How Virgin Money and Sofar Sounds are keeping shared experiences alive

Throughout the Creative Matters Spotlight series we’ve been striving to gain a greater understanding of the impact of music, film and art on wider society. What better way to do so, we thought, than by teaming up with a global community dedicated to supporting new creative talent and bringing people together.

We recently hosted a gig with Sofar Sounds in one of Virgin Money’s Lounges, to which our readers were given the chance to purchase queue-jumping tickets and join us at the show. The evening saw an intimate crowd take in performances from three very different acts; The Last Dinosaur, Acantha Lang and Three Laws.

While the music might be the motivating factor to attend for many, the benefits are far greater. Speaking to Virgin before the event, Sofar Sounds founder and CEO Rafe Offer explained why the shows give people something different from the usual gig-going experience. "Sofar brings people together for a shared experience because the phones, even the drinks, all of that is off to the side. So you’re as human as you can possibly be, you’re in the moment."

This sentiment is something which is shared by Virgin Money, who have designed their Lounges to be a break from the norm and driven by a sense of community.

"Our Lounges were launched seven years ago to be about more than money and banking. They’re part of our ambition to be a very different kind of bank - one that makes everyone better off," notes Victoria Eaton, Virgin Money Brand Marketing and Campaign Manager.

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"They’re designed to be rewarding spaces that inspire wellbeing, where customers can relax and communities can come together. By hosting regular events and developing strong partnerships within the Lounges’ local communities, we can help to amplify the messages of important causes and connect people through memorable experiences.

"Culture and the arts, in particular, are a great way to bring people from different backgrounds together. They say that music is a universal language and so events like Sofar Sounds are accessible to all, they transcend cultural difference and create a closeness and common purpose between people - we love sharing our space to make that connection happen."

The gig was the seventh to be hosted at Virgin Money’s Eagle Place Lounge in London, during which time they’ve had over 500 people come along to experience new music in an unusual setting which is typical of both the Sofar Sounds and Virgin Money ethos.

"Virgin has a history proudly rooted in music and it’s something that we’re proud to and can keep alive - Reminiscent of the Virgin Record store days when bands were playing intimate gigs in them, Virgin Money Lounges provide a unique space to support the Sofar Sounds global music movement," explains Eaton.

"Not only that though, the gigs bring in a brand new audience to the Lounges. For lots of people, banking is something they do on their smartphone - they barely set foot in a branch - so we want to create imaginative new ways to get people to spend time with us and enjoy that time too."

That idea of replacing time spent on smartphones with a real life experience is one that appeals to Offer as well, who encourages people to not document the gigs on their phones. "At a Sofar show you’re in the moment, you’re in an intimate space where you can literally see everybody and because you’re less encumbered by your phone and other things, you’re focused on other folks… Mindfulness is a big thing right now because people want to switch off."

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As much-loved British artist David Hockney stated in his contribution to the series, art cannot be anything but a medium of communication. While many of the people we’ve featured, such as Artist in Residence Alice Skinner, will use this form of communication to impact change the Sofar Sounds model is empowering the consumers to themselves communicate with one another - an act which has been somewhat complicated by the proliferation of new technology.

"Lounges are about bringing people back into the real world, connecting people through wonderful experiences and building meaningful relationships that move beyond the transactional, soul-less interactions, which are so common in today’s digital world," concludes Eaton.

"In the way we’re trying to deliver a more human service and challenge the way people view banking, we love how Sofar Sounds is there to challenge the way people experience live music - to bring people into the moment, to enjoy it there and then. With gigs taking place all over the world every night, they’ve created something really quite special."

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