Frank Harding was a Tin Pan Alley music publisher, who was credited with creating the method of selling music called plugging. Harding paid singers to sing his published songs in shops and beer halls to get them known and attract customers. He was active from the 1880s through the 1920s.
While the Tin Pan Alley group of publishers was characterized as a group of "brash young men" who entered the music publishing business in the 1880s, Harding took over his father's "serious" music business and turned it toward popular music for Tony Pastor's shows. He published music that he wrote and also bought it from other songwriters. Stories about him say that he traded beer for songs and that he won songs in games of poker.
Another of his business practices was to charge performers to have their portrait printed on sheet music. Then he gave them the sheet music to hand out as they wished, and made money from selling advertisements on the back cover page.
- Museum of Music Making, Popular Music, The Band Played On
- Tell Mama Sing Me A Lullaby Over The Radiophone, by Oscar A. Hill - with his photo on the cover, Frank Harding Publisher, New York, 1926
- David Suisman, Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music, Harvard University Press, p. 27
- Donald Clarke, The Rise and fall of Popular Music Chapter 3: The Rise of Vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley