It is an innovative concept that brings live music to intimate, unusual spaces – most often someone’s living room.
In a typical Sofar Sounds’ event, there will be three to five artists invited to play short, unplugged or stripped down sets in front of a crowd of music lovers and industry professionals.
It all began in a room in east London in 2009 when co-founders Rocky Start and Rafe Offer decided to create a new type of live music performance, which could avoid the unnecessary talking and noise that can be a distraction to those trying to enjoy the music.
“We were frustrated by live music,” said Tasmin Holleran, now the London organizer of Sofar Sounds. “We wanted an environment that was as magical as the music – we wanted to give back respect to live music, and keep it raw and intimate.”
The team contacted their friends in New York and Paris who agreed their local music scene could use the Sofar approach. The idea then spread by word of mouth. Since then they have hosted more than 100 secret gigs in around 110 cities all over the world.
Because the gigs always take place in some people’s house or bar, they are normally limited to an audience of 60 to 80.
Now the team in London has about 30 volunteers and they want more people to join them. Holleran said: “We want to make sure as many people as possible experience Sofar show so we keep trying to increase the number of gigs we put on each month.”
They plan to continue this event and make enough money to do this full time as well as help new cities to organise Sofar.
However, their focus will always be music. “To support and help new music get heard – music that our community loves and wants to support – rather than music that is supported because it’s popular or can make money from sales.”
But in order to make sure more music fans have opportunities to attend the event, the team is trying to increase the frequency of the gigs every month. In London alone, there are average 8 to 10 events each month, many in east London. Venues are revealed the day beforehand and the artists are kept secret until the night.
However, Sofar has a team of volunteers who scouts potential venues and artists. They always try to make sure the quality of the performance is high and find the “best and newest music.”
British folk singer Beans on Toast said: “I’m a big fan of Sofar sounds.” He thinks it brought “great music, in interesting spaces, with nice people” together.
Yuhan Zhang, a student from The University of Melbourne, Australia, also had a good experience of the gigs, “I found out they’ve got so many different events in different cities, even in my home country.”
Tianyi Zhang, a student from Royal Holloway, University of London, had joined a show in Whitechapel last month: “I really enjoyed it, but before it started, I was a little nervous because I have no idea about the place, the bands and the people I would meet.”