Why you should broaden your musical horizons

Listening to music can have a profound impact on our emotions and how we feel. And according to Sofar Sounds founder Rafe Offer, there's a significant benefit to listening to different genres of music...

Recently, I was asked what my favourite music genres are, and I realised that actually, like so many people today, I lean more towards music that fits my certain mood that day. Still, we all have that same artist we’ve been listening to on repeat since we were 15. Mine is Led Zeppelin. They’ve influenced a lot of what I’ve listened to over the years, but nowadays, more and more artists are blending genres. With so much of our music listening reliant on streaming and algorithms, how can we make sure to continue taking chances on new music or genres we may otherwise miss?

That's why I launched Sofar Sounds nearly 10 years ago: to experience more music of all kinds, and to forge a closer connection with those artists. At every Sofar show, three artists perform in an unexpected, intimate venue. But here’s the thing: we don’t tell you the artists that are playing until you arrive.

You may ask, “But why would I waste time and money on an artist I may not like?”

To which we reply, “Just trust us.”

Rafe at a Sofar Sounds gig in Lima

We take great care to book artists of three different genres, to curate a diverse evening. On any given night, your Sofar may include sets from a hip-hop artist, a jazz trio and a singer-songwriter. Each set is about 20 minutes in length, and the artists are so good that we’re confident you’ll walk away feeling that even if you don’t love hip-hop, you’ve enjoyed their show.

Recently, I was completely blown away by accordion player Iosif Purits’ Sofar set. I'd only associated accordions with polka previously, which I don’t listen to regularly. But here I was, face-to-face (literally, only 10 feet away) from an accordion player that was completely upending the idea of what I thought I knew about my music taste.

Who wants to put themself in a box? Not young people, that’s for sure. 84 per cent of millennials say their music tastes span multiple genres. Maybe the opposite of old isn’t young, it’s just new. We have access to more information than ever before, and an entire world of music is a click or swipe away. Here are my top tips on where to start branching outside of your comfort zone with music:

See live music

There’s no better way to connect emotionally with art than experiencing it in person, and music is no different. If you have a local promoter or venue that’s known for its programming, stop by on a night you’re unfamiliar with the artist. Attending a festival? During your down time check out who’s playing on a smaller stage away from the headline stage.

Or why not accept that extra concert ticket your friend always offers up? At our meetup of Latin American city leaders in Buenos Aires, I followed the Brazilian leaders to a show of a band from São Paulo, Francisco el Hombre, that I knew nothing about, and ended up experiencing one of the most high-energy, infectious shows of my life!

Seek out a new playlist

Ask your friends if you can listen to their Discover Weekly on Spotify that week, or follow your favourite blog’s profile for a more editorialised selection. One of the most exciting new playlists on Spotify is Pollen, which they call “A playlist beyond genre.” 

Dive into videos on YouTube

Sofar’s YouTube channel features thousands of videos from our 400+ cities, and I love hitting play and seeing where in the world I end up. How else would I have come across this performance from Shanghai featuring an electronic duo playing the didgeridoo? I’m also partial to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts that feature such an eclectic mix of artists (many of whom are also Sofar alumni!); I never know who they’re going to feature next.

Go out there and get inspired!

Music can open up new worlds and transport us, so why would we stay still in one genre? My taste has evolved over the years to include a blurring of genres, and I’m excited to see what music I continue to let in. While I may not have a record collection of just accordion-specific vinyls these days, I do know that I would be thrilled to seek out this type of artist in the future. I’m happy to continue to expand what I listen to, and I encourage you to do the same!

If our Live Life Better series has piqued your interest in the senses, check out our upcoming event with sensory experience experts Bompas & Parr.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

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