Brill Building


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The Brill Building (built 1931 as the Alan E. Lefcourt Building and designed by Victor Bark Jr.) is an office building located at 1619 Broadway on 49th Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, just north of Times Square and further uptown from the historic musical Tin Pan Alley neighborhood. It is famous for housing music industry offices and studios where some of the most popular American music tunes were written.
The building is 11 stories and approximately 175,000 rentable square feet.

Brill Building History:
The Brill Building (named after the Brill Brothers, who owned a clothing store on the street level and who later bought the entire building from its developer, A.E. Lefcourt) was intended as a financial office space for brokers and bankers. In the midst of the Depression, the timing couldn't have been worse, and the owners resorted to renting space to music publishers, as there were few other takers. For this reason, the Brill Building became a centerpiece for the music industry in New York, and the country, with many publishers and writers using the space for their offices and storefronts. By the 1960s, there were over 120 independent music businesses in the building.
The bust above the main entrance (another is located at the top of the building) is of the son of Abraham E. Lefcourt, namely, Alan E. Lefcourt, who prematurely died of anemia on Feb. 3, 1930, at the age of 17. Abraham Lefcourt originally intended the building on this site to be his answer to the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building. The premature death of his son, along with the financial impact of the stock market crash on his fortune, forced him to erect the more modest building we see today.
Despite the vast change in the area surrounding the building, the Brill Building remains somewhat untouched, and is still home to some of the most important music offices and stores in Manhattan. In the modern world of today, KMA Music is a very well known and heavily used recording studio, located inside the Brill Building. It is used by the major record labels. In addition, there are still numerous music publishers in the building, and artists/songwriters such as Paul Simon, all have offices inside the building, as does Lorne Michaels's Broadway Video production company.
The building was designated an official city landmark in 2010.

Brill Building: The "Big Band Era"
Even before World War II it became a centre of activity for the popular music industry, especially music publishing and songwriting. Scores of music publishers had offices in the Brill Building. Once songs had been published, the publishers sent song pluggers to the popular white bands and radio stations. These song pluggers would sing and/or play the song for the band leaders to encourage bands to play their music.
During the ASCAP strike of 1941, many of the composers, authors and publishers turned to pseudonyms in order to have their songs played on the air.
Brill Building songs were constantly at the top of the Hit Parade and played by the leading bands of the day:
Billy Rose
The Benny Goodman Orchestra
The Glenn Miller Orchestra
The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra
The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
Publishers included:
Leo Feist Inc.
Lewis Music Publishing
Mills Music Publishing
Composers included:
Buddy Feyne
Johnny Mercer
Rose Marie McCoy
Irving Mills
Peter Tinturin

Brill Building Racial politics of music publishing
The music publishers at this time occasionally followed the racial codes of the day. They either had their own (typically white) contract writers composing songs or they opened their doors to publish songs of others, but sometimes hid the fact that songs were created by non-white or non-Christian artists. Yet black songwriters such as James Bland, Scott Joplin, and Eubie Blake never felt the need to resort to this kind of subterfuge and were internationally renowned for their compositions.
Some Jewish songwriters did adopt anglicized noms de plume, but most did not. While anti-semitism was widespread in America, it was not characteristic of the music industry in which Jewish composers, such as Kern, Gershwin, Rodgers, and many others flourished without significant discrimination.
In the 1930s some publishers in the Brill Building specialized in publishing the songs of African American Swing composers. For example, Lewis Music published the songs of Erskine Hawkins and Avery Parrish, among others. These tunes were called "Race Music", the euphemism for songs written by black artists. If a composer wrote an instrumental (and even sometimes if there were already lyrics), the publishers provided their own lyricists. Top selling songs on the (white) Hit Parade, such as Tuxedo Junction and Jersey Bounce, were originally composed as instrumentals by black swing artists, but were not played by white bands on the radio until they had been published with lyrics, often by white writers.

The "Brill Building Sound"
The Brill Building's name has been widely adopted as a shorthand term for a broad and influential stream of American mainstream popular song (strongly influenced by Latin music and rhythm and blues) which enjoyed great commercial success in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s. Many significant American and international publishing companies, music agencies and recording labels were based in New York, and although these ventures were naturally spread across many locations, the Brill Building was regarded as probably the most prestigious address in New York for music business professionals. The term "The Brill Building Sound" is somewhat inaccurate, however, since much of the music so categorised actually emanated from other locations — music historian Ken Emerson nominates buildings at 1650 Broadway and 1697 Broadway as other significant bases of activity in this field.
By 1962 the Brill Building contained 165 music businesses: a musician could find a publisher and printer, cut a demo, promote the record, and cut a deal with radio promoters, all within this one building. The creative culture of the independent music companies of Brill Building and the nearby 1650 Broadway came to define the influential "Brill Building Sound" and the style of popular music songwriting and recording created by its writers and producers.
Carole King described the atmosphere at the 'Brill Building' publishing houses of the period:
"Every day we squeezed into our respective cubby holes with just enough room for a piano, a bench, and maybe a chair for the lyricist if you were lucky. You'd sit there and write and you could hear someone in the next cubby hole composing a song exactly like yours. The pressure in the Brill Building was really terrific — because Donny (Kirshner) would play one songwriter against another. He'd say: 'We need a new smash hit' — and we'd all go back and write a song and the next day we'd each audition for Bobby Vee's producer." — quoted in The Sociology of Rock by Simon Frith (1978, ISBN 0-09-460220-4).


