It's not that long since Sofar Sounds staged a pretty amazing gig in our office canteen. Yep, our canteen. That's their speciality – intimate live music from brilliant, emerging artists in really cool settings.
Covid has meant some serious adjustments to that entire industry. But we were so impressed by Sofar Sounds' response that we knew they deserved a round of applause and the Pleo Hero spotlight.
We spoke to Assistant Management Accountant Isobel Edmonds about what the past few months has been like for the business – and how they use their Pleo cards in some very imaginative ways.
What’s the journey that brought you to Sofar?
So I've been here nearly two years now, but before that, when I was in a previous role, I had worked with Sofar.
I thought they were a really cool team and being an avid gig-goer, it was a chance to work in a field I really love. It was great timing basically.
Tell us about what you guys do...
We create space where music matters.
Before Covid, that was done via unique, intimate gigs – in people's living rooms, in offices after hours – with the idea that the audience would turn up without knowing what acts they were going to see.
That created a really exciting energy at the shows.
But with Covid, the idea of "intimate gigs" is obviously impossible. The live music industry has been hit and it's hard to predict when gigs, as we know them, will be back. They might never be the same again.
So we had to pivot really quickly.
And that's where our amazing tech team came in. We launched an online listening room, a week or so after we cancelled our IRL (in real life) shows - where artists could play a live stream show – something I know helped a lot of people during lockdown.
The crowd can donate straight to the artists too, to help support them through all this – which was the main factor in our thinking.
How do you guys use Pleo?
The reality is that currently, we’re not using our cards a lot.
But when we get back to putting on shows in-person, it's actually the virtual cards that tend to be one of the handiest things for us.
If somebody needs to buy something, I can just issue them a virtual card on-the-spot so there's no delay.
I did that the other day for someone from our team in Spain actually.
One thing that we are still spending on is software subscriptions – managing them through Pleo just means we can track everything closely.
What has Pleo meant for how you do your job? Against maybe what an accountant would have done 10, 15 years ago.
I’m not sure I would have wanted to be an accountant 10 years ago!
The main thing it saves me from is having to chase receipts. If somebody hasn't submitted receipts, I'd have to bug them for the paperwork. They don't want me to do that, I don't want to do that, but that's how it works without something like Pleo.
With Pleo, they get prompted to snap the receipt right after they pay for something, so there's no chasing needed.
What's next for you guys?
Now, we're starting to put on private virtual concerts to bring people together wherever they are - say for Christmas parties, where everyone from a business can get together online, with artists playing especially for them.
The client tells us the kind of vibe they'd like and we match it up with some really cool artists. It’s great to help people get together and bond through music at times like these.
But beyond that, it's an evolving situation of course and we're just doing what we can to support the artists we work with and people missing live music.
Any expense horror stories?
Well, instead of a receipt, I have sometimes (before Sofar, I should add!) seen pieces of paper submitted. On the paper will be scribbled details of what somebody bought and where, which I was supposed to accept as proof of purchase.
I've also had people submit receipts for 1p purchases, which is very sweet... but maybe not necessary.
What’s been the coolest use of Pleo at Sofar?
We had a show in our own space one summer evening and even with air conditioning, it was so warm. So the team popped out and grabbed some ice lollies for the audience. Great live music and ice lollies, that’s not a bad combination.
What excites you about the future of work?
I have to be honest, Sofar's always been big on flexible working and that's been great throughout 2020.
Things like being able to take a longer lunch break yesterday so I could go to the park are great. But I do miss the office. I miss people!