From Patronage to Entrepreneurship in the Era of the Enlightenment

Dannice Crespo

Aspiring to be a professional musician in the eighteenth century posed several socio-economic challenges. The patronage system, which gave the financial security of a full-time salary could be artistically very limiting. The entrepreneurial way, which was in its early stages, was a very risky, and mostly a daunting feat for freelancers. Not only economic and regulations, but also each countries’ societal traditions played an important role in the success or failure of the working musician. However, the ideals of the Enlightenment, marked by a rejection of traditional social, religious, and political ideas and with an emphasis on rationalism, pushed musicians to move towards obtaining their autonomy. In addition, and contrary to our modern expectations, patronage never offered lifetime protection. Moreover, this kind of employment was also evolving. In Vienna contracts were becoming shorter term contracts and musicians had to network to pave future job security. In England, a wealthier and more progressive society, contracts were more permissive of self-promotion. Thus, with these changes, musicians had to quickly learn how to be ambidextrous and bounce from patronage to entrepreneurship, and vice-versa. By uncovering evidence, I aim to argue that entrepreneurship was not a monolithic path, and that patronage, despite its constricting implications, greatly helped to counterbalance the subsistence of the entrepreneurial musicians during the developments the Enlightenment.

In the eighteenth century a musician, besides their artistic concerns, was confronted with developing distinctive skills. William Weber in his The Musician as Entrepreneur, 1700–1914: Managers, Charlatans, and Idealists argues that musicians had to develop certain qualities to be able to stride through the entrepreneurial road. The musician had to possess the ability to perceive an opportunity and to take advantage of it effectively. The musician had to be able to rise above the conventional performer. The musician had to be able to identify an unexploited avenue of composition, performance, or production.1 Consequently, this analysis leaves us questioning what kind of qualities a musician under patronage had to maintain. It fascinating that William Weber also revealed this in his article “The Contemporaneity of Eighteenth-Century Musical Taste.” Here, Weber discloses that an employed musician not only had to maintain close relationships with his employment circle, but also adhere as a quasi-servitude to his patron’s agenda. For instance, in case of employment in the royal courts, musicians not only had to convene to his patron’s taste, but also had to serve in diplomatic capacities. We clearly see the latter in the relationship of Jean Baptiste Lully and Louis XIV. For the French king music served a transaction to secure his absolutist rhetoric through Lully’s trag.dies lyriques.2 In smaller courts, such as Vienna, an employed musician was often considered part of the serving staff.3 Therefore, a musician under patronage had to be careful not to in any way rise above his master’s prominence or status.

Early entrepreneurial attempts before and during eighteenth century involved several levels of networking. The musician not only performed and composed but also, and most important of all, taught regularly, sold, and published music, managed concerts at theaters, and tried to tour for self-promotion. However, all these endeavors were not always in opposition with patronage. Just as freelancing contracts came in different ranges, so did patronage margins. A renowned musician who exhausted entrepreneurial tactics while under full-time patronage was Leopold Mozart. Having two musically prodigious children, Nannerl and Wolfgang, he embarked on a European performing tour from 1763–66.4 For Leopold Mozart having the luxury to act as an impresario denotes that his benefactor, Prince Archbishop of Salzburg Sigismund von Schrattenbach, allowed him to network, to self-promote and to enterprise well outside his contract and still receive his salary as a deputy Kapellmeister in Salzburg5. When Wolfgang turned thirteen years old Schrattenbach offered him the title of Third Concertmaster to encourage his talents. The prince archbishop allowed Leopold to maintain his salary while taking another self-promoting tour, this time to Italy. In addition, Schrattenbach followed up with the promise of a salary for young Wolfgang upon their return. Even more, the prince archbishop gave Leopold Mozart an additional 120 ducats from his own money for help sponsor their entrepreneurial tour.6 With this kind of patronage freedom, which parallels the Enlightenment ideals, the Mozarts flexed their entrepreneurial muscles with different self-promotion performances abroad.

