While Stanley Sadie, over thirty years ago, understood the benefits that a study of music subscription lists would bring, no one has, thus far, attempted to produce a dataset containing all the names that appear in every subscription list. Since 2010, there has been a concerted effort to locate every list attached to a music publication issued up until 1820. The end result, a fully searchable Dataset of Subscribers, is an important new resource for musicologists and those interested in social history.
This chapter provides a background to music subscription in eighteenth-century Britain, outlining how the Dataset was assembled and the issues encountered during this investigation. It also discusses some of the trends so far observed. While subscription lists do not paint a full picture, they are a valuable resource, giving us a far greater insight into the patterns of musical activity in eighteenth-century Britain than has ever been seen before.