Sofar Sounds reports $30m in payouts to artists since the pandemic

Sofar Sounds, the global intimate concert network, has made a comeback after facing significant challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting that it paid out more than $30 million to artists since the pandemic.

The figure was reported by Variety on Tuesday (June 13), noting that Sofar has since hosted multiple livestreams and managed to pay some 3,000 artists whose shows were canceled due to the lockdowns despite being initially perceived as one of the music industry’s most vulnerable businesses during the pandemic.

Sofar Sounds managed to weather the storm, paying artists more than $1.5 million over the course of the pandemic, the report said.

Sofar is known for having hosted early performances from the likes of Billie Eilish, Bastille, Leon Bridges, Hozier and YEBBA.

The payouts to artists not only include performance fees but also result from the company’s foray into artist services. Through its platform, Sofar Sounds introduced ‘Fan Rewards’ and VIP experiences that allow artists to offer exclusive perks to their fans.

Jim Lucchese, CEO of Sofar Sounds, acknowledged the impact on artists during the pandemic, noting that more than 70% of them lost over half of their income, while more than 90% lost nearly all of their scheduled gigs.

“We had 3,000 artists that that we had to cancel,” Lucchese was quoted by Variety as saying.

“So sent them a note and originally said, ‘Here’s the money for your shows, what we typically pay, consider it an advance,’ thinking we’d be back in a few months. But as things dragged on, we just said, ‘Keep that money as a grant, basically.”

Sofar also launched a formal grant program for artists.

During the pandemic, Sofar remained financially stable by organizing livestreamed concerts called Listening Room, where artists retained 100% of the donations, with an average amount of $450 per performance. 

Furthermore, the company secured support from investors and sponsors. Lucchese had been planning the expansion into artist services even before the pandemic, and in February 2021, Sofar acquired Seated, allowing touring artists to connect directly with fans through a listings tool for promoting non-Sofar shows and merchandise. 

The company also diversified its livestream offerings to include tailored options and VIP packages, ranging from virtual birthday parties to corporate team-building events.

“This is operationally hands-on, where we work with the artists and managers to create custom VIP experiences, and then build a bit of tech and provide services to bring those to life. That can be anything from early access to tickets to a meet-and-greet or a fully bespoke fan experience,” Lucchese told Variety.

With the resumption of live events, Sofar has expanded beyond its traditional format of three artists performing 20-25 minute sets in unconventional venues. The company now offers various show formats that command higher compensation.

The company now aims to host about 10,000 shows across 400 cities worldwide by the end of the year.

Before the pandemic, Sofar revealed in May 2019 that it had raised $25 million to fuel its future expansion around the world. The investment round was led by Battery Ventures and Union Square Ventures, with existing investors Octopus Ventures and Virgin Group also participating in the round.

Two months later, Sofar partnered with Signia Creative, a division of the private investment office Signia, and UK-based charity Help Musicians on a series of shows to raise funds to support musicians.

 Music Business Worldwide

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