The library was formed by entrepreneur Gordon Barnes with the backing of a rich postcard manufacturer. The name Impress was invented by music editor Richard Taylor, later a director—the 'Imp' stood for Inter-Art Music Publishers.
In the 1950s, as television became increasingly popular, programmes made on thin budgets needed fresh background music. Practically overnight, companies like Impress assembled vast libraries by recruiting young composers to write action, suspense and comedy themes for them. Not only were the composers first-rate, Impress's music had the luxury of being performed by a large orchestra in Stuttgart, Germany (driven by the union ban on library performance in England).
The music was written with no specific visuals in mind: the libraries would simply request the styles and the composers would be left to their own devices and imaginations, producing cues that ran anywhere from four seconds to four minutes. These would then be catalogued by genre (dramatic, suspense, romance, and so on) that directors and music editors could sample at their leisure and cut together as they wished; some libraries even listed the musical keys of their pieces, making it easy for editors to cut an E-flat action cue to a compatible bridge.
In the mid-1970s, Inter-Art went out of business. The Impress library was picked up via a quit-claim by Weinberger Ltd in England who still licenses the cues when the need arises. Copyrights were renewed by the composers themselves when the original Inter-Art registrations expired.