Sofar Sounds Istanbul

MusicMay 11, 2016
Sofar Sounds Istanbul

Music project Sofar (Sounds From A Room) brings talented local musicians together in house gigs with an audience who desperately runs away from big concerts, in 240 cities throughout the world. Sofar started back in 2009 in London and Chicago, defined as ‘secret house concerts’, keeping the artists a big secret and bringing back the long gone audience manners through its isolated naive gigs. Eda Demir, who says that she has researched music and musicians all her life, is the name who started Sofar Sounds in Istanbul. We talked about the calmly yet profoundly growing Sofar Sounds which has already conquered social media.

Can you tell us about the period from the first moment you met Sofar to when you brought it to Istanbul?

I was working in a trend consultancy company and reporting leading world trends for brands in 2013. When I was doing some research regarding this, I read that people’s music- listening behavior had been changing, that there was a music movement called Sofar Sounds and people listened to music in houses with a more boutique set up. I wrote a Turkish article on this topic. Then, with the intention to bring the concept here, I reached out to the global team and after a 6-month period, we started it in Istanbul too.

When we ask what Sofar is, we always find similar statements in the answers: “Best musicians of recent times come out during these concerts.” Could you tell us about the work that creates this impact? Who are these names?

What can we say, thanks so much to those who think this way. We are very sensitive about the choice of musicians; we have a world and we take musicians who are in that world onto the stage; there is a feeling and if they give that feeling, then we’ve already brought the music together with the audience. There is no practical formula for this, it’s personal. But we are really happy that we can get this feeling across and gain this much trust, it’s an indefinable interaction.

How do you reach new musicians?

All my life I have done research for music and musicians, read the album covers and found out about the names behind the music. I used to research for myself, now I got the chance to do it as a job, that’s just it. Actually there is no ‘how’ because there is the internet now.

What are your criteria?

Good music. We have no genre limitation, of course this is an alternative music platform but music genres are deeply entangled; unless it’s arabeque music we host pop rock artists who has a pop sound, also hip hop, electronic music, and rap too. There are both groups as well as singers on their own who grab their guitars that go on stage.

How about the audience, how do you reach them? Or how do they reach you?

Sofar Sounds give concerts across 240 cities, so they have a global mailing list. We make new reservations for each concert. We choose the audience by casting lots from random. org among the people who click and make reservations for concert dates listed in

We care a lot for good music, some cities may be flexible on that and give chances to everyone who apply, please don’t take it as presumptuousness but this is a strategy, we are very disciplined on this issue.

What kind of interaction is born out of this situation where the audience doesn’t know the performer until the last moment?

Now there is a perception that whoever it is, they will make good music, we get this feedback from the audience. Since we built this trust, I don’t think they come with a question of listening to good or bad music; yet that obscurity is magical, guessing what kind of music it is, if it is a woman or a man, Turkish lyrics or not; you know nothing. This kind of experience is rare.

What is the feeling that you observe when the group takes the stage and starts to sing the first song?

Peace, comfort, amazement, happiness. We are certain that the audience will like the music since we spend so much time working on these events and we know our audience well. Of course there are music genres that don’t appeal to everybody, and that’s a barrier, but we make sure to have 3 musicians who play completely different sounds in every concert, so if one isn’t suiting to the audience, the other one surely will be.

And of course there is the most critical point of Sofar; the locations…

Yes, we give concerts in houses; real houses where you drink your tea in the morning or lay your legs and watch a series in the afternoon.

You say “We are the biggest Sofar in the world.” What difference does Istanbul make in this global organization?

By all measurable criteria such as the number of followers, registered listeners, video views, applications for a concert, yes, this Sofar is the most popular among 240 cities. We care a lot for good music, some cities may be flexible on that and give chances to everyone who apply, please don’t take it as presumptuousness but this is a strategy, we are very disciplined on this issue. That sense of ‘whatever comes, I will like it’ creates loyalty, so you can create a community and grow together. If there is no curation, people will sometimes be with you, sometime not. We make sure that we are always there for the audience, each and every single time. Also there are cultural factors, this kind of online-offline work here is a first, maybe it’s not the first for some cities which affects the attention it receives.

How do you describe the hierarchy to get a spot, and the cell phone hegemony from calls to messages, from video recording to photography madness in today’s concerts?

Personally I have been a concert person all my life. I get extremely disturbed by people talking around me in concerts, as I don’t need anything else than music in a concert, it bothers me that people go in and out to get drinks, I don’t like to be bumped into by someone every 3 minutes. I am not in that concert to watch it from people’s iPad or phone screens. So, even though being part of the collective psychology of an open air festival or a concert venue is magical, it’s really difficult to survive in a concert. Since I’ve been introduced to Sofar, I can’t listen to music anywhere else easily.

Author: Duygu Bengi