Invite the Next Star to the Living Room

gabriel barletta

YouTube concerts can wake up audiences and introduce new musicians.

Through the office around the copier, a group of people crosses the hidden terrace. They take the cans out of their backpacks and sit on the floor. Bright sunshine shines among the trees and several visitors comment on the view of Hradčany, Czech Republic. There are several more people coming to the microphone and one speaker to hear two Norwegian songwriters with mandolin. Everyone scrutinizes space and holds a small program in their hands. They can read for the first time who was actually listening to the Sofar concert.

“We came over through our friend Ivan. He held one of our concerts at home, from which he was very nervous. But then we were thrilled to recommend this office in Rieger’s Gardens. The team got here for a long time, but I was totally impressed by the prospect: I said we had to do it here, “says Kryštof Diatka, one of the organizers of Prague’s Sofar Sounds, a concept that allows for unusual experiences and gives a chance Hear the “next stars”.

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It caught me

The Sofar Concerts were set up in London in 2009 by Raffe Offer, Rocky Start and Dave Alexander after they had gone out of prank at the Friendly Fires. They could not understand that while musicians are playing on the stage, most audiences are looking at smartphones, talking to each other, and almost ignoring what’s going on around them. So they invented the concept of the surprising one-time “surprise pop-up” concerts of Sofar – Songs for a Room, where the visitor almost did not know until the last minute whether the concert was going, where to play and who would ever play.

The conspiratorial aspect attracts audiences to something that can not be repeated, and excites their emotions and expectations, in addition, in small companies, they can feel the music intensely. It has worked – and private concerts have spread to some 350 cities over the years. Sofar is not the only one, but he does not want to work with promoters or music labels: the founder’s priority is the atmosphere and independence without the business principles.

“I was studying in Norway and one classmate started organizing Sofar here because I photographed, asked me if I did not shoot for them sometimes and did not shoot videos I came, I enjoyed it, I caught the atmosphere, I played every show and When I came back, I joined people who had already started with this trend in Prague, and I joined the second concert, “Diatka describes his encounter with the project.

Signing up for an event in any of the participating cities takes place via a simple application form on the web, and the musicians themselves get access to the project. Organizers receive videos or recommend someone to each other. The team in the city must then agree unanimously that the proposed performer will be invited to Sofar. From the Czech bands, for example, Lake Malawi or I Love You Honey Bunny have appeared at the concerts, but most of the time, foreigners who are familiar with the format are from other cities. An example is the international rock band Mal Ruckus, one of the stars of this year’s Rock For People. Bohemia mostly speaks for themselves, on the contrary foreigners offer them.

Before someone starts to complain

Although such projects are mostly attended by musicians with acoustic sets, Sofar provides space for artists from other nooks. “Metal would not have made sense, but there were basically a lot of things – from solo guitars and interesting combinations of instruments and singers to experimental electronics. But most of the genre, of course, is spinning around India, “Diatka says, asking about Sofar’s genuinely scattered.

In Prague, the project has been in operation since last June, and after living rooms, people have started to offer more interesting sites through the form on the web site.

“I enjoyed it most in the courtyard of one house in Peace Square. There was such a small garden where we had the technique and the temporary lighting. It started to dim, and people started to walk out of the courtyard. I waited for someone to complain about us at once, but on the contrary. People started to applaud and cheer, I felt like it all liked it, “he adds.

However, the Prague concert is not so much settled, so far it has 13 concerts. The format is a bit different from cities like New York or London – it looks more like their appearance a few years ago. Contributions to the event are voluntary; For example, in New York where concerts are every day, an entry fee of around five dollars is often required for signing up. Even among Czech listeners, the phenomenon is not so widespread: in Prague’s living room there is an overwhelming majority of the audience full of strangers, which also applies to those who stand out amongst the audience.

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The maximum capacity is about 70 people and according to the number of entries for the concert, the organizers have to choose which one of those who registered on the web will send two days in advance an invitation to the address.

“We definitely give an opportunity to everyone. The main criterion is to give priority to those who have never been here. Then we look at demographics to mix people from all possible groups, but in the end, the coincidence is the coincidence, “the organizers are reluctant to dismiss the project as elitism.

It is amazing how such things can work out. It was revolution when you could start playing mobile slots on the go and now you can see musicians in your neighbourhood and soon maybe your own living room. If you will have big enough that is.

According to the rules

On the terrace in Riegrovy sady, about 30 people sit on the floor, with chairs and fatboy chairs, to obey the rules of the afternoon before the concert of the Norwegian busters Malm & Eng. The audience should concentrate on the audience. Have fun after they do. If this is not the case, do not use mobiles and do not get a show (videos and photos are provided by the organizers). And mainly to enjoy the concert. According to the organizers, it works: “The biggest difference is in the atmosphere. It can be seen that people have a respectful attitude. ”

Events that can be characterized as residential concerts in the YouTube era combine several current trends. An interesting combination of counterparts on one side offers an “analogous” and non-transferable experience of direct interaction with the artist – and most of the musicians are gathered and concert today much more than before to cope with the decline in music sales. There is also a conspiracy and the possibility of an unexpected authentic encounter. On the other hand, it is part of the digital sphere phenomenon, discovering musicians from all over the world via YouTube and the opportunity to go to a concert in any participating city. It is also a possibility of participation, whether as a host or a volunteer, and foreign texts also mention the financial side – unlike clubs with expensive admissions and drinks Sofar is a cheap alternative to entertainment.

For musicians then it means a chance to get to the global consciousness. As a rule, three novice artists alternate with the audience. And they choose two songs from their set that they want to shoot. The best videos will then be directed to a YouTube channel that collects material from all cities involved in the project.

“When we find the band I’m going to spend a week after Spotify, or someone who I know about in my life, I just feel good about it,” says another organizer Brenda Dobrovics among the performances and prepares the camera To capture another emerging – very nervous Tereza Bártlová, who calls her Tessie.


Sofar offers an alternative to bars, loud pubs and street shows for novice performers. Sofar is also looking for a lot of buskers to publish a quality video. The YouTube channel has over 91 million views.

“It’s one of the reasons I wanted to play here. It’s pretty hard to promote today, you can have videos taped on the phone, but that’s nothing you want to present, “confirms German songwriter Marley Wildthing. She got to Sofar when she played in the bar where Brenda sat – and her The recording then approached other organizers.

They then go out to the office with a French window with every visitor. The brown hat of one of them is filled with octopuses, while Marley clears instruments: bass guitar and percussion made from a shell case. “Something like that I’ve had in Saxony, it was a concert in the living room. I do not get paid much, but it’s a different feeling, “he says in the afternoon:” It’s a big difference to me, especially to the places where I play, like an Irish pub where everyone just wants to hear what they know to get drunk and dance Here I can choose what I want, and people really listen to you. “