Discover the close-knit world of the Georgian music industry, where not what you knew, but who you knew, was of greatest importance

From opera, oratorios, and open-air events, to private parties, balls, and benefit concerts, music was an essential element of fashionable entertainment in eighteenth-century London. Musicians seeking to capitalise on this craze flocked to the capital from all over Europe and set about finding employment in theatres, churches, and in the homes of the England’s elite. But what determined which musicians ‘made it’?

While superior sight-reading skills and excellent technique were a good starting point, being a successful musician was not just about musical competence. The top musicians of their day were expert entrepreneurs, well-practiced in the arts of communication, self-promotion, and time-management. But perhaps their most important skill was networking. Building and maintaining business connections were vital in raising a musician’s profile, introducing them to new employers, and securing future work. So it is perhaps unsurprising that many leading musicians operated in familiar circles, with colleagues who were friends, relatives, neighbours, housemates, teachers, pupils, or even lovers.

This display is curated by Lizzy Buckle. Lizzy is a PhD student at the Foundling Museum and Royal Holloway, University of London, funded by Techne. Her research explores the musical networks involved in organising charity benefit concerts in eighteenth-century London.

A virtual tour of Friends with Benefits: Musical Networking in Georgian London