Pop music recordings

Nathan King
Nathan King

The British Library holds one of the largest and most wide-ranging collections of popular music in the world. It contains commercial releases, documentaries, interviews and live performances from all eras and genres together with magazines, fanzines, books and other publications to provide the user with a comprehensive picture of popular music and its history.

About the collection

We aim to collect a copy of each commercial release in the UK. We also collect videos, radio and television programmes and make our own recordings at various events in addition to receiving private recordings from collectors and performers. We collect all types of popular music on a variety of formats including wax cylinders, 7 and 12-inch singles, cassettes, LPs and CDs. We also acquire recordings from various digital platforms and labels.

We collect all genres from Jazz to Grime, Music Hall to metal and are always pleased to fill gaps in our collection.

Since there is no legal deposit requirement covering sound recordings published in the UK, we rely on the generous support of record labels, distributors and individuals who voluntarily donate recordings to our collection. We are always keen to hear offers of donations of recordings from commercial organisations and private collectors.

What is available online?

You can use the online Sound and Moving Image Catalogue to search for recordings in our collections which can be accessed at the Library with a Reader’s Pass.

Many sound recordings have been digitised and are presented on the British Library Sounds website. A large number of the recordings are freely available for listening online though some are restricted to users in accredited Higher Education establishments.

The Transcription Service can provide copies of recordings once the appropriate copyright has been cleared.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The Listening and Viewing Service provides free public access to the Sound Archive's collections of recorded sound and video in St Pancras. Sound recordings can be accessed in Boston Spa also.

The Sound Archive Information Service is based in Humanities Reading Room 2 at St Pancras where books, discographies, periodicals and magazines are available on open access.

Further information

Andy Linehan
Curator, Popular Music Collections
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7433

Email: popmusic@bl.uk

Twitter: @BL_PopMusic

How to guides

Get a Reader Pass

A guide to how to obtain a British Library Reader Pass to use our Reading Rooms

Access the manual of analogue audio restoration techniques

Manual of analogue audio restoration techniques

Search the catalogues for radio recordings

A guide to seaching the catalogues for radio recordings

How to request a copy of a sound recording

The British Library can provide copies of audio recordings held in the collections to users who are able to obtain the appropriate copyright clearance.

How to request a copy of a wildlife sound recording

The Library can provide copies of wildlife and environmental recordings held in the collections, subject to some restrictions.

How to get a Reader Pass if you are Under 18

How to apply for an under-18 Reader Pass