Brill Building Writers
Many of the Brill Building best works in this diverse category were written by a loosely affiliated group of songwriter-producer teams — mostly duos — that enjoyed immense success and who collectively wrote some of the biggest hits of the period. Many in this group were close friends, as well as being creative and business associates — and both individually and as a duo, they often worked with each other and with other writers in a wide variety of combinations. Some (Carole King, Burt Bacharach, Neil Sedaka, Boyce and Hart) recorded and had hits with their own music.
Burt Bacharach and Hal David
Neil Diamond
Bert Berns
Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart
Gerry Goffin and Carole King
Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry
Hugo & Luigi
Artie Kornfeld
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil
Shadow Morton
Laura Nyro
Claus Ogerman
Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman
Tony Powers
Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield
Paul Simon as Jerry Landis
Phil Spector

Other famous Brill Building musicians who were headquartered in The Brill Building:
Bobby Darin
Ben E. King
Connie Francis
Tony Orlando
Gene Pitney
Among the hundreds of hits written by this group are "Yakety Yak" (Leiber-Stoller), "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Pomus-Shuman), "The Look of Love" (Bacharach-David), "Calendar Girl" (Sedaka-Greenfield), "The Loco-Motion" (Goffin-King), "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" (Mann-Weil) and "River Deep Mountain High" (Spector-Greenwich-Barry).

Brill Building Musicians:
Just some of the studio musicians who contributed to the Brill Building sound:
Arrangers, conductors: Alan Lorber, Teacho Wiltshire, Artie Butler, Garry Sherman
Bass: Wendell Marshall, Russ Savakus, Russ Saunders, Joey Macho, Jr., Chuck Rainey, George Duvivier, Milt Hinton
Drums: Gary Chester, Buddy Saltzman, Sticks Evans
Guitar: Al Gorgoni, Carl Lynch, Bill Suyker, Charles Macy, Everett Barksdale, Bucky Pizzarelli, Art Ryerson, Al Caiola, Trade Martin, Don Arnone, Tony Mottola, Bob Bushnell, Al Casamenti, Billy Butler, George Barnes, Allan Hanlon, Vinnie Bell, Eddie Ims.
Percussion: George Devens, Phill Kraus, Nick Rodriguez, Martin Grupp
Piano: Ernie Hayes, Paul Griffin, Hank Jones
Saxophone: Artie Kaplan, Frank Haywood Henry, Phil Bodner, Romeo Penque
Trumpet: Irwin "Marky" Markowitz, Ernie Royal, Jimmy Nottingham, Jimmy Sadler
Trombone: Urbie Green, Frank Saracco, Jimmy Cleveland

Aldon Music — 1650 Broadway
Brill Building: Aldon Music
Many of these writers came to prominence while under contract to Aldon Music, a publishing company founded ca. 1958 by aspiring music entrepreneur Don Kirshner and industry veteran Al Nevins. Aldon was not initially located in the Brill Building, but rather, a block away at 1650 Broadway (at 51st St.).

Brill Building 1650 Broadway:

Brill Building 1650 Broadway was built to be a musician's headquarters, so much so that the laws at the time required that the "front" door be placed on the side of the building due to laws restricting musicians from entering buildings from the front. Most so-called 'Brill Building' writers began their careers at 1650 Broadway, and the building continued to house many record labels throughout the decades.
Toni Wine explains:
“There were really two huge buildings that were housing publishing companies, songwriters, record labels, and artists. The Brill Building was one. But truthfully, most of your R&B, really rock & roll labels and publishing companies, including the studio, which was in the basement and was called Allegro Studios, was in 1650 Broadway. They were probably a block and a half away from each other. 1650 and the Brill Building. ”

Selection of businesses located 1619 Broadway (Brill Building) and 1650 Broadway
1619 Broadway
Broadway Video
Postworks LLC/Orbit Digital
Famous Music
Coed Records, Inc.
Mills Music
Southern Music
TM Music
SoundOne
Helios Music/Glamorous Music
KMA Music
New Vision Communications
Paul Simon Music
Broadway Across America
Maggie Vision Productions
Colony Records
1650 Broadway
Aldon Music
Bang Records
Bell Records, Inc.
Buddah Records, Inc.
Gamble Records, Inc.
H/B Webman & Co.
Princess Music Publishing, Corp.
Scepter/Wand Records
Web IV Music, Inc.
We Three Music Publishing, Inc.

Brill Building In fiction
The 1996 movie Grace of My Heart is in parts a fictionalised account of the life in the Brill Building. Illeana Douglas plays a songwriter loosely based on Carole King.