Frequently Asked Questions
What's this all about?
What is Sofar Sounds?
Sofar Sounds is a global, grassroots network of artists, hosts, and guests, all with the goal of helping to bring the magic back to live music. We curate secret, intimate gigs in unique spaces, from living rooms and churches to hoodie shops and fancy furniture showrooms. We aim to create performance spaces that are respectful to artists, where the audience lives in the moment and listens closely to the music.
We started as a hobby in London back in 2009, became a business a few years ago, and have grown into a global community of music lovers, supporting thousands of artists around the world, putting on hundreds of gigs every month across hundreds of cities.
How did Sofar start?
Sofar Sounds began as a side hobby for founders Rafe Offer and Rocky Start in London in 2009. They felt disheartened by recent concert experiences, and decided to invite some musician friends over to their flat for a low-key intimate show. Sofar became a platform for artists and audiences to come together in a space that is respectful to the performers. This idea was so potent that many cities started their own Sofar chapters. Now, we are in 350 cities worldwide, with around 500 opportunities every month for artists to play. For more info on our story, check out some of these feature articles:
How is a Sofar gig different from a normal gig?
At Sofar Sounds, the music always comes first. People sit, listen, and never talk through the set.
What happens at a Sofar show?
A Sofar show will typically feature three acts with no “opener” and no “headliner”. Every lineup is carefully curated to give the audience a diverse show, and each performer is given equal attention.
Guests arrive on time for the first act and stay for the entire show. Events are normally BYOB, so there’s no waiting at the bar. And during the music, there is full attention: no talking or texting.
You get up close and personal with the artists! There’s no backstage here, so chat with them, get to know them, and even get a drink with them after.
Many of our cities have a video crew who records and edits the performances so you can watch them later on our YouTube channel. You can also buy the artists’ merchandise, follow them on social media, and spread the word. Join us in supporting great new music!
Where is this going on?
We’re currently active in 352 cities worldwide! If you can’t see a page for your city, you can contact us to talk about starting up a Sofar team there.
How do different Sofar cities work?
We have two types of Sofar city: full-time and volunteer/ambassador. The majority of our cities are run by volunteers who put on one or two shows a month. Some volunteer/ambassador cities are pay-what-you-want, and some have fixed ticket prices, depending on what works for their area.
We currently have eight full-time cities: London, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Francisco, and Oslo. These cities have a full-time, paid staff who work hard to bring more shows and more magic to their audiences.
Everywhere else, Sofar is run in the same way as when it started - as a hobby. Our city teams are all passionate about music and artists and want to make a genuine difference in their local scenes.
How does Sofar make money?
At this point, Sofar does not make a profit. Our current financial goal is stability so that we can continue to grow, putting on more shows to highlight more artists, and allow them to perform in multiple cities across the world.
We have not yet reached our goal of sustainability and are working hard to meet it! In the meantime, we’ve been lucky enough to have support from incredible companies (for example, see here) who believe in our mission to change the way live music is experienced.
Who works for Sofar?
Globally we have a staff of around 60 people (as of May 2017).
- Full Time City Teams: We have full-time staff in our large cities - currently, these teams vary from one to four people. They make Sofar happen every day (sometimes multiple times a day) in their city, creating more opportunities for artists to perform and audience members to discover great new music.
- The Community Team: They support, train, and advise our teams who participate with Sofar on a voluntary basis.
- The Finance Team: They make sure artists and partners are paid efficiently and on time!
- The Customer Service Team: They help guests with any questions they might have before or after the show.
- The Tech Team: They build and maintain the website, working to make it easier for guests to apply to shows, follow artists they love, and stay connected, as well as help our teams save time planning shows each month. The Tech Team team is funded almost entirely by external investment.
What about your investors? Don't they want to see returns?
We are incredibly lucky to have investors who genuinely believe in Sofar’s mission of creating a community and global network of artists and music lovers. At the moment, that’s the goal rather than immediate profits.
Why is Sofar a company instead of a non-profit organisation?
We made the decision to become a business a few years ago and, while we discussed for a long time the benefits of being a non-profit, we knew that we could realise Sofar’s full potential best as a business. Non-profits tend to spend a lot of time fundraising, and we didn’t want Sofar’s future to be constantly uncertain, and held up by donations, which can quickly dry up without explanation. We envision Sofar becoming a self-sustaining global community, beholden only to our commitment to create great musical experiences and support artists.
How do I attend a show?
