Since the release of an article by US musician Adam Schatz on Talkhouse.com on August 14, Sofar Sounds has been very much in the eye of online media. Initially just being publicly criticised by artists, news subsequently broke that the London-based organisation was now also under investigation for their labour practises.
Sofar Sounds is a well-funded, for-profit company in many parts of the world. Despite that, it typically utilises volunteer ambassadors and the pay artists receive could best be described as “covering their costs”.
Erica McQueen, who runs the Auckland chapter of Sofar Sounds, kindly sent NZM the following statement about the way Sofar Sounds is run here.
“Sofar Sounds [NZ] isn’t incorporated as a business, so we’re not able to sell tickets. We ask guests for a koha on the door. This has typically averaged $2-5 per person. It varies from show to show as we are always at a different venue, with capacity anywhere from 30-200 people. We’ve been working on ways to encourage our guests to give more generously and think about how much they’d pay to go to another gig.
As in many Sofar cities, we offer the artists either a video or payment. The video is edited and uploaded to the global Sofar Sounds channel with almost 1 million subscribers. Videos often get over 1000 views in the first couple of days, and artists have found this great for NZ On Air funding criteria.
At the moment we are able to pay $70 for a five-song set. Our costs include hospitality for the artists and contributing to travel and parking costs. We pay our video editors and sound engineers. There is a great demand for our shows; we often have a waitlist of 200 people.
Artists enjoy the experience of playing to a room full of attentive listeners, as opposed to half-empty noisy bars. We aim to be transparent in everything we do and understand that Sofar Sounds isn’t for everyone.”