Published on November 24, 2013 | by Nina Hoogstraate


Sofar sounds out the real music lovers

Official Sofar Sounds logo [flickr: SofarSounds]

After a Friendly Fires gig, where “half the room was talking or texting…instead of enjoying the band”, Rafe Offer and his friend Dave Alexander said “there must be a better way” of getting music loving people together in a room to fully focus on the artists’ performance.

Offer, who is 48 and originally from Chicago, studied English Literature and Politics; before coming to London, he worked in New York, LA and Atlanta, doing varying jobs from advertising to global marketing for the Walt Disney Company.

Sofar Sounds was born in 2009, right here in the little diverse hub called London.

The first gig was at Dave Alexander’s house, where he performed himself.

Ever since then, many people have offered up their humble abodes to create seamless, intimate gigs. “At first it was tough to convince people to welcome ‘music loving strangers’ in their homes… But everyone is always so incredibly respectful and in a good mood,” says Offer.


Creating a community feel in a big city such as London can be a tricky thing –  you can’t even get people to make eye contact on public transport.

Sofar has opened the doors to people who seek openness and a warmth from others: joining through their mutual relationship with music, Offer describes the atmosphere; “there’s a lot of love in the air – love for music and other people.  People connect instantly and have all those barriers you get in bars and venues go away.  Then the music makes the whole vibe electric.”

Now established in 40 locations – from places like Birmingham to Perth – and constantly popping up in new places, Sofar’s atmosphere definitely play a big part in the experience: “People relax instantly when in someone’s home. They are much more friendly to each other – and well behaved! They are also curious to see what this person is all about – the stranger who is hosting them. So it becomes part gig, part house party, but without the vomit.”

Offer said his favourite living room was at his friend’s, Skye, in Mile End, which was formerly a Cigar Factory, “you could see across all of London – and it’s shabby chic – paint chipping and dripping with charm.  The whole building is full of creative people as well.”


“There’s a lot of love in the air – love for music and other people.  People connect instantly and have all those barriers you get in bars and venues go away.  Then the music makes the whole vibe electric.” – Rafe Offer

The crowd at gigs are generally a series of different creative individuals, “either something like an artist or designer – or helping other creatives, like an agency.  The others who come are massive music fans – anyone who’d seek out a secret location and not know the line-up is really into their tunes!” explains Offer

Hosting three gigs a month in the capital, Sofar focuses not simply on one type of music; a variety of genres can be discovered, “we have folk and ‘indie’ / alternative but also spoken word, hip-hop, comedy – even a heavy metal band that figured out a way to strip their songs way back – they were awesome.”

Offer couldn’t answer whom his favourite artist at Sofar had been, so far. He exclaimed it would be “like picking your favourite child.  Can’t do it – with so many difference genres and styles and tempos…I like so many of them.  Sorry for the politically correct answer!”

What makes Sofar so special is the whole process, and the idea that it’s all purely for music. You register for the mailing list in your area and receive an email for when the next gig is taking place. The location isn’t announced until the day before, and there’s no entry fee – another factor which makes Sofar so unique; as a worthy non-profit event in London can be hard to find.

Having expanded so lucratively, Offer says he would love to “do more gigs in Africa where there is so much wonderful history and talent that deserves a voice.”

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