Would you like Ed Sheeran to sing in your living room? Host an event for Sofar Sounds and it could happen!
Sofar Sounds stages secret concerts in intimate private venues, like people’s homes. The really exciting bit is that neither host nor audience know what bands or artists will be performing until the night. Big stars who have played Sofar Sounds gigs in the UK and Ireland include Bastille, James Bay, Tom Odell, Emeli Sandé and Ed Sheeran.
For those keen to gain experience in organising music events, Sofar Sounds offers a great opportunity, with two ways to get involved. You can either apply to be a host or volunteer with your local Sofar Sounds team. The concept is now operational in 387 cities worldwide, but if you don’t have a local team, you could consider setting one up.
Photo by Amanda Alampi for Sofar Sounds
Sarah Lipman, Sofar Sounds Head of Communications says: “So many Sofar city launches have been a result of local people who are passionate about music and their community and wanted to bring the Sofar experience to their hometowns.
“Sofar Sounds is always on the lookout for great hosts and volunteers. Our shows are held in unique and intimate venues, so we welcome anyone who thinks they have a space that may fit the bill to reach out to us to chat.”
If you’re wondering how it works, chosen hosts simply agree a date for the concert and Sofar Sounds takes care of the rest – promotion, ticketing, artist booking and set-up. A team of volunteers (known as Ambassadors) will arrive at your home with all the equipment required and get everything ready.
“We try to make it as easy and simple as possible for our hosts,” says Sarah. “We staff the show, move the furniture (and move it back at the end of the night) and even take the rubbish out. All our hosts have to do is basically open the door and enjoy the show.”
Photo by Sean McGlynn for Sofar Sounds
Gigs are not just restricted to people’s homes; if you have access to an unusual space, it could be just what they’re looking for.
“We pride ourselves on showcasing amazing talent in non-traditional venues. When we first started out, Sofars were all held in people’s homes. Now we’ve hosted in everything from churches to hoodie shops to fancy furniture showrooms — even at the top of a ski jump in Norway,” explains Sarah.
“We’re looking for unique spaces where you wouldn’t normally see a show and a welcoming host who’s excited to meet new people.”
Photo by Kill The Light Photography for Sofar Sounds
You don’t get paid to host a concert in your property, so what’s in it for you? Says Sarah: “The main reason people choose to host is that they want to bring the magic of Sofar into their space. Whether that’s someone who wants to experience a concert in the warmth of their living room or a commercial host who wants to see great performances while also introducing the neighbourhood to their new store or place of business.”
Of course, one perk is guaranteed front row seats to enjoy the music – plus a few free spots for your friends. Other attendees must enter a lottery to purchase a ticket.
Typically three artists will perform and, although there’s a chance you might get a major name, they’re more likely to be up and coming talent. It’s a great way for music lovers to discover new artists – and means you can say you were among the first to see the act live when they hit the big time!
Sarah explains: “We have local bookers on our Sofar teams who book the artists. Sofar curates unique and diverse lineups that vary in genre and sound. All music submitted to Sofar is listened to by a diverse and knowledgeable team of reviewers, ensuring there is no bias. This allows us to discover the best new music possible for our audiences to enjoy. Above all, we’re looking for quality acts that will engage with our guests.”
Photo by Sean McGlynn for Sofar Sounds
Keen to host but worried that you might upset the neighbours? Artists are asked to play stripped-back, acoustic sets in order to keep the noise level low and shows are normally over by 10:30 pm. What’s more, guests are asked to sit quietly on the floor to listen to the music – no talking or texting.
“We ask that our hosts have a good sense of any building noise restrictions before they confirm the date to host,” adds Sarah. “A good way to make neighbours happy is to invite them to the show!”
How many guests you can expect will depend on the capacity of your venue, but the average size of a Sofar Sounds’ gig is 70 people. That’s also likely to include an AV team since performers often receive a professional video in addition to a fee.
Photo by Cheyenne Cohen for Sofar Sounds
If you’re not content with merely providing a space for the gig and want to get more hands-on, apply to become an Ambassador. For those hoping to join the events industry or music biz, it could be the perfect way to gain experience.
Says Sarah: “No specific background is required. If someone is passionate about music, in-the-know about emerging artists, knows of interesting spaces in their city or just wants to meet cool people, they can get involved. We have ambassadors around the world whose roles can range from greeting guests at a show to booking artists and hosts.”
The most active European Sofar Sounds team is in London, where an average of 60 gigs take place each month, but there are also gigs taking place in 49 other cities around the UK and Ireland.
“Sofar Sounds was founded in London, and to this day, we still put on the most shows there. That being said, we have dedicated teams across the UK and Ireland, and particularly active Sofars in Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool and Dublin. Our Sofar Dublin leader has hosted Hozier twice over the years.”
If you don’t have a local team to join, you can make a new city application: “Every Sofar city has to start with someone. Interested city leaders can contact our team any time to learn more about starting Sofar in their neighbourhood.” So, will your city be next?