Thinking with Music...

Sofar, so good..

I went to my first Sofar concert last night. Sofar stand for “Sounds from a Room” – it’s a new way to experience live music in unconventional settings. The location of the concerts and the bands playing is secret until you are “in”.

This one was held at an apartment (not huge) in Copenhagen. I was surprised that the place wasn’t bigger and I’m now seriously contemplating offering to host one myself. Impressed that they managed to pack 60 people in there.

Astrid Engberg w. band at a secret location in Copenhagen

The two bands on for this evening was Astrid Engberg and Michael Barcelona and the World. Really liked Astrid’s bluesy sound (and check out that beautiful guitar she also played below!) and Michael Barcelona and the World’s guitars galore (3!) along with some sweet harmonies.

Michael Barcelona and the World

I love this concept. It’s very up close and personal, for musicians and audiences alike. It privileges acoustic sound and artists that have the chops and the content to pull it of. The audience is attentive in a way that you don’t get in a club setting (here I mean a rock/pop venue, jazz clubs can be so quiet you worry about chewing down too hard on the beer nuts). There’s a sense of togetherness and discovery.

One thing that I have to take issue with in this though… The musicians don’t get paid. The whole organisation is non-profit and runs on donations. The money in the kit at the end of the night goes toward marketing, small sundries for the host, and for video and audio engineers. The reasoning is that the bands all get a beautifully edited video of the performance and via this exposure to the entire Sofar Community, which covers some 80 cities.

Astrid Engberg’s superfly guitar..

Still, the idea that music is somehow something that just exists and that we don’t need to pay for is not just unfair toward the musicians, who work hard at their art for years, invest in equipment, websites, pay managers and booking agents, transport themselves and their gear to a gig etc, etc… it is essentially undermining to the entire industry: Not paying musicians means not sustaining the people who produce the core-product in the first place. There a whole underlying discussion here about the value we place on such things as music in our society that maybe belong in another blog post.

For now, lets think about how we can get a little more Fairtrade in the music business.


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