Alberts has played a vital role in the evolution of Australia’s media and popular culture since the early days of sheet music and music publishing.
Started in 1885 in Newtown, Sydney by immigrant Swiss watchmaker and musician Jacques Albert (1850–1914), the business was originally a watch and clock repair shop. In 1894, the business became J. Albert & Son when Jacques’ son Frank (1874–1962) joined him. Alberts quickly expanded to sell musical instruments and sheet music. It was soon known for its Boomerang mouth organs and Boomerang Songsters.
In 1902, Jacques travelled to the United States and began competing with other Australian publishers for the Australian sub-publishing rights to the hits of the day, securing the rights to international catalogues and composers including Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. and Irving Berlin.
Frank began expanding Alberts’ publishing catalogue in 1904. In 1929, Frank’s son Alexis (1904–96) joined the firm and Frank co-founded and became an inaugural director of the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Over the next 80 years, Alexis, his son Ted and grandson David Albert would become board members.
Also in 1929, Frank, Benjamin Fuller and Stuart Doyle won a tender for a three-year contract to run the government’s national broadcasting service. The trio called themselves the Australian Broadcasting Company. In 1932, the government took over the national network under the newly established Australian Broadcasting Commission, maintaining the acronym ‘ABC’.
Albert, Doyle and Fuller’s ABC acquired the licence for commercial radio station 2UW in Sydney in 1933. By 1956, the Albert family had acquired 100 per cent of the trio’s ABC, and ultimately created a radio network of commercial stations in Brisbane and regional Queensland (4BC, 4RO, 4MB and 4GR), Can- berra (2CC and KIX-FM), Melbourne (3TT, later TT-101.1 FM) and Sydney (2UW, later MIX 106.5 FM). From 1987, it became known as the Australian Radio Network. It remained in family hands until it was sold to APN News and Media in 1995.
In 1954, Frank’s son Alexis became a founding director (and Alberts a shareholder) in Amalgamated Television Services, the licensee of ATN7 (Sydney), remaining on the board for 33 years.
Alexis’s son Ted (1936–90) joined the business in 1959, and focused on discovering Australian bands. He established Albert Productions, an independent music production arm of J. Albert & Son, in 1964, signing Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, the Easybeats, the Ted Mulry Gang, AC/DC, the Angels and Rose Tattoo. Ted became known as one of the best producers and talent spotters in the business, in partnership with Harry Vanda and George Young. Ted collaborated with a young Baz Luhrmann to adapt his stage play Strictly Ballroom for the screen in 1988, though he died suddenly in 1990 before filming was complete.
Alexis’s other sons Robert (1934– ) and Tony (1939–2000) joined the board in 1984. Today, Alberts remains in family hands, led by Robert as chair and his son David (1971– ) as managing director. Alberts continues to be a leading independent music rights management company, providing a creative hub for songwriters, artists, composers and producers including Megan Washington and Gotye.
REF: J. Albert, House of Hits (2010).