Herbert was best-known as a composer of opera and popular music, but in Central Park he was well-known as a conductor of concerts at the Park’s original bandstand. The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, which Herbert helped to found, funded the commission of the monument after he died. The bust was sculpted by the American artist Edmund Thomas Quinn. Composers Arthur Hammerstein and Irving Berlin attended the 1927 dedication ceremony; Herbert's daughter, Ella, unveiled the monument.
The location of the Herbert monument is connected to the long history of music on the Mall. Initially, free concerts were presented on Saturdays with musicians performing from a small ornate bandstand. Concert attendees sat on the grass or nearby benches or overlooked the scene from the wisteria pergola. The Naumburg Bandshell was constructed in 1923 to accommodate larger audiences and still holds concerts today. Additional performances take place at Rumsey Playfield, which hosts a summer concert program known as SummerStage.