One of the well-known entrepreneurial strategies music composers used, although at times a frail scheme, was the publishing dedication. This method could help the composer get notoriety or sponsorship from a wealthy patron. In many cases publishing dedications were rewarded by gratuity, forming a subtle social network between musician and patron.7 For the publishers, dedications were a marketing tactic, the better known the dedicatee the more encouraged are the potential buyers. Printing houses such as the ones from Leipzig and Frankfurt reproduced title pages with the dedication to be displayed in their shop windows.8 This greatly encouraged the entrepreneurial efforts of the composer. However, the dedication tactic could not be dependable as a means of secure livelihood because many times the remuneration came in the form of gifts rather than currency. Publishing dedications and patronage had to co-exist in a gray area without clear boundaries between composer, publisher, and dedicatee. For instance, in France, England, Germany and Austria publishers started to gain extensive control over the opulence of society with their dedications. To improve their profits publishing companies went as far as to make dedications of their own despite the composers’ objections to gain greater profit.9

One great skill Leopold Mozart possessed was to be able to rise above the conventional performer. Not only he networked within the noble courts of Europe but also took his children to perform for kings, queens, and princes. One of those memorable concerts took place before Louis XV’s daughters, Princesses and Victoire, both excellent musicians. After such positive reception from her royal highnesses Leopold made sure a dedication came in order from his son Wolfgang in the first edition of his violin sonatas KV 6-9 for princess Victoire.

Dedication from Mozart to Madame Victoire, princess of France10

This would be the first of the many dedications that young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would set out to bestow with the means of finding employment later in life.11

A musician who possessed the ability to perceive an opportunity and to take advantage effectively was Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Being the court cembalist to Frederick II, King of Prussia, Bach experienced the heavy obligations of his old-styled and rigid patron for thirty years. After much of Bach’s pleading Frederick II released him of his employment contract in 1768. Bach lived through a period in Germany when music publishing by subscription was a major entrepreneurial endeavor, this being a prominent marketing practice from the 1770s and through the 1790’s. However, composers were at a disadvantage as the common practices entitled composers to a one-off sale of their work and no royalties for performance rights.12 Bach must have observed that changes were starting to happen with subscription publishing being largely supplemented by mail-in order businesses. This new commercial method secured the international establishment of the publishing market.13 Contrary to our expectations there were little benefit to the composers’ pockets with mail-in orders. Astute as he was, Bach using a two-level approach to self-promote his Sonaten fur Kenner und Liebhaber, printed between 1779 and 1787 had observed that within the blurred boundaries of old traditions there was enough room to self-promote and make larger profits of the sales managed on his own. Bach tried his entrepreneurial skills by planning, preparing, marketing, and distributing sixteen of his own compositions with the help of the publisher Breitkopf. Not only he spent a considerable amount of time soliciting subscribers, but he also advertised in a newspaper in Hamburg. He delivered personal letters to composers, friends, and collectors of subscriptions who could act as his sale agents. Thus, the gathering of subscription data would serve as a practical predictor of music sales. For C. P. E Bach’s first of the six subscription publications he managed to find 335 subscribers. Though he was not able to maintain this level of committed subscribers for future publications, Bach’s considerably larger publication than the number of subscriptions sold was clearly being exploited as a tactic to gauge the amount interest in his publications. His sales to subscribers, however, did pay the costs of paper, printing, advertising, and shipping. In a letter Bach claims to have made 1,000 marks profit from one of these publications. So, to some extent the model of self-publishing and self-sale by subscription worked for C. P. E. Bach. However, further research from Klaus Hortschansky, a specialist in music publishing, brings to light that music sales and distribution by the composers was conducted as a sideline endeavor, which were pursued only because of the security of their annual fixed income.14 This statement proves to be true as Bach was fully employed during this entrepreneurial endeavor as Hamburg’s director of Sacred Music.

