Sofar Sounds

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Sofar Sounds
Founded2009; 13 years ago (2009)
FounderRocky Start, Rafe Offer, Dave Alexander
HeadquartersLondon, United Kingdom
Area served
Worldwide, over 350 cities[1]
Key people
Jim Lucchese (CEO)
Rafe Offer (Executive Chairman)

Sofar Sounds (an acronym for Songs from a Room) is a music events startup company, that creates small performances in unique locations in over 400 cities around the world.[2] They are headquartered at The Roundhouse site, London, UK and were founded in 2009.[3]


The company was started in London in March 2009 by Rafe Offer, Rocky Start, and Dave Alexander who wanted to create an intimate music experience.[4] They invited eight friends to Alexander's north London flat to listen to him play music in his living room.[5] For the second gig in London, more people showed up. Soon after, Sofar expanded to Paris, New York City, and other cities, arriving in Los Angeles in early 2011.[6][7][8] The founders saw it as a hobby in the beginning and didn't originally intend it as a model that would turn a profit.[9]

Jim Lucchese became the CEO of Sofar Sounds in February 2019.[10]

In May 2019 the company raised $25M from Battery Ventures and Union Square Ventures, in addition to the previous $6 million it had raised from Octopus Ventures and Virgin Group.[11] The money is intended for two main purposes - to create artist-focused services and to support the Sofar communities around the world.[12]

As of November 2019, they had hosted over 22,000 performances.[7]

In 2019, Sofar Sounds announced the creation of a Sofar Crew, hired as part-time employees to work alongside Sofar Ambassadors.[10]

They were investigated in 2019 by the New York Department of Labor for their use of unpaid labor[13] and reached a settlement. They no longer use volunteers as part of their model.[14]

In August 2019, Sofar Sounds relocated their headquarters to the Roundhouse site, a creative hub that also includes the Bucks Music Group.[15]

In March 2020, Sofar suspended all shows as a result of the international coronavirus pandemic. They are paying all artists for cancelled performances, working to reschedule them, and creating a Global Artist Fund with a goal of $250,000 for live-music relief.[16] At the end of March 2020, they launched a daily Listening Room livestream to help support independent artists during the crisis. Viewers can either donate to artists directly or to the Global Artist Fund with all money going to the artists.[17]


Typically, three artists perform at each Sofar gig with no opener and no headliner,[18] an approach that offers an equal opportunity for all of the artists.[19] Performers apply to be considered via a form on the website and can be musicians of any genre.[20][18][21] As of February 2020, there is an Artist Dashboard where artists can request to play shows in specific cities and on specific dates or within a range of dates.[14]

The guest list is selected with an email ballot;[22] the line-up for a concert is not disclosed until the event starts; the location is announced 24 hours before the show.[23] Events are normally BYOB and the audience agrees to three basic principles: coming on time, staying until the end and listening quietly without phones or other distractions. This ensures that the focus is kept on the artists and the atmosphere respectful.[24][14]

Artists are often filmed, with the edited video uploaded to the Sofar Sounds YouTube channel[25] and shared on the website.

Operating model[edit]

There are two types of Sofar cities: full-time cities and ambassador locations. The majority of Sofar cities are run by ambassadors who put on one or two shows a month.[18][26][27]

Sofar currently operates independently in approximately 444 cities worldwide.[28] 90% of these are free shows where they have a pass-the-hat process for collecting money which pays the artists and covers expenses.[29] In the other 10% of those cities, they sell online tickets. As of February 2020, there are three payment levels in the ticketed Sofar cities and artists are paid based on ticket sales.[28] The current profit split in the average major city where Sofar has shows is 63% to 37% in favor of the artists.[30]

As of 24 January 2017, undiscounted tickets are $10–$30 per person in the US,[5][31] £10-18 in the UK, €13 in Madrid, and $12–18 (CAD) in Vancouver and Toronto.[32]

Notable Partnerships & Performers[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.[33]

