Sofar Sounds

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Sofar Sounds
Founded2009; 9 years ago (2009)
FounderRocky Start, Rafe Offer, Dave Alexander
HeadquartersLondon, E1
United Kingdom
Area served
Worldwide, over 350 cities[1]

Sofar Sounds (an acronym for Songs from a Room) is a music events startup company, based in Shoreditch, founded in 2009. The company calls itself a global community where guests and artists come together to experience music in an intimate and respectful setting at a secret concert.


The events started in London in March 2009 by Rafe Offer, Rocky Start and Dave J. Alexander who went to a Friendly Fires concert and became annoyed by people talking over the music, gazing into their Smartphones[2] or hearing the clanging of beer bottles. As a consequence, they decided to put on their own gig in Alexander's North London flat and invited eight friends over to listen to him play five songs in his living room.[3]

For the second gig in London, more people showed up because the word had spread. Soon after, Sofar expanded (mostly by word of mouth) to Paris, New York City, and other cities, arriving in Los Angeles in early 2011.[4]

What started as a grassroots movement in London has eventually grown into a global community. In early 2017, Sofar Sounds claimed that they are putting on about 500 gigs per month in more than 300 cities worldwide.[5]


Typically, three artists perform at each Sofar gig with no "opener" and no "headliner".[6] Performers apply to be considered via a form on the website.[7] Musicians of all genres as well as spoken word poets, comedians and even dancers are welcome to apply.[8] Local Sofar Sounds lead ambassadors / bookers and their review committees and music scouts curate the evenings.[9]

The line-up for a concert is not disclosed until the event starts; the location (often a private living room[10] with an average size of 70 people) is announced 24 hours before the show.[11] Guests arrive on time for the first act and are encouraged to stay for the entire show. Events are normally BYOB, and emphasis is placed on the crowd being respectful – switching off their phones and listening.[12] Sofar Sounds also claims that highlighting headline acts encourages people to turn up late and not respect the other performers, so that is why all artists are being treated equal.[13]

Artists are often filmed, with the edited video uploaded to the Sofar Sounds YouTube channel[14] and shared on the website.

Pricing and payments[edit]

There are two types of Sofar cities: Full-time and volunteer/ambassador. The majority of Sofar cities are run by volunteers who put on one or two shows a month.[15]

In the majority of Sofar Sounds cities the audience does not pay beforehand but is encouraged to make a cash contribution at the show. In some cities in the US and UK, people can choose how much they pay for their ticket prior to the show. The minimum amount is set by the local city team. In the rest of the Sofar cities, shows are ticketed. Tickets are $15 per person in the US,[16] £18 in the UK, and 200kr in Norway.

Performing artists are either paid directly, or the A/V team on the night is paid to produce the video for the artists, depending on the compensation agreed upon between artist and booker.[17]

Notable performers, partnerships, and investors[edit]

Bastille performing at the Sofar Sounds x War Child charity event in London.

In June 2015, Sofar Sounds partnered with Uber to host a series of secret gigs in London.[18]

In July 2016 it was announced that Virgin Group's Sir Richard Branson would invest in Sofar Sounds.[19]

In March 2017 a partnership with Airbnb for their new Music Experiences format was announced,[20] which enables Airbnb customers in San Francisco to reserve seats at a Sofar event via the Trips platform.[21]

UK and Irish acts who have performed at Sofar shows include James Bay, Hozier, Emeli Sandé, Will Young,[22] Tom Odell,[23] Shura, Benjamin Clementine, actor Robert Pattinson,[24] Wolf Alice, Bastille and Lianne La Havas. Both Bastille[25] and Lianne La Havas[26] performed at special events in London that Sofar put on in collaboration with the charity War Child. Bastille also took part in a special live-streamed Sofar Sounds #Voting show[27] that was held in London in June 2016 to encourage people to vote in the EU referendum.[28]

Some US performers who have appeared in Sofar concerts include Giselle Bellas, Leon Bridges, Fantastic Negrito, Saba,[29] X Ambassadors, Tank and the Bangas, Yeasayer[30] and Yeah Yeah Yeahs front woman Karen O,[31] while acts such as Núria Graham and Ali Somay have played Sofar Barcelona[32] and Sofar Istanbul, respectively.[33]

