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 collectionWe 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.