Peter Day of the BBC has been doing a bit of financial archeology, digging up evidence of the financial life of George Frideric Handel (short written story here, limited-term access to the radio story here). Says Day, Handel was not only innovative in his compositions, but also in the composition of his industry:
Handel seems to have been among the very first modern musicians not
to rely on patronage of court or cathedral for his main income. Instead,
he was an entrepreneurial promoter, risking his own money on operas and
oratorios. His fortunes waxed and waned with the popularity of the
genres and the fashions of the time.
Handel’s alternative business model to church or royal patronage eventually made him a rich man, and supported his investments in some of the early financial markets of his time. And his innovation may have inspired subsequent composers and musicians to explore the same idea.
A generation later, Beethoven, another business innovator, also broke from traditional patronage, and ”supported himself through a combination of annual stipends or single
gifts from members of the aristocracy; income from subscription
concerts, concerts, and lessons; and proceeds from sales of his works” (Wikipedia).
Both composers provide further evidence that our modern mingling of art and business isn’t modern at all, but centuries old. We’ve just designed a few different corporate structures to extend and enhance what Handel was doing long ago.