” and “High Society” and made an early move into global licensing and distribution. Keeping pace with changing musical tastes, and making an early move into global licensing, the company also navigated smoothly through numerous technological advances, from music boxes to gramophones shellac to vinyl, cassette to compact disc and ultimately to downloads and streaming.

At every step, the company was alive to the industry’s increasing sophistication and the demands of conducting business amid the volatility swirling around it, including , , and numerous mergers and takeovers.

Eventually, the road led to the formation of Warner/Chappell, which was born when Warner Bros. Music acquired Chappell in 1987. With Warner’s strengths in rock and pop now augmenting Chappell’s strengths in show and songbook tunes, the global giant was born.

The 21st century Warner/Chappell is a supremely broad church of songwriting greats, embracing , , Burt Bacharach, Philadelphia International masterminds and writer-artists from every corner of the musical map, from the Eagles to R.E.M., George Michael to , to and .

Today, Warner/Chappell continues to on behalf of its writers , securing vital in films, TV and commercials, while enabling game-changing services such as iTunes, Spotify and YouTube. In 2007, when Radiohead chose initially to release “In Rainbows” without the aid of a record company, Warner/Chappell worked closely with the band to create the infrastructure that enabled a ground-breaking experiment in worldwide one-stop licensing.

Both the original Chappell and the latter-day Warner/Chappell have always been fertile training grounds for the industry’s best business talent. The company is rightly proud of the role it plays in developing the brightest executives alongside the finest songwriters.

In an industry changing faster than ever before, we can only guess at what the future holds, but we can be certain that it’ll be set to music published by Warner/Chappell. May we also invite you to join us, at the link below, for an extensive and fully illustrated history of this great bastion of music publishing. Here’s to the next 200.

Special thanks to Paul Sexton, who researched and compiled a comprehensive history of Warner/Chappell. Mr. Sexton is a freelance print and broadcast journalist who has written about music and the music business for more than 30 years.