Originally published November 22, 2016.
The power of music is beautiful. Few events bring a diverse group of people from all different walks of life together, yet music does just this. We all have our favorite artists, genres, and songs that we will always listen to but what if we said that you could host a concert in the comfort your own living room? With SofaConcerts, you can.
SofaConcerts is a networking platform that connects artists and fans in a more intimate setting. Founders Miriam Schütt and Marie-Lene Armingeon grasped the opportunity to change how people can experience the music that they love. We spoke with them about their motivation for starting SofaConcerts and how their platform creates a lasting impact for everyone involved.
What was your motivation for starting SofaConcerts? Where did the idea come from?
Miriam and I have been friends since our teenage years. We always shared the passion for music and loved discovering new artists. After high school, we both pursued our careers in different fields (business and education) but always reunited to go to concerts together. At one point, a friend of ours invited us to a house concert in a student flat. We – and everybody else – absolutely loved the band, the setting and the whole atmosphere. So we thought that if getting artists and fans together can be so simple and so amazing, why are there not more people doing it? That’s how the idea to SofaConcerts was born.
So tell us, how exactly does it work?
Artists and hosts sign up on our platform and present their music or their stage on a profile. They can then get in touch with each other to organize concerts themselves. This can be from the artist’s side to fill off-days on tour on convenient spots on the road, or it can be on hosts’ initiative to plan a get-together with friends, a house warming party or as a birthday present. For hosts who don’t want to be contacted by artists, there is the option of planning an individual event only. You can simply invite your favorite artist, confirm the booking if they confirm your offer and let the magic happen! Most artists bring all they need for the gig with them, so all you have to do is to invite your friends, sit down, relax and enjoy the show!
How do you find the artists? Are they paid?
Artists usually apply to get involved on our platform because they love these kinds of intimate gigs and new opportunities that our community creates. And yes, surprisingly, just like other people, musicians actually also need money to pay their bills! Fees vary from artist to artist and may begin at 100 or 1.500 € per gig. That’s why every artist states their individual minimum expectations for different occasions like house concerts, birthday parties or corporate events. Hosts who are interested make an offer based on that and after that, it’s up to them to negotiate a deal that makes everyone happy. Our booking tool guides them through the negotiation process, provides secure payment options and makes sure the money reaches the artists after the gig. For this service, we charge a commission of 13%, which is the core of our business model.
What aspect of your work is most rewarding?
Lots of artists have told us that we have created the platform they always dreamed of having. We also hear many stories of fun experiences at concerts, people they met, friends they made, all of which we helped facilitate. Knowing that what we do makes a big difference, not only to artists’ careers but also to people’s everyday lives is extremely encouraging and reminds us of why got started in the first place!
How are you funded?
We bootstrapped at the beginning and tried to keep our expenses as low as possible – everything came from our own pockets at the start. Then we received some funding from an innovation program which covered the further development and our salaries for the next bit. From this year on, the platform has been dependent on its own revenue that it creates, which means we need to prioritize very clearly. But this also means we still hold 100% of all company shares and can decide for ourselves where we’re heading with it.
On that note, would you consider yourselves a social business, and if so, why?
That depends on your definition and concept of social entrepreneurship. From our perspective we see that we create a lot of value with our approach. This is first of all economic value for independent artists who usually have a hard time making a living off their work. SofaConcerts has fair terms for them and offers them a steady and reliable source of income. Apart from the financial aspect, we see a lot of structural change happening. Many SofaConcerts take place in rural areas. Because we make live music visible and accessible all over the world, music fans are able to create new music scenes in areas where there’s hardly any cultural scene or infrastructure that could provide it.
What three pieces of advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
If you have an idea, are passionate about it and have a clear vision of where you want to go, go for it and just give it a try!
Always ask for lots of feedback. Then effectively filter what you need to take seriously!
If you feel discouraged, remember your original motivation and focus on your vision, talk to people who support you and keep going!
What’s next for SofaConcerts?
We’re in the process of expanding our network internationally. So far, there are hosts and artists in over 16 countries world-wide. In Germany you can find hosts and artists almost anywhere and our goal is to become a Europe-wide network which allows artists to plan international tours easily and reach out to new fans who will discover and support great talents and tomorrow’s stars in their own homes!