THERE’S A SECRET IN TORONTO
Intimate venues, mysterious details and a fog of uncertainty. Imagine receiving one of the limited invitations into Toronto’s newest secret society. If you’re hoping for cloak and daggers, secret codes and covert meetings in the dead of night, you might want to try somewhere else. But if you’re a music lover, this is something you’ll want in on ASAP. SoFar Sounds is global organization that facilitates intimate, “stripped down” shows in 368 countries around the world; and now it’s quietly making its presence known in Toronto. As the Toronto Star reported, the most recent concert found Toronto-born flamenco artist Tamar Ilana performing for a small audience of 130 in the Lincoln Hall at Broadview Hotel. An atmosphere, that the artist noted was so different from her normal performances. The level of engagement at these cozy concerts is such that many smart phones lay abandoned in their owner’s pockets. So what is the secret formula that has allowed SoFar Sounds to expand into cities like Toronto? What makes it different? Personally, I’d like to argue that it’s an old idea with great marketing. SoFar uses elements of secrecy and surprise while crafting each show. When each show is scheduled, it is announced simply as a date and neighbourhood. Within the days leading up to the show, the venue is announced. Venues range from rooftops, bedrooms and pubs, to offices, and even to the centre of the Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. It’s all very Nick and Norah, right? But not just anyone can show up, Toronto, you have to apply. This means you’re waiting with baited breath to see if you get to be a part of an exclusive experience with others who share a similar love and appreciation of music. So, if you’re lucky enough to score an invite into the club, you’re in for an unforgettable time, in a unique venue, with unexpected artists. Which, incidentally is something that I think is the best part of this particular platform: You don’t even find out who’s playing until show time. But if they aren’t advertising who is playing, what makes this an attractive opportunity for artists? We’re glad you asked. When artists perform for large crowds they can lose the element of being able to truly engage with their audience. They lose people to their phones, and their social media and it becomes increasingly difficult to make a connection. In a smaller, acoustic setting, it becomes more about the connection, and the music is once again at the centre of the experience. As the Toronto Star noted, it’s also a great platform for rising artists to connect with potential listeners outside of their normal target audience. The veil of mystery also gives these artists an equal platform. People aren’t rushing for tickets based on performer names (There have been some well-known Toronto locals including Royal Wood and Donovan Woods), but instead because they love the musical experience. The design of this platform is to pair people who truly love music with lesser known artists and new venues, in the hope that patrons will not only discover new music, but also new places to visit and experience in Toronto. And so, Toronto, you now know of the secret lurking within your city. Will you try your luck and seek out this new experience? Or have you already had the opportunity? Let us know in the comments below!