What Ontsofa.com makes, is fairly easy to summarise; Content for their 8.6million-view-in-just-over-a -year-strong YouTube channel of musicians performing whilst sat on an old Chesterfield sofa. What makes Ontsofa.com, isn’t so easy to summarise.
Sometimes in life, you come across some really ‘stand out’ people. Ontsofa.com is the brainchild Jason and Ben, who I first met at around 1 am, on a Saturday night in October 2011. Me, a humble blogger with a camera, them, two chaps in a shop window wearing a matching pair of full body sleeping bags and a “ we’ve only had 3 hours kip in the last 6 days” type smile. They were at the time, well on their way to raising a huge stink of cash for charity with their genius idea of living in a town centre shop window for a week (but that’s another story). Suffice to say, they ‘stood out’.
Shortly after, Ben and Jason were sat on a company that was trying to find its feet. Their ‘”VIDA’ brand, in spite of international exposure through the above campaign wasn’t really flying at the time, but, If ever there’s a lesson in going back to the drawing board and thinking outside the box type thing, the way Ben and Jason transformed their business would be a fine example. They had an office. They had contacts, technical and artistic skills and an astute business acumen. They had a Sofa… They had.. a.. sofa. A cracking brute of an iconic mother of all sofas sofa. (cue light bulb moment noise).
‘Try it out’, thought they, and before too long, it was a full time occupation in high demand. Over the last year they’ve produced 350+ quality videos, facilitated live showcases and mixed it up with all walks of life. From the outset, their output has always met a high quality standard. The artists they work with are from a scatter-gun spectrum of styles and genres, a very eclectic mix – all though, have a ‘something about them’, potentially, a ‘stand out people’ badge.When I started exploring ‘what it is’, the first thing that Jason said was “No autotune”. There’s no (audio) editing or overdubbing- and the sound is recorded and reproduced to be as close to natural as is possible. All the recordings, typically ‘unplugged’, are done in 1 take and it’s the real deal, warts and all (although warts are very few, and far between) The format is a real leveller for bands – if you’re not very good, there’s nowhere to hide (but they are very good, and they all shine).
The whole crew come across as disarmingly nice and genuine. Honesty and integrity in music seems to be at the heart of what they do and this definitely rubs off on what they produce.
Initially, they sourced artists from known contacts – now around 20 people a day are applying to play at one of their regular sessions – and they are constantly on the hunt for the hidden gems. Regular recording sessions are held, either at the salubrious Gibson studios in London, or (where I caught up with them today) in Prime Studios, Leeds. The studio that used to be where they filmed the interior of Emmerdale Farm’s The Woolpack. It’s still got all it’s beer lines in situ, apparently.(I love a bit of trivia, me.)
When I arrived, the studio was focussed on recording a set for a Leeds band called Vanilla Gorillaz. A tidy 4 piece whose centrepiece was a gorgeous harmony in the form of Redd (female vocals) and Carl; male vocal lead and bass. Catchy, 6 string strum melodies, supported by kick and snare with brushed bongos. A nice set up. At one point, Carl was worried about the macro detail of perfection, but was assured by Jason that what they were trying to achieve wasn’t so much about a typical studio perfection but more about the vibe. This illustrated in my mind, a key differentiator, a USP if you like. Ontsofa doesn’t produce the sterile, mathematically ‘perfect’ computerised output that you get from oh so many commercial audio studios, instead, using equipment and methods to the highest standards, it distils the essence of a band or artists by documenting what’s actually happening.
Id’ set out today to write about Ontsofa.com rather than the artists themselves, but some of the artists, including the second artist I saw today are definitely worth a notable mention, in my book. A 15 year old from Runcorn called Tyler Mensah – a singer songwriter punching well above his 15 years weight. Beautiful, arrestingly strong clarity and a vocal rhythmic timbre like no other. His guitarist was good as well, and gets my best name of the day award : Mr Steam Fish.
I asked Jason about his thoughts on ‘stand out acts’ over the last year. (Tricky to call, but..) He told me I had to watch ‘There No More’ by Jack Flash. He told me how it just happened, the first take – and blew everyone away. He told me it had made grown men cry.. I can fully understand why..
Another discovery he told me about was the (at the time) 12 year old Billie Tweddle. I’ve since watched a few of her songs and yea, mindblowing excellence from any singer – Where on earth she got that skill in such a short amount of time is beyond comprehension. Apparently, she always nails her songs in the first take.
Vicky Whelan – from Dragonfly Tattoo, who I wrote about a few weeks ago, is another one of the scores of brilliant artists to grace the hallowed leather. As I’ve been writing this post this evening, I’ve had the OntSofa channel on in the background – and there hasn’t been a single duffer. May long that continue.
And continue I think it will. With a sensible growth plan that involves attracting more well known artist to stand side by side with the grass roots artists, and a level headed, creative team there’s a good chance they will take it up a gear. They are doing all the right things. They have created their very own space in the music market. A space between a recording studio, spending $$$ on a music video and live music. Music consumers clearly love it; they are getting presented with some incredible new music, often on a daily basis, artists are also sitting pretty, because they’re now part of an exponentially popular network and venues and labels love it, because they can get a genuine ‘try before you buy’ look and listen, of the artists at work. Not airbrushed, not shrink wrapped, and not, repeat not autotuned – it’s the real deal.
Keep up the good work fellas!