Interview – Sofar Sounds Toronto

By: Jenna Melanson

If you haven’t heard of Sofar Sounds Toronto, you are about to, and you will be glad you took the time to read this. They produce amazing, secret shows in intimate settings, and the best part is, it’s by invite-only. How unique is that!?

I had a chance to ask co-producer, Brandon Lablong a series of questions about Sofar Sounds Toronto, and it just so happens the email will go out tomorrow to register for their next show, so be sure to sign up to their mailing list to get a chance to apply! http://bit.ly/Sofarsignup

What is Sofar Sounds?

Sofar Sounds Toronto produces secret, invite-only concerts in intimate settings (including people’s living rooms) where dedicated music fans can discover their new favourite sound from both local and international artists.

We put on shows once a month, letting members of our mailing list sign up for spots on the first of each month. Admission is limited, with room for 80 people or less, and we frequently sell out within minutes (our waiting list gets pretty long). The show venue is only revealed 24 hours before showtime and guests only find out the featured musicians once they arrive.

Run by a dedicated team of volunteers who are passionate about music, our goal at Sofar Sounds Toronto is to bring a truly unique experience that not only showcases great local and international talent, but also introduce serious music fans to interesting venues and locations around the city they might never have been before.

How did you get involved with Sofar Sounds?

About a year ago, in passing, a friend of mine heard about Sofar Sounds. He then contacted Sofar Sounds to see when the next Toronto show was and they said there wasn’t a team currently in place in Toronto to put together new shows. He immediately took advance of the situation, called me and a couple other friends and we started working on our first show.

Do you know how the idea of Sofar Sounds came about?

Sofar, ‘Songs From a Room’, began in London, England in March 2009. A couple of guys were getting fed up with the lack of attention paid to live music when they went out. They found that people would either show up late to a show, leaving the band to perform to an almost empty room, or people were distracted in conversation during a set. They arranged their first show in their living room and a couple rules were set in place: you had to be on time and you can’t speak or leave during a set.

The idea of having secret, intimate concerts is genius, can you describe to us how the atmosphere in these concerts differ from a regular live show?

One of the comments we get from our bands is how eerie it is to perform to a quiet, attentive audience. Often, when people go out to a regular live show, the music is seen as ambiance more than the attraction and at a Sofar Sounds show people indulge in the music and focus their attention. As we’ve now seen, there is a strong contingent of music lovers who respect the craft and believe going to a concert is no different than walking through an art gallery or seeing a play.

I think it largely comes down to value. If someone values what they are getting, they will give it the attention it deserves. By limiting our attendance and holding back on revealing the venue and artists, we create a stronger demand for the product and therefore more value.

Sofar Sounds Toronto is a branch of a larger project, how can someone get their city involved?

Sofar Sounds is in about 150 cities around the world. On our website, www.sofarsounds.com, fans can contact our lead team and get started. You can also use the website to find out about upcoming shows in different cities, how to get your band involved, how to host a show in your space and how to volunteer.

Are you currently looking for volunteers to work with you at Sofar Sounds Toronto?

We are looking to grow our team and produce more shows in the city. Currently, we’re on the prowl for volunteers with technical expertise. At each show we produce professional grade audio tracks for SoundCloud, photographs and videos for our international YouTube page. We are also looking for community members who are open to volunteering their homes or businesses to host a show. We’ve held shows in living rooms, backyards, office spaces, retail stores and more. If you want to volunteer please feel free to drop us an email at toronto@sofarsounds.com.

Does Sofar Sounds Toronto strictly feature Toronto based bands?

We’re very open to welcoming bands from all around the world. Our goal is to provide opportunities for bands to get exposed by the international soundscape and to open the ears of music fans to new sounds from around the globe while also seeing what Toronto has to offer. Our music selection is like choosing a dish off a menu. There is amazing Canadian cuisine but you’re missing out if you don’t try a new flavour every once in a while.

As I mentioned earlier, at each of our shows we produce audio tracks and videos that get shared internationally through SoundCloud and YouTube. Our YouTube channel has over 62,000 subscribers from around the world and is among one of the most highly viewed music channels on YouTube. This year we actually surpassed a million hits!

How would a band go about getting information on being featured in one of these invite-only concerts?

Interested musicians can visit our website, www.sofarsounds.com or email us at toronto@sofarsounds.com.

Can you explain the process that is gone through when choosing artists/ bands to be featured?

Once a band approaches us about performing, we send forward their music to a team of listeners to decide if the band is a right fit for Sofar Sounds and which other bands would complement them at a show. We also keep our eyes out for touring bands and other opportunities to bring in great music.

The shows are all filmed, and posted on YouTube so everyone can enjoy after the fact, do you find the videos convey the same emotion as being there in person?

I’m a self-proclaimed Sofar Sounds YouTube junky. I think our videographers and editors do an amazing job of curating the videos that go online. I know from a recent conversation with our video team that they care deeply for the quality of the video. They understand that this is the first impression a lot of the performers have on the international soundscape and they want to show   them in their best light.

With that said, there is nothing quite like the live show. So much of what you feel when you listen to music is in relation to the shared experience with an audience.

Lastly, can you please give the readers a brief rundown of how they can get into one of these shows?

Get on the Sofar Sounds newsletter by visiting www.sofarsounds.com. At the top of the month we release the next set of show dates for each city.

 

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