Liz Pelly for The Baffler:
Everything about Sofar Sounds is a data-driven simulacrum: a performance of what it might be like to be at a house show, intimate in a way that has been optimized for Instagram. Consistent in a way that for some likely fills a similar purpose as, say, Sweetgreen. The ideal Friday night for digital nomads staying in Airbnbs and co-living pods, looking for frictionless, curated experiences.
Sounds like muzak for tech bros.
And yet, it is largely another creation of tech middlemen where music is devalued in order to bolster a brand: participating musicians are paid poorly (generally one hundred dollars per set, while the company can make from $1,000 to $1,600 per show)… The folks who host the shows and help them run smoothly are largely volunteers—Sofar cynically refers to them as “ambassadors.”
The kill shot, from musician Gabriel Birnbaum:
I remember we got in trouble for being too loud, which is funny because we are not a loud band at all.
So. Sofar provides a sanitised version of cool and relies on volunteer labour to staff events and chronically underpays the musicians it relies on for anything resembling credibility.
This mightn’t surprise you: Sofar is doing well for itself, venture capital wise.