Sofar Sounds Reaches $460K Settlement With Department of Labor Over Unpaid Wages

Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Amy & the Engine play the Urban Farm Fermentory during an event organized by the Maine chapter of Sofar Sounds on March 24, 2016.

The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) has reached a $460,000 settlement with Sofar Sounds -- the company that puts on intimate, surprise-lineup concerts around the world -- following an investigation into its use of unpaid workers.

The investigation was sparked in August by a widely shared Talkhouse article regarding Sofar's use of volunteers. The NYSDOL found that more than 600 Sofar Sounds "ambassadors" -- who operate and manage events in various U.S. cities -- were never compensated for their work between 2016 and 2019. Because Sofar is a for-profit business, the NYSDOL says the company is required to pay those individuals.

According to a press release from the NYSDOL, Sofar Sounds "cooperated fully and immediately" to change its business model and now staffs all its events with paid employees. It also agreed to immediately compensate the unpaid workers, who recovered $460,357.50 in unpaid wages. The news was first reported by Variety

In a statement, NYSDOL commissioner Roberta Reardon said Sofar "made our job much easier because they wanted to be a good partner and a good corporate citizen."

Sofar began augmenting its volunteer program with paid crew members in September. And last month, CEO Jim Lucchese opened the books on the company's typical event profits, promised better payout for performers at Sofar events, and announced the formation of an "artist advisory group."

"My Department closely monitors compliance with New York State Labor Law and we recognize that sometimes businesses make mistakes," Reardon added. "In this case, Sofar Sounds fully cooperated with the investigation and corrected that mistake. They have taken swift steps to change their business practices, and they are fully compensating their employees. I consider this a win for everybody!”

“Today’s agreement with the New York State Department of Labor stipulates no admission of guilt or wrongdoing and confirms our operating model is fully compliant with New York state law,” a spokesperson for Sofar told Billboard. “We thank them for working collaboratively with us in New York, Sofar’s biggest U.S. market.”

“We are excited about resolving these issues and moving forward in 2020," the spokesperson added, "with a continued focus on connecting local and independent musicians with passionate music fans.”


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