In July 2016, it was announced that Virgin Group's Sir Richard Branson would invest in Sofar Sounds.[34]

In March 2017, a partnership was announced with Airbnb for their new Music Experiences format,[35] which enables Airbnb customers in San Francisco to reserve seats at a Sofar event via the Trips platform.[36]

UK and Irish acts who have performed at Sofar shows include James Bay, Hozier, Emeli Sandé, Will Young,[37] Tom Odell,[38] Shura, Benjamin Clementine, actor Robert Pattinson,[39] Wolf Alice, Bastille, and Lianne La Havas. Both Bastille[40] and Lianne La Havas[41] 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[42] that was held in London in June 2016 to encourage people to vote in the EU referendum.[43] Other London performers include Lucy Rose, The Staves and Kae Tempest. In 2013, they had a surprise last minute performance from the Twilight star Robert Pattinson.[22]

Some US performers who have appeared in Sofar concerts include Giselle Bellas, Leon Bridges, Fantastic Negrito, Saba,[44] X Ambassadors, Tank and the Bangas, Yeasayer,[45] and Yeah Yeah Yeahs front woman Karen O,[46] while acts such as Núria Graham and Ali Somay have played Sofar Barcelona[47] and Sofar Istanbul, respectively.[48]

The local Sofar Sounds branch in Los Angeles also teamed up with the charity Movember for a Giving Tuesday event,[49] while the New York City branch previously organized a gig in aid of Planned Parenthood.[50]

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 with thousands of performances in over 300 cities and 60 countries, in aid of the millions of refugees who were forced to flee their homes.[51] Confirmed artists included Ed Sheeran, Moby, Gregory Porter, Daughter, Jesse & Joy, Hot Chip, Ludovico Einaudi, The National, Mashrou' Leila, and more.[52]

At the 2017 Grammy awards, many of the nominees had previously played Sofar locations including Leon Bridges, Fantastic Negrito and Saba.[53]