Once you’ve created a profile you’ll be able to apply to attend a show in any city you choose. Click “Apply for a Ticket” on the event you’d like to go to and your name will be put into a draw. From that list, our local teams will select their guests for the night. Our teams work hard to make sure everyone who applies has the chance to experience a Sofar, so if you’re not chosen straight away, please apply again!
If your city has fixed price tickets or pay-what-you-want, once you are selected from the draw, you will then be prompted to purchase your tickets. You will then be able to purchase up to three tickets for the show.
Guaranteed tickets are available in some of our cities. See below for more details.
Why is the lineup and venue location kept secret?
We believe that all artists should be treated with equal respect, whether they’re well-known or not. So to make sure that people don’t apply based on who they’ve heard of, we keep our lineups secret right up to the beginning of the show. Our teams hand-pick only the best in upcoming music, so come with an open mind and get ready for a unique experience!
Many of our venues are people’s homes so, to ensure the privacy of our hosts, we keep the locations secret to everyone but our guests. Plus, aren’t secrets more fun?
Are there any age restrictions for Sofar events?
Since most of our events are BYOB, it’s likely that there will be alcohol present. We take underage drinking very seriously and anyone encouraging or partaking in this will be asked to leave.
For even younger kids, we can’t guarantee that the night’s content will be child-friendly. And regardless of age, children must remain silent during the performances and stay for the entire show. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
Please check with your local team before finalising your spaces at the event.
Can i bring a friend?
Definitely! You can add a +1 to your application at any point up until confirming your space.
If you are in a city with Guaranteed Tickets, you can reserve up to three spaces. See below for more details.
How do i confirm my space?
Depending on the city, you may be asked to make a fixed ticket price or pay-what-you-want payment to confirm your space. Capacity varies by venue so be quick, as spaces can go quickly! If you’re having difficulty confirming your space, and the show has not sold out, please contact us.
When will i find out the location of the venue?
We’ll email you with the venue location at least a day before the show. Location details will also be posted on the event page.
I haven't heard back about my application!
If it’s 24 hours before the show, or the day of, it’s likely that your application was not successful. Please apply again! Our teams work hard to make sure that everyone who applies will eventually get in.
How much are tickets?
It depends on the city! In the majority of our 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, you can choose how much you pay for your ticket prior to the show, in order to confirm your space. The minimum amount is set by the city team.
In the rest of our cities, shows are ticketed. Tickets are $15 per person in the US, £10 in the UK, and 200kr in Norway.
As of May 2017, the cities that have fixed price tickets are:
USA UK Norway St. Louis London Oslo Portland Colchester Bergen Chicago Bournemouth Trondheim Fargo Newcastle Washington D.C Leicester Portsmouth NH Liverpool Seattle Truro Raleigh / Durham Isle of Wight Detroit Manchester Cleveland Oxford Miami Edinburgh Boston Bristol Akron Sheffield Philadelphia Winchester Asheville Southampton Danbury East Orange NYC San Francisco Austin Dallas / Fort Worth Los Angeles Fort Collins Denver Trenton Syracuse Appleton Charlotte Chattanooga Orange County Harrisonburg Charleston SC Greensboro Orlando New Haven Sacramento
Why can't I pay what I want anymore?
We’ve changed our ticketing system in some cities so our teams can more consistently estimate how much they will collect from a show. This allows them to offer artists a more sustainable payment for their performances.
Our goal is to make each show we put on break even so that we can suitably compensate the artists, pay our full time staff who make Sofar happen every day, and also cover boring but important stuff like insurance and performers rights. We aim to make every Sofar excellent value, maintaining our BYOB policy so you don’t have to spend loads of money at a bar, while also providing the highest calibre of live music experience available.
How do I add a +1?
For pay-what-you-want events, or if the city doesn’t require a payment online, you can add a +1 to your application at any point up until confirming your space. Even after you’ve confirmed, you can edit the details of your +1.
In cities with fixed price tickets you can add extra guests after purchase, up to a maximum of three people in total.
What is guaranteed entry?
Through select channels and partners, you may receive a guaranteed entry code. This means that if the show is not sold out, you can “skip the line” and applying process and go straight to payment and confirming your spot.
How is payment taken?
Payment is processed securely through Stripe.
I can't afford Sofar anymore! Can I still come?
Don’t worry! We definitely still want you to come to Sofar. There are a number of ways to come to Sofar for free. You can join one of our city teams and volunteer, or take part in artist competitions to win free tickets. We also offer free spaces to people who host or perform for us.
How is the money from ticket sales distributed?
It depends on the city!
