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An Inside Look at Sofar Sounds

Julia Escobosa

From one of their summer shows in 2014 with Terreplane Sun

Monina Castillo of Sofar Sounds LA takes College News behind the scenes of the worldwide secret show circuit

What do you do for Sofar Sounds?
I handle the local PR outreach in Los Angeles and help to spread the buzz about Sofar Sounds.

How are the bands and venues selected for each Sofar Sounds show?
There are several ways bands are selected…The Sofar LA team is active in the music scene and discover bands by attending shows locally.  However, a lot of submissions are sent to us through our Sofar LA Facebook page); and then they  get reviewed by Sofar’s global reviewers. If approved unanimously, we book them; but since we get so many submissions, the process can take a while. Sometimes we also get referrals from other Sofar cities who have already booked artists at their shows. As far as the venues, people typically volunteer their spaces after attending one of our Sofar LA sessions.  As part of the Sofar Sounds M.O., it’s usually a living room in order  to keep the shows small and intimate. However, sometimes we book spaces that are unique, including work/space lofts, warehouses, that are slightly bigger.

Why are the details kept so under wraps?
Keeping Sofar Sounds as  “secret shows”  creates a sense of fun and excitement. Additionally, it makes people feel special when they get invited to a session that’s “in-the-know.”

Why was Sofar Sounds started?
The concept began in London back in 2009 by Sofar’s founders, Rafe Offer, David J. Alexander and Rocky Start.  They were all frustrated about musicians getting lost or not heard in the standard live, music-venue scene, typically a loud bar or club where people were always on their phones and noisy conversation and drinking took center stage over the performing bands or artists.  They wanted to create an alternative option – an atmosphere where people would truly listen and give respect to the music that was being played. What resulted was a unique experience and an intimate connection for both music lovers and artists alike.

What impact is Sofar Sounds having on LA? How does it compare to other cities?
Sofar Sounds ( is great music discovery community, which has brought some global flavor to LA.  Music lovers really dig the bands and artists booked by our team.
In Los Angeles, we pride ourselves on curating the best and brightest emerging indie acts, as well as featuring established artists. At Sofar Los Angeles ( we’ve booked Devotchka, Hunter Hunted, Gardens & Villa, Terraplane Sun, Together Pangea, Jamestown Revival, Run River North, Allah-las, Caught A Ghost, The Colourist and Meg Myers – all reputable bands or artists known in the indie-music scene. Conversely, attendees get to discover these bands if they didn’t know them before.
It’s hard to compare to other Sofar cities because each has their own unique identity, but I can say in Los Angeles, we have somewhat easier access to talent because the city is one of the musical capitals of the world. Everyone wants to play in Los Angeles.

As a whole, Sofar’s hope is to continue creating more special experiences and change the culture of live music so that it will receive more undivided attention. We also want to keep expanding (currently Sofar is in 80+ cities), and to continue breaking talented bands and artists through our network of shows, social media and performance videos on Youtube (

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