  1. ^ Sofar Sounds website
  2. ^ Sowa, Emily; Millian, Jon; C, Domenick; elieri (22 April 2019). "Sofar Sounds transforms everyday spaces into unique, secret concerts". ABC7 New York. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  3. ^ "Chalk Farm becoming hub of creative industries talent". Roundhouse. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  4. ^ "Secret gigs place the next big thing right into your front room". The Guardian. 27 April 2014.
  5. ^ a b "How Sofar Sounds is redefining the live music scene around the globe". CBS News. 24 January 2017.
  6. ^ "How Did a Secret Concert Series With Mostly Unknown Bands Get So Popular?". LA Weekly. 16 September 2016.
  7. ^ a b Hancock, Amanda. "At Sofar Sounds concerts, you don't know who's playing or where. You should go anyway". Colorado Springs Gazette. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  8. ^ "Barges and breweries: Sofar Sounds hosts secret concerts in Brooklyn's most unique locations". Brooklyn Eagle. 29 April 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  9. ^ Ryzik, Melena (20 October 2014). "Tiny Concerts at Coffee Tables Near You". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Sofar Sounds Augments Volunteers With Paid Crew". Billboard. 16 September 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  11. ^ "Sofar Sounds Raises $25M From Investors: Here's How It Plans to Use the Funds". Billboard. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  12. ^ Cirisano, Tatiana (11 March 2020). "Sofar Sounds Raises $25M From Investors: Here's How It Plans to Use the Funds". Billboard.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ "Sofar Sounds: Concerts, Community, and Controversy". Talkhouse. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  14. ^ a b c "Sofar Sounds Unveils a Battery of New Programs for Artists". Variety. 18 February 2020. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  15. ^ "Chalk Farm becoming hub of creative industries talent". Roundhouse. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  16. ^ Hissong, Samantha (25 March 2020). "Music Startup Sofar Sounds Will Pay Artists For Canceled Shows". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  17. ^ Aswad, Jem (30 March 2020). "Sofar Sounds Launches 'Listening Room' Livestream". Variety. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  18. ^ a b c "Frequently Asked Questions" Sofar Sounds (Retrieved 31 May 2017.)
  19. ^ Morgan, Claire (16 April 2020). "Secret shows: Sofar Sounds Sacramento aims to connect community with local musicians". The Sacramento Bee.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ "The best audience in the world" Sofar Sounds (Retrieved 31 May 2017.)
  21. ^ "Are living room concerts the future?". BBC. 27 January 2017.
  22. ^ a b "Sofar Sounds: the story so far". Time Out London. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  23. ^ "The Modern Concert, Pt. 2: What Is Missing From The Artist-Brand Relationship in Live Music?". Forbes. 29 February 2016.
  24. ^ "East End Review". East End Review.
  25. ^ "Sofar Sounds YouTube channel", Youtube, retrieved 31 May 2017
  26. ^ "Sofar Sounds and Cinzano Throw Intimate Concert in Brooklyn". Jambands. 29 October 2019. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  27. ^ Moore, Erin. "In the House". Salt Lake City Weekly. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  28. ^ a b "Sofar Sounds Unveils a Battery of New Programs for Artists". Variety. 18 February 2020. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  29. ^ "Sofar Sounds Will Pay Artists More, Opens Its Books on Event Profits". Billboard. 19 December 2019. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  30. ^ "How much are Sofar Sounds artists paid?". How much are Sofar Sounds artists paid?. Retrieved 22 March 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. ^ Aswad, Jem (6 September 2019). "What's Next for Sofar Sounds and Its 'Genius' Volunteer-Based Business Model?". Variety. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  32. ^ "Be still and listen". Sofar Sounds. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  33. ^ "Event Magazine". Event Magazine. Event Magazine. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  34. ^ Curry, Rhiannon (14 July 2016). "Richard Branson invests in secret gig start-up". The Daily Telegraph.
  35. ^ "Airbnb Breaks into the Music Scene with Newly Launched Music Experiences". Airbnb Blog. 8 March 2017.
  36. ^ "Sofar Sounds announces Airbnb Partnership". Virgin Blog. 9 March 2017.
  37. ^ Corner, Lewis. "Digital Spy". Digital Spy. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  38. ^ Photo from Sofar Sounds Facebook page (Retrieved 31 May 2017.)
  39. ^ Cowan, Matt. "Reuters". Reuters Video. Reuters. Reuters. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  40. ^ "Bastille Performs U.K. Gig in a Living Room for Sofar Sounds". The Observer. 24 February 2015.
  41. ^ War Child UK presents: Passport to Brits Week, Lianne La Havas' official website, 20 January 2016, retrieved 31 May 2017
  42. ^ Video from Sofar Sounds Facebook page (Retrieved 31 May 2017.)
  43. ^ "Bastille to play intimate EU referendum gig". NME. 13 June 2016.
  44. ^ "Fans Flock to Secret Home Concerts". The Wall Street Journal. 8 February 2017.
  45. ^ "Yeasayer". Time Out New York. 27 April 2016.
  46. ^ "Tiny Concerts at Coffee Tables Near You". The New York Times. 20 October 2014.
  47. ^ De Puig, Carla. "La Vanguardia". La Vanguardia. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  48. ^ Akyildiz, Tolga. "Hurriyet". Hurriyet. Hurriyet. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  49. ^ "Partner Spotlight: Sofar Sounds". Movember Foundation Blog. 5 November 2016.
  50. ^ Photo from Sofar Sounds NYC Facebook page (Retrieved 31 May 2017.)
  51. ^ "'Give a Home': Massive global concert series will show solidarity with refugees". Amnesty International. 20 June 2017.
  52. ^ Sofar Sounds Website (Retrieved 16 August 2017.)
  53. ^ Karp, Hannah (8 February 2017). "Fans Flock to Secret Home Concerts". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 22 March 2020.

External links[edit]