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Beethoven's Business Model for the Gig Economy

In our earlier blog we saw how Mozart invented the gig economy when he realized at age 25 that he could work for himself, not for an employer. Millions of people would follow Mozart in their own fields, making a similar leap into self-employment.

Mozart saw he could sell results that his buyers could enjoy: musical compositions, concert performances, and lessons in how to play an instrument. These three deliverables are music’s timeless offerings for patrons, customers, students, and audiences.


The sad fact that a brilliant, self-employed genius like Mozart died impoverished reveals that successful self-employment requires both professional and business skills. Mozart missed the business element in self-employment, and that understanding is crucial in the gig economy.

Beethoven Built on Mozart: It fell to another brilliant musician to invent what Mozart needed: a business model for self-employment. A business model is the outline of your plan to bring in revenue and make a profit from your activities. Beethoven devised the first model for making self-employment financially successful, and he was self-employed his entire working life. Beethoven was a savvy businessman.

Beethoven started strong, making enough money from publishing his first composition, Opus 1, to pay his living expenses for a year. Imagine in 2016 if your first self-employment gig pulled in $40,000-60,000, after taxes! And Beethoven’s commercial success continued. In fact, he never held a paying job as an employee.

Work with What’s New: Like many gig economy workers today, Beethoven was captivated by innovation. He invented the sale of printed sheet music to the public by printing his compositions using the new capabilities of commercial printing. I grew up in a musical household, and first learned this fact last March! The man could create!

Beethoven’s sheet music sold widely and helped further popularize his dramatic and exciting compositions, creating a demand for concerts, at which the public could hear him perform in person.

The explosive popularity of new, mass-produced five-octave pianos drove demand for his sheet music. Beethoven saw the increase in households purchasing pianos as a tide flooding in his favor; he used piano sales as a change that generated interest in his sheet music.