In the matter of being involved in the publishing of their creations, composers were also eager to network with sales agents that could help them promote their works abroad. William Weber articulates that the entrepreneurial eighteen-century musician had to be able to perceive the shifts in cultural change and to be able to benefit from it. This knowledge came in handy in the late 1780’s when London experienced an intense commercial growth given the demand in the lucrative market for Viennese chamber music. London music retailers rivaled each other to stablish dominance.15 This power struggle did not go unnoticed to Haydn, who despite having lived under substantial patronage from prince Esterhazy, had always an astute business sense. It was in 1788 that in their rivalry, the three London music sales leading firms, William Forster, Longman & Broderip and John Bland, shifted the control balance to elevate the composers’ involvement on their works. William Foster had been for the leading firm negotiating relationships with wellstablished composers. After several lucrative contracts Foster had expected to be given the sales rights to Haydn’s “Paris Symphonies.” These works would come out for sale right after their hyped premier at the London Hanover Square professional concerts. However, it seems that for these Haydn symphonies Longman & Broderip had gotten ahead of Foster with their negotiations. It was here that a long and highly- publicized dispute between the two firms begun in which Haydn was alluded to been having double-dealing with the firms. However, the correspondence from Foster to Haydn had the means to repair their relationship rather than to accuse. The hyped publicity ended benefitting not only Haydn, but also other prominent Viennese composers. It was here that John Bland, a relative new sales agent, counterbalanced the relationships between Haydn’s publisher Artaria and his previous London sales agencies, the old sales establishments, for the market rights. Bland also keenly noticed that all negotiations by the leading sales agents had been done by post, indicating that the primacy of relationships was with the continental publishers rather than the composers. Then, in 1788 Bland not only traveled from London to Vienna to establish more personal connections with Haydn, but also in his effort gathered more connections with the thriving composers of the inland. The composers trying to self-promote gladly agreed to be part of the advertisement, giving into the seeds of entrepreneurship.16 Bland used tools such as public announcements as marketing scheme to publicize his upcoming sales. In the twenty-first century that would be equivalent to the scheme of a social influencer. By stablishing real personal connections Bland was not only improving his business, but also endorsing the works of the composers. The extract below, Bland’s first public announcement from 1790 exhibits characteristics that not only deal with music promotion, but with the public’s needs upfront.

“The Public will be pleased to take notice, that it has been a common Practice with many Publishers and Music-Shops, to answer the several Enquirers for Bland’s Edition, or Works from his Catalogue, that they are out of print. In order to prevent the like Imposition, the Publisher respectfully informs the generous Public, which has so singularly patronized his correct and cheap Works, that no one Work shall ever remain one Day out of print; that all Orders he may have the Honour to receive shall be executed with the greatest Dispatch possible; and that in a Journey of more than 4000 Miles in Germany, &c (last Year) he personally settled a connexion with HAYDN, HOFFMEISTER, MOZART, KOZELUCH, PARADIES, VANHALL, and many others, whose Works will come out with all possible Expedition. And they may be assured all the new Works will be original, and published for 28 such Instruments, &c as first written for.”17

With this new promotional maneuver Bland elevated the status of these musicians to recognized fame, a practice that these composers could have not done solely under the old establishment of rigid patronage.

