Eighteenth Century London Concerts: 9 – Advertising and Reviews

This final article in the series looking at the Calendar of London Concerts 1750-1800 dataset considers the characteristics of the information that is the source of the data on most of the concerts – the advertisements in the daily press.

Each concert in the dataset has an entry in the “Advert” field listing the advertisements for the concert – for example “PA; PA 10 Mar; PA 17 Mar” indicates three advertisements in the Public Advertiser, on 10 March, 17 March and on the day of the concert (in this case one at the Great Room, Dean Street, on 31 March 1755). This data is relatively straightforward to extract, with a couple of slight complications:

  • the year of the advertisement is often not stated, so needs to be inferred from the date of the concert (and is sometimes in the calendar year before the concert);
  • some entries have an “etc” indicating more advertisements than those explicitly listed. I have ignored these.

There is a similar column called “Review”, which is formatted similarly. Although every concert has at least one advertisement, only a minority had any reviews.

The following chart shows the top newspapers in which concerts were advertised. The Public Advertiser (PA) was dominant in the first three decades, but after 1780 a lot of new publications arrived, and the advertisements were shared around more evenly (as evidenced by the larger text sizes relative to the leader). The full list of abbreviations is in the explanatory notes accompanying the dataset – the ones appearing below are as follows – DI: Diary, or Woodfall’s Register; DUR: Daily Universal Register [The Times]; GA: General Advertiser; GZ: Gazetteer; LDA: London Daily Advertiser; MC: Morning Chronicle; MH: Morning Herald; MP: Morning Post; OR: Oracle; PA: Public Advertiser; TB: True Briton; TI: The Times; WO: World.

Of course this does not necessarily reflect the newspaper market as it was in the second half of the eighteenth century. These rankings depend on what material has survived over two centuries to make it into this dataset. It might be, for example, that few periodicals survive from before 1780 (with PA being a rare exception), but that they were more methodically preserved after this date.

A similar pattern emerges for reviews, with the Public Advertiser again in the lead for much of the period, and many of the same titles appearing. The only new name appearing on the chart below is “LS”, which is a modern book, The London Stage 1660-1800, a catalogue compiled from various contemporary sources, including diaries and playbills as well as newspapers, first published in the 1960s.1

70% of advertisements were on the day of the concert, with another 15% in the week before the concert, 5% between one and two weeks before, and 10% more than two weeks in advance. In terms of concerts, 73% had a single advertisement, 23% had two or three, and only 4% had four or more. 86% of concerts had a newspaper advertisement on the day of the concert itself.

These figures varied over time, and according to the type of concert. 84% of concerts in the 1750s only had a single advertisement, but by the 1790s this had fallen to 55%. The more expensive concerts in larger venues (and with more musicians, especially those in churches, halls and theatres) tended to have more advertisements than smaller, cheaper concerts (or those in gardens), and also seem to have started advertising earlier (although there is a great deal of variability in the data). Concert Series had the highest number of advertisements per concert – although this is perhaps due to several concerts in the series being listed in each advertisement.

Concerts with multiple advertisements tended to have them spread across several publications, as well as having multiple advertisements (over a few days or weeks) in the same newspaper. The following chart shows the distribution of concerts by the number of advertisements and number of publications. Two advertisements were likely to be both in the same publication, but for larger numbers of advertisements, they were increasingly likely to be spread around. The trend line, for example, shows that five advertisements were typically spread across four publications.

Just 17% of concerts had a review – of which two-thirds had just one review. About 56% of reviews were published the day after the concert, with a further 28% appearing over the following two days. The bigger, more expensive concerts were the ones most likely to have a review. The number of reviews increased over time, with just 1.6% of concerts in the 1750s getting a review, but almost 44% of those in the 1790s.2

It would be possible to analyse this data in more detail – to look for variations in the timing, location or number of advertisements and reviews by type of concert, type of venue, ticket price, day of the week, etc. Such analysis might be useful in certain situations, although the problem remains that we do not know how complete the data is – these are just the advertisements and reviews that happen to have survived to make it into this modern dataset – so any conclusions would need to take this into account.

Cite this article as: Gustar, A.J. 'Eighteenth Century London Concerts: 9 – Advertising and Reviews' in Statistics in Historical Musicology, 11th February 2021, https://musichistorystats.com/wp/eighteenth-century-london-concerts-9-advertising-and-reviews/.
  1. The London Stage 1660–1800: Part 4, ed. G.W. Stone (Carbondale, 1962); Part 5, ed. C.B. Hogan (Carbondale, 1968). It is available online via the Hathi Trust at this link.
  2. This might, of course, simply be a reflection of better survival of reviews from later in the period.

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