BY TIM INGHAM
Sofar Sounds, the global intimate concert network, has raised $25m to fuel its future expansion around the world, MBW can reveal.
The raise is being led by Battery Ventures and Union Square Ventures, with existing investors Octopus Ventures and Virgin Group also participating in the round.
The news comes three months after Jim Lucchese, the ex-CEO of The Echo Nest – and founding Global Head of Creator at Spotify – was hired as Sofar Sounds’ new CEO.
Battery Ventures’ general partner, Scott Tobin, said of his firm’s Sofar Sounds investment: “We are incredibly excited to join the Sofar community as an investor, board member and fans.”
He added: “With music in a period of disruption, Sofar and its global community continue to be a positive force for change. We are proud to be a part of this movement.”
Sofar Sounds, which was founded in London in 2009, is now active in 430 cities globally – including London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Sydney, Buenos Aires and Seoul.
It has hosted over 20,000 shows over the past decade, including standout early performances from the likes of Billie Eilish, Bastille, Leon Bridges, Hozier and YEBBA.
Today, the company hosts over 600 shows worldwide each month, with 75 employees globally. It says its revenue – mainly via ticket sales – has tripled over the past 18 months.
In addition to hosting one-off intimate shows with artists, Sofar Sounds is also a media content company, producing and hosting recordings of live performances on its YouTube channel – which has racked up over 225m views to date and has nearly 900,000 subscribers.
Billie Eilish’s performance of Six Feet Under at a Sofar Sounds show in Los Angeles (pictured) in August last year, for example, has attracted over 9m plays so far.
Speaking to MBW, Jim Lucchese said that the “scale of Sofar Sounds is really ramping up”.
He noted that in a world of global mass-market streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube Music, Sofar Sounds has found a lucrative niche in “creating a space where the artist is the focal point”.
Lucchese said that Sofar would use the $25m investment to “build our live infrastructure, combined with out ability to be a powerful promotional platform for artists”.
He noted that artists are increasingly adding small-scale Sofar dates in cities where they can use these shows to promote other, larger-scale concerts nearby.
“You’ll see us investing in a new website, and ramping up our artist-focused team to provide artists support,” said Lucchese. “We also see lots of ways to make touring of Sofar cities more organic for the artist.
“I WOULD SAY THAT STREAMING MUSIC DISCOVERY HAS NOW REACHED SCALE, AND THAT SOFAR ALLOWS US TO FOCUS INSTEAD ON THE MAGIC OF DISCOVERING AN ARTIST LIVE, AND FORMING A CONNECTION WHICH IS DEEPER IN MANY WAYS [THAN PLAYING A TRACK ON A STREAMING SERVICE].”
“Sofar is, No.1, a global community, which will we will continue to build and support, but it should also be seen through the lens of an artist development platform.”
Tickets to Sofar shows typically cost in the region of $20. Lucchese said Sofar is actively seeking event brand partners to boost its revenue, but that the firm would remained “disciplined” in its approach.
“I joined the Echo Nest to fix an element of artist discovery,” said Lucchese. “Prior that that, recommendations [on digital services] were largely just the popular stuff. The way our [technology] has made its way into Discovery Weekly and FreshFinds [playlists] at Spotify are great examples of what was achieved.
“I would say that streaming music discovery has now reached scale, and that Sofar allows us to focus instead on the magic of discovering an artist live, and forming a connection which is deeper in many ways [than playing a track on a streaming service].”
He added: “I believe there’s limitless potential to an audience sitting down in a room and really connecting with an artist in that way. We want to take that artist-fan connection and scale it globally, amplified by our [online] content, and really fill a gap in the market.”