House Concerts Help Up-And-Coming Artists Get Exposure

Before they make it to radio, most artists and musicians start small – really small.

On a Saturday in September, NBC 5 went to a North Dallas home to see up-and-coming artists perform. It was the fifth anniversary of Sofar DFW. Sofar is short for "Songs from a Room." It's a house concert circuit in 278 cities worldwide.

"Sofar really tries to find those artists who have something different," said Sofar DFW Director Tony Najera. "It's catching on because it's cool!"

If you've never heard of Sofar, there's a reason. The concerts are kept secret. The performers aren't announced until showtime. The venues are intimate.

"I'm still shaking all the nerves out," said singer/songwriter Ronnie Heart after his performance. "It was a good prompt for me to play my music in a completely different way."

Heart, who doesn't usually play unplugged, added a jazz flute to his set at the last minute, for a totally different sound.

The artists aren't paid for performances. The payment is exposure. Sofar has a multiplying factor. The concerts are recorded, produced to a professional video and put on their website, where that exposure goes worldwide.

"Which is essentially several hundred dollars," explained Jenner Fox, of the Odell Fox folk duo. "Good as gold!"

Soulful Fort Worth singer Leon Bridges once played for Sofar. Now he's on the radio and stages around the world.

"Sometimes you can find them on the radio, sometimes you can't," explained Najera. "They're using Sofar as a platform to kind of springboard them on later."

The exposure isn't just for the artists. It's for the audience, too. The performers aren't announced before the shows so those who attend expose themselves to music and arts they might not otherwise go see. The Sept. 5 anniversary show included music acts Ronnie Heart, Odell Fox and a slam Poet named Javon Rustin.

The intimate atmosphere is hard to duplicate.

"It makes all the difference that people really listen and being there with you, and it's just a special thing for us," said Fox. "Even if it was a big dark room with a thousand people and everyone's listening on bated breath, like that would be cool. We wouldn't mind that!"

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