POP Montreal turns 15

Interview with co-founder and creative director of POP Montreal, Dan Seligman

An underground music event that brings together over 400 local and international musicians and hosts four days worth of events and performances all across town—is this too good to be true? In Montreal, it isn’t, because it’s happening. The annual music festival POP Montreal is back and celebrating its 15-year anniversary between Sept. 21 to 25.

Dan Seligman, POP Montreal’s co-founder and creative director, is responsible for the festival’s musical programming. He launched the festival as a McGill graduate back in 2002, along with co-founders Noelle Sorbara and Peter Rowan.“I was pretty young—just graduated from McGill, majoring in comparative religion. A friend of mine approached me with the idea of getting involved in creating a musical festival,” said Seligman. At the time, he was doing some work in music, managing his brother’s band, Stars. “For the first edition of POP Montreal, it took us six months to make it happen,” Seligman said. “We made contacts, sponsorships and we invited a few international bands.”

The event was a success and the trio decided to make it an annual festival. “Every next edition has been a continuation,” said Seligman. “It’s a lot of fun and it’s always challenging to manage a festival.” As they grew and developed their brand, the trio realized that Montreal has a huge music scene with lots of opportunities in the industry.

Bringing in countless music legends every year, POP Montreal’s 2016 lineup is no exception. John Cale, the founder of the rock-and-roll group Velvet Underground, will be flying in to perform as a headliner at the Rialto Theatre. He will also host an “artist talk” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.“I’m really looking forward to John Cale—he’s a musical legend,” said Seligman. “This is an exclusive show. He isn’t doing any other shows in North America. He’s flying to Montreal specifically for us.”

POP Montreal will also be hosting a series of late-night shows at the Rialto Theatre. The band 69 Boyz will be playing their 90s top hit “Tootsee Roll” and young hip-hop artist Princess Vitarah will also be performing. Besides showing performances in the main theatre hall, there will be special shows on the rooftop. The first floor area is their club house lounge, where different chefs will be there every night. It’s free and open to the public. “It’s a hangout area in between shows,” said Seligman.

Come celebrate POP Montreal’s 15-year anniversary. Graphic by Florence Yee

POP Montreal brings together a variety of music, art and people from all over the world to participate in the festival. “We have industry people coming from all over the world to check out local acts—local emerging artists can help develop their career and territories across the world,” said Seligman. Every year, local artists are invited to submit samples of their music to POP Montreal for a chance to perform at the festival. They can submit their music through POP Montreal’s website. “Certain artists, such as the headliners, we solicit and ask them to perform and some of the up-and-coming artists go through our submission process, where you can apply to perform at the festival,” said Seligman. Over 1,000 artists submitted their music this year, but only 100 made the cut. “We listen to all the music we receive with our committee. We invite journalists [and] artists to come and listen to it all. We work with the programming team to select artists and put it all together,” said Seligman. As the festival’s creative director, Seligman is constantly meeting new artists. “People are always sending me new music,” he said. “I really enjoy programming and bringing different artists together.”

POP Montreal also launched a new monthly video series called “POP Shots” which aims to give visibility to local artists. “It’s an initiative we did this past year,” said Seligman. “It was cool to work with local artists.” Espace POP, which is a space built for artists to perform throughout the year, is where these artists perform while our team films them and post the videos online. “It’s a showcase of local artists all year round. We’re always doing stuff throughout the year,” said Seligman.

POP Montreal “adds a nice flavour to the city,” Seligman said. “I think it’s a special event. I hope that people love it, support [it] and buy tickets and have a good time.” A word of advice from Seligman to all bands interested in trying out for the festival next year: “Try to make really good music that stands out and that isn’t boring. Keep practicing, keep playing shows and keep doing your music if you love it.”

For more information about tickets and the lineup, visit the festival’s website:

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