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Richard Branson invests in Sofar Sounds

By | Published on Wednesday 20 July 2016

Sofar Sounds

That there Richard Branson – you know that there Richard Branson, right, yeah, that’s right, that there Richard Branson – well, he has invested some of that cash of his into the gigs-in-weird-places company Sofar Sounds. And why not, I say. They could put on a gig on one of Branson’s trains. Because they are very weird places.

“Like all the best ideas, Sofar Sounds started life as the solution to a personal problem somebody was facing”, writes Branson in a blog post about his new investment. “Co-founders Rafe Offer, Rocky Start and Dave Alexander were fed up of going to gigs and hearing people talk and play on their phones rather than engage with the artist. So they began organising secret, intimate gigs in their living rooms with the simple idea of making every show magical”.

Sofar Sounds reminds Branson, he says, of the recording studio he opened in the early days of Virgin Records, which came about after he “had the idea of turning my home into a music hub, where artists could practice, write, record, relax and perform.

This vision turned into The Manor, where everyone from Mike Oldfield to The Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa to Paul McCartney played. Later, I originally conceived of Necker [Branson’s Caribbean island and luxury resort] as a recording studio and retreat for artists, and we still often have performances everywhere from the beach to the tennis courts”.

“In the years since, the idea of music being performed in unusual, spontaneous places has slowly been eroded by established concert venues and protocols”, Branson muses on. “You know the drill: go to a soulless hall, look into the distance while a band plays on a raised stage, and everyone stands around looking at their phones. The connection between artist and listener was being lost. This is where Sofar Sounds comes in”.

The average Sofar gig doesn’t take place on a Caribbean island, but they are still kinda cool. “So far there have been more than 4000 Sofar Sounds events featuring over 12,000 artists, and they are growing fast”, Branson says of the firm he has just invested in. “There will be 290 events this month, and the average show is oversubscribed by ten to one. This is the main reason I am excited to be investing in Sofar – the opportunity to help it expand and reach even more music fans. By creating more events in its inimitable style, they will in turn be able to support even more artists”.

Hurrah! Sofar is short for ‘songs from a room’ by the way. It has nothing to do with gigs being held in people’s homes so that you can enjoy them sitting on a sofa. Which I may or may not have assumed when first hearing of the venture back in the day.