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|Founder||Rocky Start, Rafe Offer, Dave Alexander|
|Headquarters||London, United Kingdom|
|Worldwide, over 350 cities|
|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. They are headquartered at The Roundhouse site, London, UK and were founded in 2009.
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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. They invited eight friends to Alexander's north London flat to listen to him play music in his living room. 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. The founders saw it as a hobby in the beginning and didn't originally intend it as a model that would turn a profit.
Jim Lucchese became the CEO of Sofar Sounds in February 2019.
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. The money is intended for two main purposes - to create artist-focused services and to support the Sofar communities around the world.
As of November 2019, they had hosted over 22,000 performances.
In 2019, Sofar Sounds announced the creation of a Sofar Crew, hired as part-time employees to work alongside Sofar Ambassadors.
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. 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.
Typically, three artists perform at each Sofar gig with no opener and no headliner, an approach that offers an equal opportunity for all of the artists. Performers apply to be considered via a form on the website and can be musicians of any genre. 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.
The guest list is selected with an email ballot; the line-up for a concert is not disclosed until the event starts; the location is announced 24 hours before the show. 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.
Artists are often filmed, with the edited video uploaded to the Sofar Sounds YouTube channel and shared on the website.
Sofar currently operates independently in approximately 444 cities worldwide. 90% of these are free shows where they have a pass-the-hat process for collecting money which pays the artists and covers expenses. 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. The current profit split in the average major city where Sofar has shows is 63% to 37% in favor of the artists.
Notable Partnerships & Performers
In March 2017, a partnership was announced with Airbnb for their new Music Experiences format, which enables Airbnb customers in San Francisco to reserve seats at a Sofar event via the Trips platform.
UK and Irish acts who have performed at Sofar shows include James Bay, Hozier, Emeli Sandé, Will Young, Tom Odell, Shura, Benjamin Clementine, actor Robert Pattinson, Wolf Alice, Bastille, and Lianne La Havas. Both Bastille and Lianne La Havas 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 that was held in London in June 2016 to encourage people to vote in the EU referendum. Other London performers include Lucy Rose, The Staves and Kate Tempest. In 2013, they had a surprise last minute performance from the Twilight star Robert Pattinson.
Some US performers who have appeared in Sofar concerts include Giselle Bellas, Leon Bridges, Fantastic Negrito, Saba, X Ambassadors, Tank and the Bangas, Yeasayer, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs front woman Karen O, while acts such as Núria Graham and Ali Somay have played Sofar Barcelona and Sofar Istanbul, respectively.
The local Sofar Sounds branch in Los Angeles also teamed up with the charity Movember for a Giving Tuesday event, while the New York City branch previously organized a gig in aid of Planned Parenthood.
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. Confirmed artists included Ed Sheeran, Moby, Gregory Porter, Daughter, Jesse & Joy, Hot Chip, Ludovico Einaudi, The National, Mashrou' Leila, and more.
- Sofar Sounds website
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