If musicians of the Enlightenment era had to possess the ability to perceive an opportunity and to take advantage effectively then the marriage of King George III to a German princess created that opportunity with wide open employment in London. The princess, who became Queen Charlotte was an enthusiastic patron who conformed a band of only German musicians. Among the long list of names was Johann Christian Bach, Carl Frederich Able, and Johann Baptiste Cramer.18 The queen was an enthusiastic promoter of private and public concerts. Therefore, the royal employment contracts were not rigid. This did not go unnoticed by other musicians from conservative parts of the old continent who started their journey to England in search of jobs and artistic autonomy. Among those was Johann Peter Salomon, a German violinist, who despite having achieved a Bonn salaried court appointment at the age of thirteen and by nineteen the position of musical director to Prince Heinrich of Prussia, networked his way into London. It was his good fortune that while in Berlin he had met C. P. E Bach who introduced him to J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. He found the performance market for this repertoire at Covent Gardens, one of the numerous venues in London that offered to well-endowed freelance opportunities musicians.19 Salomon not only possessed the qualities that Weber calls for in an entrepreneurial musician of the eighteenth century, but also an intrepid sense of creativity for allround business enterprise. Having experienced that the English capital had a thriving market for public concerts, and with the death of J. C. Bach leaving an entire concert series at Hanover Square Rooms vacant of an organizer, Salomon turned impresario creating his sought-after Professional Concert Series. However, Salomon needed to rise his concert series above other competing performances. Not only he booked his roster with the queen’s favored German nationals but sought to engage music celebrities. Salomon traveled personally to Vienna to hire Haydn, whose music had already sparked great interest in London. We can see that though the dispute of the leading sales firms of William Forster, Longman & Broderip and John Bland. It was Salomon’s ingenious business design that made him not only a great impresario of performances but also gave him the power to be part of the puzzle that provided publishing companies with maximum profit of works premiered at his Professional Concert Series. In addition, he created for himself an avenue for his own performance promotion as Haydn, for example, produced some of his works for the concert series with Solomon in mind. In his Symphony no. 97 Haydn for example, wrote a small solo for Salomon in which he marked ‘Salomon solo ma piano.’ Also, for the impresario to be featured was the florid violin part in the second movement of Haydn’s Symphony no.103. In addition, the Concertante in B♭ (H I:105) was composed for Salomon, who played the solo violin part; and the six string quartets op.71 and 74 (H III:69–74).20

In the eighteen century it was generally expected that a prominent musician who is heavily sponsored by the nobility would financially secure his sustenance for the remainder of his life, and the one who is trying to navigate the path entrepreneurship would struggle to the end of his days. However, such is the curious case of Johann Christian Bach and Johann Baptiste Vanhal. The first being Queen Charlotte’s court music master, and the latter a Viennese resident whose well to do career lacked long-term formal employment. Contrary to expectation, J. C. Bach’s later days ended in economic destitution, as Vanhal was even able purchase his freedom from indenture to live a comfortable life in the heart of the city. Here is where we can put Weber’s eighteenth century new entrepreneurial skills to a test. Even though Johann Christian Bach lived under the most supportive and liberal royal patronage of Europe his business dealings lacked the meticulous efforts we previously have observed of his older brother Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach. Despite having achieved by the age of thirty-nine the impressive ownership, although in conjunction with the wellendowed music impresario Giovanni Andrea Gallini and court musician Carl Friederich Abel, of property on Hanover Square for the sole purpose of mounting concert series, J. C. Bach’s productions from its opening in 1774 constantly depleted his own finances until the moment he died in destitution 1782.21

If there was eighteen-century entrepreneur worth the gold medal for navigating between the waters of patronage and entrepreneurship it would be given to Johan Baptist Vanhal. This musician not only maneuvered smoothly during monarchal, and social changes of the era of Enlightenment in Vienna but did so in innovating and original ways. A lesser-known composer of our modern times, Vanhal seemed to have preferred the part-time style patronage of Count Ladislaus Erd.dy, at Varaždin. Before taking this part-time position Vanhal had rejected the fulltime the Kapellmeister’s position in Baron Riesch’s orchestra. Having this freedom allowed him to concentrate in his own entrepreneurial endeavors, as well as cultivating prominent professional relationships, in Vienna.22 Vanhal’s career progress was tested many times in his life. A major adversity came during the change of monarchy in Vienna. While the empress Maria Teresa was an avid supporter of church music, which was cultivated with great energy during her regency, her successor Joseph II saw to reduce the expenses on church music and musicians. It was by this time that Vanhal had finished one of his most important sacred works, the Missa Pastoralis. Performed at the cusp of the major reformations of 1782, Vanhal barely missed the new limitation the young monarch had unpopularly decreed.23