Cash at Shows
In the majority of our cities, and in 67 of the 70 countries where Sofar is happening, audiences pay in cash at the shows, an amount of their choosing. All this money stays with that city team and is distributed in various ways depending on how much they take in - to artists, A/V teams, and to put on the events.
Full-time cities In cities where we have full-time team members and payment is taken online, the money goes to:
- Artist Compensation: Either paying the artists directly, or paying the A/V team to make the video, depending on the compensation agreed upon between artist and booker.
- Staff Salaries: In cities with full-time teams (London, NYC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Oslo) about half the money from each show goes towards paying this full-time staff. These are small teams who in most cases make Sofar happen every day in their cities.
- Other Costs: There are lots of extra costs to putting on each show - VAT, insurance, paying performers rights organisations, third party payment fees, and gig-specific costs (transportation, printing fees, and water for artists).
- Up to this point, none of the money taken at a show in one of our full-time cities goes towards Sofar’s global team.
Volunteer Cities with Online Payment
In cities where Sofar is happening thanks to a team participating on a voluntary basis but payment is being taken online, the money goes toward:
- Artist Compensation: Either paying the artists directly, or paying the A/V team to make the video, depending on the compensation agreed upon between artist and booker.
- Other Costs: There are lots of extra costs to putting on each show - VAT, insurance, paying performers rights organisations, and third party payment fees.
- Global Contributions 10% of the takings at the shows goes towards sustaining the global Sofar team who train, support, and work closely with these teams to help them put on one or two shows a month.
What is a promo code, and how do I get one?
Promo codes are a way for our guests to get into shows more easily. They either offer a guaranteed invitation, priority access tickets, or occasionally free spaces. Promo codes are given via some of our partners, or through your Sofar city. Keep an eye out for competitions or promotions from Sofar to get yours!
Transfers & Refunds
I can't make the show. Can I transfer my ticket?
Yes! If you contact us 48 hours before the show, we can move your space(s) to another date. Any transfer requests made after the 48-hour cutoff cannot be guaranteed.
- Tickets can only be transferred to shows that have not already sold out.
- We can only transfer tickets within the same city.
- Tickets are only transferable once. We are unable to move them again if you can't make the second date.
I can't make the show. Can I get a refund?
We can only offer refunds if the show has been cancelled, rescheduled, or if the venue has changed on the day. We are unable to offer refunds under any other circumstances. Please check the date, time, and location carefully before booking to make sure that you can attend the event.
Can I transfer my ticket to a friend?
Yes! Just contact us with this request and your friend’s name and email, and we’ll transfer the reservation for you. If contacted less than 48 hours prior to the show, we cannot guarantee that your friend will receive an email with the time and location details. In this case, please contact your local team directly to discuss.
I missed the show! Can i trasnfer my ticket to another date?
Unfortunately, no. Transfer requests must be made 48 hours before the show.
In some cases, exceptions may be made. Please contact us if you would like to discuss this further.
I've been invited to a show that i can't attend anymore but i haven't confirmed yet. Can I transfer my invitation to another show?
As our venues have limited capacities, we can only offer invitations to those who have originally applied for that specific event.
Where is Sofar being hosted?
When we first started, Sofar was always hosted in people’s houses or apartments. Hosting concerts in houses is nothing new, and when we started we chose those kind of venues purely out of necessity. Sofar is now happening in a wide range of venues - houses, apartments, offices, breweries, galleries, museums, boats - basically anywhere you wouldn’t expect music or arts to be performed!
How can i host a Sofar?
It’s easy, you can apply here on our site! We’ll just need to know which city and neighbourhood you live in, and how many people your space can fit. If your application to host is successful, you’ll hear back from your local team within a few weeks.
Will my house be safe?
Yes. Sofar audiences are hugely respectful towards their hosts, and our team will be on hand to run the show and clean up after.
In the unlikely event of something going wrong, we will accept full responsibility for any damage incurred.
Will the neighbours complain?
We encourage our artists to play stripped-back sets at Sofar, so the noise level is kept quite low. Plus, our shows are relatively short, normally finishing before 10:30pm. Of course, you can always invite the neighbours along!
Why should I host a Sofar?
Other than an evening of amazing music in your house, there are perks of hosting a Sofar. We will discuss this with you during your application.
Can my friends come?
Definitely! A few spots are always reserved for friends of the host.
How do i get to perform at a Sofar?
We always recommend attending a show first to get an idea of what performing involves. Once you’ve done that, you can send us your music here. It will then go directly to the team of the city in which you want to play. They’ll listen and see if it’s right for them.
When will I hear back?
