We’ve linked to the work of journalist Liz Pelly before: she’s been one of the most eloquent critics of Spotify specifically and streaming generally, with articles like ‘Discover Weakly‘, ‘Streambait Pop‘ and ‘Big Mood Machine‘. Now she’s turned her attention to live-music startup Sofar Sounds, and is just as unimpressed with the company’s impact on musicians and the wider culture. Her ‘Sofar, So Bad’ article doesn’t pull any punches from the start.
“A venture capital–backed enterprise that has spent the past decade co-opting the timeless traditions of house shows in order to extract profits from the music world,” as she describes the company. “Largely another creation of tech middlemen where music is devalued in order to bolster a brand: participating musicians are paid poorly (generally one hundred dollars per set, while the company can make from $1,000 to $1,600 per show), sets are twenty to twenty-five minutes max, and it’s ultimately quite easy to leave without ever learning the names of the artists at all.”
There’s plenty more in the piece: “It’s what happens when music’s value is reduced to fodder for an experiential product tailored around consumer preferences that aims to maximise profits for investors… a data-driven simulacrum: a performance of what it might be like to be at a house show, intimate in a way that has been optimised for Instagram”. Oof. We suspect Sofar Sounds will be wanting to respond, and we’ll report on that if and when it does.