A very important skill so far not mentioned is to be able to catch social trends and produce upon its demand. Vanhal had this quality. Though his symphonies could be considered innovative and masterful, and according to musicologist Charles Burney comparable to Mozart and Haydn’s works, Vanhal recognized the pursuit for soloistic work in the Viennese ambit. Therefore, symphonies were not the primary driver of the public’s interest. He composed his last symphony in 1783 and rather dedicated his efforts to keyboard sonatas. By the turn of the century Vanhal took advantage of the growing middle class, a social movement that was highly supported by the Enlightened emperor Joseph II. Vanhal tapped into this new market by writing appropriate pedagogical compositions, mostly popular tunes, which publishers were eager to endorse given his previous successful publishing record.24 This last pedagogical entrepreneurial endeavor was quite successful for Vanhal, who lived comfortably until the end of his days. However, if we take a closer look Vanhal had lived under the protection of a proxy patronage under Joseph II. Vanhal never rose over the agenda of the Enlightened emperor to acquire his stardom; rather, he adhered to emperor’s goals of giving power to the middle class through his music educational material. In conclusion, just as entrepreneurship had tested the creativity, resilience, and the will of the musicians during the Enlightenment, patronship, throughout its evolution, benefited the musical minds that have shaped the western culture. As more research unfolds, we can observe and understand that the pieces of the puzzle that comprise entrepreneurship and patronage are still actively co-existing and evolving.


  • Breckbill, Anita. “Music publishing by subscription in 1820s France: a preliminary study.” Notes 69, no. 3 (March 2013): 453-471.
  • Bryan, Paul R. “Vanhal [Vanhall, Wanhal, Waṅhal, Wanhall], Johann Baptist.” Grove Music Online. 2001.
  • Clousing, Harold Wesley. “The Reforms of Joseph II of Austria on Church Music and Their Influence on the Works of Michael Haydn.” M.A diss., California State University, Long Beach, 1975.
  • Fisher, Roger S. “‘Say It Ain’t so, Joe’: Haydn, Pleyel and Copyright in Music in the Late 18th Century.” Intellectual Property Journal 23, no. 1 (December 2010): 1-35.
  • Glatthorn, Austin. “The Imperial Coronation of Leopold II and Mozart, Frankfurt am main, 1790.” Eighteenth-Century Music 14, no. 1 (March 2017): 89-110.
  • Green, Emily. “Dedications and the Reception of the Musical Score, 1785-1850.” Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, 2009.
  • Halliwell, Ruth. The Mozart Family: Four Lives in a Social Context. Oxford: England Clarendon Press, 1998.
  • Hogwood, Christopher and Richard Luckett, eds. Music in Eighteenth-Century England: Essays in Memory of Charles Cudworth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • Marx, Hans Joachim. “A Love of Music to Distraction” “Musik Im Leben Der Englischen K.nigin Charlotte (1744-1818).” Archiv Für Musikwissenschaft 71, no. 1 (2014): 1–20.
  • Neff, Teresa M. “Baron Von Swieten and Late Eighteenth-Century Viennese Musical Culture.” Ph.D. diss., Boston University, 1998.
  • Powers, Doris Bosworth. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: a Guide to Research New York: Routledge, 2002.
  • Rice, John A. Music in the Eighteenth Century. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013.
  • Roberts, Jane. George III and Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste. London: Royal Collection, 2004.
  • Scherer, Frederic M. “The Emergence of Musical Copyright in Europe from 1709 to 1850.” Review of Economic Research on Copyright Issues 5, no. 2, (December 2008): 3-18.
  • Strykowski, Derek R. “The Business of Composition: Measuring Economic Relationships at Breitkopf & Hartel, 1798-1838.” Notes 74, no. 4 (June 2018): 574-602.
  • Unverricht, Hubert. “Salomon, Johann Peter.” Grove Music Online. 2001.
  • Vaillancourt, Michael Grant. “Instrumental Ensemble Music at the Court of Leopold I (1658–1705).” Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1991.
  • Vanhal, Johann Baptist, and Paul Robey Bryan. “Six Symphonies” Madison, Wis: A-R Editions, 1985.
  • Weber, William, ed. The Musician as Entrepreneur, 1700-1914: Managers, Charlatans, and Idealists. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.
  • Weber, William. “The Contemporaneity of Eighteenth-Century Musical Taste.” The Musical Quarterly 70, no. 2 (Spring 1984): 175–94.
  • Winiszewska, Hanna. “Dedicated Works in the Context of Eighteenth-Century Musical Life.” International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music 51, no. 1 (June 2020): 29–42.
  • Wolff, Christoph, and Stephen Roe. “Bach, Johann [John] Christian.” Grove Music Online. 2001.
  • Woodfield, Ian. “John Bland: London Retailer of the Music of Haydn and Mozart.” Music & letters 81, no. 2 (May 2000): 210–244.