If your application is successful, you will likely hear from the local team in a few weeks. Due to the number of applications we receive, and depending on the city, this process may take longer. If you don’t hear from us, your application has been unsuccessful this time, but please resubmit when you have new material!
How do you select who plays?
We work hard to curate each lineup. All the music is listened to by our diverse and knowledgeable team of reviewers, ensuring that there is no bias. This helps us find the best new music possible! Above all, we look for quality of talent and acts that will be engaging with our audiences.
Does it have to be music?
Absolutely not! We like to think outside the box, and some of the best Sofar artists have been spoken word poetry, comedy, and even dance.
How are artists compensated?
- Compensation varies greatly by city and country. In the majority of cities, Sofar offers two forms of compensation - either a video or a flat fee. The flat fee also varies by city. Your local booker will discuss these options with you prior to your performance. For those who choose video content, it will be hosted on our YouTube channel.
- A packed room of attentive music lovers: artists tell us that they love the environment of a Sofar. We’ll fill the room with respectful, welcoming and encouraging people - an audience who wants to listen! The artists don’t have to do any of the promoting themselves. They just need to show up and play!
Thanks to the success of our recent ticketing test we are currently reviewing our compensation policy. We will be announcing this on June 1st. Watch this space!
Is there a backline?
No backline is provided. We ask that your setup be as stripped down as possible. If the event includes production, Sofar will provide recording equipment, but you’ll need to bring all your own gear and instruments, including amps. Some cities can provide a small PA for vocals if necessary. Please check with your local city to see if this is possible.
What does "stripped back" mean?
Stripped back does not necessarily mean acoustic, just that your usual setup should been changed to be quieter. Vocals should, in the most part, be unamplified; where possible, electric instruments should be made acoustic; drums should be replaced with other percussive elements, or a very stripped back kit; and amps should be small and portable.
Get creative! Make this an opportunity to arrange your songs in an exciting, new way that your fans haven’t heard before! If you’re struggling, get in touch and we can help you out.
Can I tell people I'm playing?
Yes, we have no problem with you announcing that you’re playing. Just make sure you keep the details to a minimum, as secrecy is part of the Sofar experience!
How will my videos be used?
Your videos will be hosted on our YouTube channel. If we ever have an opportunity to promote the video in other ways, we will always ask your permission first.
Does Sofar make money off my videos?
Any revenue from artist YouTube videos is nominal and is used exclusively for the upkeep of the channel.
Can I sell merch?
Yes! A designated Sofar team member will help you set up and sell, while our MC for the evening will make sure to call attention to your merch. You keep 100% of the sales.
What resources are there for Alumni?
We have an artist services team whose aim is to make sure you are represented and taken care of. This team seeks feedback from artists and uses that feedback to create the best possible experience, for everyone who plays a Sofar. If you’d like to share any feedback, or ask any questions, please get in touch with us.
We’d also love to help you make connections with other members of our community! Please reach out to your local city leader if you are looking for leads on playing other Sofar cities, touring accommodations, venues or fellow artist to share a bill with.
Stay tuned for more artist services as we roll them out.
Can I come to other shows?
Yes! We’d love to have you join us anytime as a guest. Please reach out to your local team if you are traveling and would like to see some great local talent!
Can I play again?
Many of our Sofar cities consistently book standout alumni to play future shows. If you are interested in performing again, please contact your local city. Keep in mind each city has complete discretion over their choice in bookings.
Can I play in other cities?
Sofar has 350 cities around the globe, in 60+ countries. We aim to support our artists so, please, get in touch with us if you’re interested. Our team compiles all touring submissions on a weekly basis and forwards them to the appropriate city leaders for review by their local teams. As much as we’d love to say yes to every request, slots are very limited in most cities. Each individual city has discretion over their bookings and will take a careful look and listen to your submission before reaching out.
You must be a Sofar Alumni to be eligible for Sofar Tours.
Where is my video?
If you’re having any issues getting in touch with your local team regarding your video, please let us know so we can help you!
Is Sofar getting rich off artists?
Sofar is still losing money. Thanks to the success of our ticketing test we are in a better position, but we still have a long way to go. We are focused on becoming a sustainable and viable business, so that we can create more opportunities for great artists to perform to attentive audiences. For more details on where ticket proceeds go, see above.
How do I join my local team?
We are always looking for new people to help us make Sofar happen all over the world. If you have a passion for promoting upcoming artists, know of interesting spaces in your city, or just want to meet like-minded people, please get in touch with us here.
How do I bring Sofar Sounds to my city?
Every new Sofar city starts with someone, and that someone could be you. Contact us to find out how to bring Sofar to where you live.