Ever feel like listening to live music without hearing all the chitter chatter from a big venue? Well, Sofar Sounds brings together music lovers from all over the world in an intimate setting, where the focus lies solely between you and the music. Novella talked to Brandon Lablong, one of the producers of Sofar Sounds Toronto, and talked about how Toronto has responded to the intimate setting shows, the bands that have already performed with Sofar and how you can get exclusively invited to the private shows that are scattered throughout Toronto.
Read about Sofar Sounds Toronto, our first feature for the ‘On Our Radar’ segment, and find out why they top our list.
Tell me a little bit about Sofar Sounds and why you decided to bring it to Toronto.
Brandon: 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.
Is the goal just to work with local bands from our city? Or would you be open to bringing in other local bands from all over the world?
Brandon: 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. 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.
At each of our shows we have a professional audio technician, photographer and videographers. We produce audio tracks and video for each band that gets put on our international YouTube and SoundCloud pages. 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. In March, we actually got a million hits!
I recently interviewed a singer-songwriter from Toronto who has had more luck in Europe. He’s said that the difference between the European audience and Toronto audience is that they actually stop and listen to the music, whereas Toronto treats band nights as a social gathering – people catching up with friends. Do you agree? Do you think Sofar Sounds can change the way Toronto listens to music?
Brandon: It’s funny you say that. One of the comments we get from our bands is how eerie it is to perform to a quiet, attentive audience. I tend to agree though that when people go out to a show, the music might be seen as ambiance more than the attraction. Although, as we’ve 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.
What has been the reaction in Toronto with hosting these music nights in an intimate setting?
Brandon: I think the reaction has generally been good. Having it in an intimate setting creates a very unique way for the audience and the artists to interact.
Which bands have you worked with already?
Brandon: We’ve had a load of amazing bands already. Our February show featured Bellwoods, Kira May and Art & Woodhouse. Following that we hosted an International Women’s Day show in March with Stacey, Emma Lee and Katy Carswell. Finally, our latest show in April featured AHI, Nick Ferrio, Birds of Bellwoods and Ivory Hours.
How can our readers find out about one of the secret shows?
Brandon: Get on the Sofar Sounds newsletter by visiting sofarsounds.com. Sofar Sounds is now in more than 100 cities and we encourage you to check out a show not only in Toronto but whenever you visit one of these cities.
Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Brandon: If you want to get involved, beyond attending a show, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always looking for new bands, people who want to host a show in their space (whether that’s a home or business) and volunteers to help with production.