  1. William Weber, ed. The Musician as Entrepreneur, 1700-1914: Managers, Charlatans, and Idealists. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), 5.
  2. William Weber, “The Contemporaneity of Eighteenth-Century Musical Taste.” The Musical Quarterly 70, no. 2 (Spring 1984): 180.
  3. John A. Rice, Music in the Eighteenth Century. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2013), 205.
  4. Ibid., 5.
  5. Ruth Halliwell, The Mozart Family: Four Lives in a Social Context. (Oxford: England Clarendon Press, 1998), 92.
  6. Ibid., 143
  7. Weber, “The Contemporaneity of Eighteenth-Century Musical Taste.” 178.
  8. Hanna Winiszewska, “Dedicated Works in the Context of Eighteenth-Century Musical Life.” International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music 51, no. 1 (June 2020): 33
  9. Emily Green, “Dedications and the Reception of the Musical Score, 1785-1850.” (Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, 2009), 11
  10. W. A. Mozart, Violin Sonata in C major, K. 6 (Paris: Unidentified Publisher, n.d. 1764) Biblioth.que nationale de France, Musique (F-Pn): BnF RES-866
  11. Green, “Dedications and the Reception of the Musical Score, 1785-1850.” 22.
  12. Roger S. Fisher, “‘Say It Ain’t so, Joe’: Haydn, Pleyel and Copyright in Music in the Late 18th Century.” Intellectual Property Journal 23, no. 1 (December 2010): 3.
  13. Derek R. Strykowski, “The Business of Composition: Measuring Economic Relationships at Breitkopf & Hartel, 1798-1838.” Notes 74, no. 4 (June 2018): 576.
  14. Anita Breckbill, “Music publishing by subscription in 1820s France: a preliminary study.” Notes 69, no. 3 (March 2013): 456
  15. For an in depth look at the magnitude of the sales firms rivalry see Fisher, “‘Say It Ain’t so, Joe’: Haydn, Pleyel and Copyright in Music in the Late 18th Century.” 6.
  16. Ian Woodfield, “John Bland: London Retailer of the Music of Haydn and Mozart.” Music & letters 81, no. 2 (May 2000): 211.
  17. Ibid., 223
  18. For a complete list of musicians and their nationalities see Hans Joachim Marx, “A Love of Music to Distraction” “Musik Im Leben Der Englischen K.nigin Charlotte (1744-1818).” Archiv Für Musikwissenschaft 71, no. 1 (2014): 7.
  19. Hubert Unverricht, “Salomon, Johann Peter.” Grove Music Online. 2001.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Christoph Wolff, and Stephen Roe. “Bach, Johann [John] Christian.” Grove Music Online. 2001
  22. Paul R. Bryan, “Vanhal [Vanhall, Wanhal, Waṅhal, Wanhall], Johann Baptist.” Grove Music Online. 2001.
  23. John A. Rice, Music in the Eighteenth Century. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2013), 202.
  24. Johann Baptist Vanhal, and Paul Robey Bryan, “Six Symphonies” Madison, Wis: A-R Editions, (1985): vii.