Small Discoveries: Finding Your Rhythm with Sofar Sounds
As part of our Small Discoveries Series, we’re sitting down with inspiring friends, over a beer, as they share small (but mighty) wins they’ve discovered during lockdown life.
Adam Jackson is UK Artist Operations Manager for Sofar Sounds - a platform that supports artists around the world through live shows and performances. Adam’s gig quite literally involves scouting, reviewing and booking untapped artists for Sofar shows and helping musicians make the most of the opportunities available within the Sofar community.
SB: What has been a memorable live music moment THAT you experienced in lockdown?
ADAM: There was an amazing moment last summer, where a Sofar alumni called Flyte hosted a pop up gig on Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath. It was the first in-person live gig I’d been to in 2020 and although it felt a bit bizarre, it was also really freeing.
It was quite an impromptu socially distanced show, but everyone turned up with the best intentions and were really respectful of the situation. It was a really beautiful day as well, but just before they kicked things off it started to bucket it down with rain. It was a bit of a scramble with all the equipment already set up, but after a full 10 minutes, the rain just stopped and the sun came out.
By the time Flyte started to perform a double rainbow appeared behind them which was pretty surreal. It was just a moment where we thought ‘Wow, this is ridiculous. Of course this is what happens the first time we experience live music in the real world again.'
SB: How have you managed to stay connected with the live music community?
ADAM: It’s been strange not being able to go to gigs all the time and meet new people through those kinds of shared experiences. I’ve ended up diving back into being a headphone listener, which is how I first got into music, so it's been interesting going full circle and feeling like that 15 year old kid again.
Trawling blogs and stumbling across different playlists is a great way to find new music where you can get lost in a tangent of something completely new. I’ve never been big on social media, but I’ve lent into it a lot more in lockdown. If I find an artist that I like on Spotify, I'll go on Instagram, check them out and follow them so I can keep up with their new projects.
It all sounds quite obvious but it makes a massive difference to the artists and is a great way to feel close with the music community. Artists have been so creative with digital content and the many ways they can still connect with fans and perform their music.
Because of all these different platforms, it means that we’ve ended up with a lot of new, interesting kinds of content that probably wouldn't have come about if the world wasn't set on fire and we all got stuck online, so it’s ended up becoming a really nice way to stay connected.
SB: What is the best thing about live music that even a global pandemic can't get in the way of?
ADAM: To be honest, there’s a thin line between music thriving in this sort of situation and also freezing up a bit. Some artists have just completely shut down creatively, without that kind of constant inspiration and hustle of normal everyday life. But that’s not everyone. The other extreme is that collaborating across the country, even across the world has never been easier.
I’ve heard some seriously amazing stuff from this period, where some artists have found ways to keep creating, even if it's not necessarily for conventional releases. They’re making skits for TikTok or doing videos on Instagram or YouTube. Some have set themselves the challenge of making a song a day for a month or shooting a music video every week. It’s a change of mindset where not everything has to be a masterpiece. It’s all about making work for the sake of the process as much as it is about the final result.
SB: Have you thought about what you'll go and see FIRST? Any tips of upcoming gigs to look out for?
ADAM: I mean, it’s got to be a Sofar. I know it sounds cheesy and like I'm just selling Sofar, but I feel like it’s the one experience that perfectly distills all of the things that I've missed.
I've missed hanging out in a crowded room, meeting new people and the anticipation of acts that I’ve not heard before. The artists are just such a great bunch of creative people, I just can’t wait to get back into that kind of atmosphere again.
SB: What has been a 'small discovery' of lockdown that you now can't live without?
ADAM: I moved to London two years before lockdown and fell in love with it because of all the things that are always going on. So, something that will stay with me after this experience is learning to see and enjoy parts of this city that are amazing, but I didn’t notice before. There’s something to be said for taking a step back and enjoying the things that might otherwise have passed you by.
SB: Have there been any innovations in the music industry that you would like to see continue long after lockdown?
ADAM: Definitely. Like I said before, the internet has really opened up and people have really explored how they can collaborate with other artists around the world. It also means that they can connect with fans in places where they usually wouldn't play shows. We’re seeing a massive increase in the number of live streamed performances and while I don’t think they will ever replace an in-person gig, they make those kinds of shows so much more accessible to people who might not be able to physically experience it. I've spoken to a bunch of artists who have no intention of stopping for that reason.
SB: What advice can you give for people to support artists during this time?
ADAM: Sofar is a really good place to start for this because it’s a platform that’s always been designed to support its network of artists. If you want to discover independent talent and cheer them on, it’s a great community to get lost in.
I know it’s obvious and a bit boring, but financial support is just so important for these artists. It’s not something that everyone can help out with, but it can be as simple as buying merchandise from their websites and can go such a long way towards making sure they can carry on creating. Spotify also have a fundraising link where you can donate money straight to the artist. Other things you can do to help are streaming as many of their songs as you can to help them get recognised for future opportunities and just liking their pages and helping them grow their fanbase all adds up.
SB: What resources should people explore to find live performances to enjoy right now?
ADAM: There’s a great website called Bandcamp, which streams music and makes sure that a vast majority of the profits go directly to the artists. On the first Friday of every month they also drop all their charges so the artists featured receive 100% of the revenue raised, which is a pretty rare model these days. If you don’t really know where to start, you can scan through articles they’ve written about certain genres where they recommend a bunch of different artists. I’ve found so many new favourites just by doing that.
We’ve also really expanded our Listening Room on Sofar’s Youtube channel, where we do weekly, sometimes daily live streams for people who really want to seek out those live experiences where they can connect with musicians. We’ve had people from everywhere like the Ukraine to Rwanda tuning in, some of them never missing a gig - it’s amazing!
SB: What’s your take on the future of live music with socially distanced shows?
ADAM: That’s a difficult question. I’m all for it if it can be done safely, there will always be nothing better than having a show with no restrictions, but you can definitely still feel that magic socially distanced! . It’s been difficult for operators to guarantee all audience members go to shows with the right attitude, which have meant that there have been varying degrees of success.
It’s like I said with that Flyte show I mentioned on Parliament Hill...there was no infrastructure there, but everyone came with the best intentions and kept separate in beautiful pockets. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where we don’t need to worry about this side of things, sometime soon...
In accordance with current COVID-19 guidelines, we hope to welcome Sofar Sounds into the Small Beer Brewery again this August 2021!
For more intimate gigs in unique venues around the world (and online), visit https://www.sofarsounds.com/