The local Sofar Sounds branch in Los Angeles also teamed up with the charity Movember for a Giving Tuesday event,[34] while the New York City branch previously organized a gig in aid of Planned Parenthood.[35]

On 20 June 2017 (World Refugee Day) Sofar Sounds announced a global event series called 'Give a Home', in partnership with Amnesty International. 'Give a Home' took place on 20 September 2017 and saw thousands of artists play intimate sets in living rooms in over 300 cities and 60 countries, in aid of the millions of refugees who were forced to flee their homes.[36] Confirmed artists included Ed Sheeran, Moby, Gregory Porter, Daughter, Jesse & Joy, Hot Chip, Ludovico Einaudi, The National, Mashrou' Leila, and more.[37]


  1. ^ Sofar Sounds website
  2. ^ "Secret gigs place the next big thing right into your front room". The Guardian. 27 April 2014.
  3. ^ "How Sofar Sounds is redefining the live music scene around the globe". CBS News. 24 January 2017.
  4. ^ "How Did a Secret Concert Series With Mostly Unknown Bands Get So Popular?". LA Weekly. 16 September 2016.
  5. ^ "Fans Flock to Secret Home Concerts". The Wall Street Journal. 8 February 2017.
  6. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions" Sofar Sounds (Retrieved 31 May 2017.)
  7. ^ "The best audience in the world" Sofar Sounds (Retrieved 31 May 2017.)
  8. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions" Sofar Sounds (Retrieved 31 May 2017.)
  9. ^ "Are living room concerts the future?". BBC. 27 January 2017.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "The Modern Concert, Pt. 2: What Is Missing From The Artist-Brand Relationship in Live Music?". Forbes. 29 February 2016.
  12. ^ "East End Review". East End Review.
  13. ^ "Crack in the Road",
  14. ^ "Sofar Sounds YouTube channel", Youtube, retrieved 31 May 2017
  15. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions" Sofar Sounds (Retrieved 31 May 2017.)
  16. ^ "How Sofar Sounds is redefining the live music scene around the globe". CBS News. 24 January 2017.
  17. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions" Sofar Sounds (Retrieved 31 May 2017.)
  18. ^ "Event Magazine". Event Magazine. Event Magazine. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  19. ^ Curry, Rhiannon (14 July 2016). "Richard Branson invests in secret gig start-up". The Daily Telegraph.
  20. ^ "Airbnb Breaks into the Music Scene with Newly Launched Music Experiences". Airbnb Blog. 8 March 2017.
  21. ^ "Sofar Sounds announces Airbnb Partnership". Virgin Blog. 9 March 2017.
  22. ^ Corner, Lewis. "Digital Spy". Digital Spy. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  23. ^ [1] Sofar Sounds Facebook page (Retrieved 31 May 2017.)
  24. ^ Cowan, Matt. "Reuters". Reuters Video. Reuters. Reuters. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  25. ^ "Bastille Performs U.K. Gig in a Living Room for Sofar Sounds". The Observer. 24 February 2015.
  26. ^ War Child UK presents: Passport to Brits Week, Lianne La Havas' official website, 20 January 2016, retrieved 31 May 2017
  27. ^ [2] Sofar Sounds Facebook page (Retrieved 31 May 2017.)
  28. ^ "Bastille to play intimate EU referendum gig". NME. 13 June 2016.
  29. ^ "Fans Flock to Secret Home Concerts". The Wall Street Journal. 8 February 2017.
  30. ^ "Yeasayer". Time Out New York. 27 April 2016.
  31. ^ "Tiny Concerts at Coffee Tables Near You". The New York Times. 20 October 2014.
  32. ^ De Puig, Carla. "La Vanguardia". La Vanguardia. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  33. ^ Akyildiz, Tolga. "Hurriyet". Hurriyet. Hurriyet. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  34. ^ "Partner Spotlight: Sofar Sounds". Movember Foundation Blog. 5 November 2016.
  35. ^ [3] Sofar Sounds NYC Facebook page (Retrieved 31 May 2017.)
  36. ^ "'Give a Home': Massive global concert series will show solidarity with refugees". Amnesty International. 20 June 2017.
  37. ^ [4] Sofar Sounds Website (Retrieved 16 August 2017.)

External links[edit]