For over eighty years after establishing its first copyright, peermusic can still proudly claim to be a major independent music publisher. From its founding under the keen vision of legendary music producer Ralph S. Peer, peermusic has consistently and relentlessly broken new ground by becoming home to some of the best and brightest talent in music.
It might come as a surprise that a company modestly established by one man can now boast a diverse repertoire ranging from pop to Latin to country to classical and employees working in 32 offices in 28 countries around the world. To understand just how much the company has evolved from its humble beginnings to the global reach it enjoys today is to understand the peermusic story.
1927 was a hot summer in Bristol, Tennessee when Ralph S. Peer, a field-recording engineer and A&R man arrived in town to scout fresh local talent on behalf of the Victor record label. A few years prior, he had not only assisted in the first blues recording by Mamie Smith of “Crazy Blues” and later ones by Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five, but also produced the first commercially successful country session with “Fiddlin’ John” Carson. During the next two weeks, he recorded what has become known as the Bristol Sessions with Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family, the Stonemans and other artists. These pioneering sessions are credited as the birth of modern country music, earning Peer the nickname of “Father of Country Music” and his place in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
And so, in January 1928, the company that would one day be peermusic was established under the name Southern Music Publishing Co., Inc. Peer wasted little time, acquiring such soon-to-be-standards as "Georgia on My Mind," "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," and "You Are My Sunshine." Furthermore, under an arrangement with Victor, Southern Music controlled copyrights to all original material recorded under Peer's auspices. At the same time, Peer entered into joint ventures with international publishers, introducing their finest material to U.S. audiences. Peer recognized the potential for growth in the Latin market after a trip to Mexico City in 1928 when he met composer Agustin Lara. He brought this rich musical culture to the world when RCA-Victor sought to increase its presence in Latin America by signing such Latin luminaries as Lara, “the Musical Poet,” and Perez Prado, “the Mambo King.” These composers created some of peermusic’s signature Latin music hits, including “Granada,” “Sólamente Una Vez” and “Mambo #5.” The tradition continued to create many legends including Rafael Hernández, Benny Moré and Tito Puente and songs such as “Perfidia,” “Besame Mucho,” “Brasil,” and “Mas Que Nada..”
While the 1930s saw peermusic extending its presence in Latin America, the company was also opening offices throughout Europe. By the end of World War II, with the help of peermusic’s London executive Tom Ward, the once-fledgling company had truly become a worldwide force, acquiring and developing local repertoire throughout Europe that have since become classics by artists such as Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier, Yves Montand, Henri Salvador, and Fred Bongusto.
In 1948 peermusic launched its classical division which remains one of the most respected publishers of contemporary serious music in the world with the likes of Charles Ives, David Diamond and Mikael Weinberg among its distinguished ranks.
Yet it hadn't forgotten its roots, for by the 1950s peermusic was as vested in U.S. artists and their music as ever. At this point they were determined not to merely remain current, but to look forward. With this thought in mind, at the dawn of rock 'n' roll, peermusic signed none other than rock legend Buddy Holly. Before long, a new wave of rock and pop artists, including The Rolling Stones and Donovan, started their careers at peermusic’s London studios.
Ralph S. Peer passed away on January 19, 1960. Peer's widow, Monique, who had been deeply involved in building the company’s Latin catalog, continued to deftly guide the company for the next 20 years.
In 1980 leadership passed to the Peers’ son, Ralph Peer II. Since his tenure began, peermusic has expanded its operations into nine new territories, including three offices in Asia-Pacific. In 1990, he referred to the Internet as the "tool of the future" in music marketing and established this company’s Web site, peermusic.com, as early as 1995. He further embraced the Internet as a tool in music appreciation when he became a founding director of Emusic, one of the first online music sales platforms, in 1996. In 1998 peermusic became the first international music company to actively distribute recordings online at digitalpressure.com.
peermusic today remains an active participant in the contemporary music scene using its extensive international reach, vast expertise and prized reputation for the benefit of the many thousands of composers it has the honor to represent. As our slogan proclaims, we truly are the Global Independent.