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Dan Seligman looks back on 10 years of Pop Montreal

For its tenth edition beginning today, Pop Montreal will host hands down one of the most anticipated events of the year: Arcade Fire at Place des festivals. For ten years, the festival has supported the local music scene and has invited to Montreal international artists who would go on to become very successful. At the heart of Pop Montreal is the desire to make it an enjoyable, healthy experience for artists and festival-goers. In Pop we trust.

Dan Seligman, who founded Pop Montreal in 2002, answers our questions.

In 10 years of Pop, what were the biggest artists you were most proud to present?
Patti Smith
was definitely the most iconic artist we had, in terms of the history of pop music, since she's a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Also, Burt Bacharach, one of the most important all-time, legendary songwriters of the 20th Century. Someone like Roky Erickson who was a fascinating figure in the 60s rock scene in San Francisco. We also had Beck one year and that's one of the biggest acts we ever had. Most of the legendary artists we had are more on the underground level though, they are not huge.

In the past few years, there were a lot of government fund cuts in culture. Was Pop ever threatened?
There was a program that we used to get money from we didn’t get any more during the cuts. But in general, we increasingly got more money because we've become more established, credible. The funding from the Quebec government has always been very strong. Hopefully, knock on wood, we're safe in that department. But you never really know, it's a year to year thing. I guess that's the nature of running an organization like this.

When you first started Pop Montreal, did you look at other festivals and think, "I want my festival to be like this"?
In terms of overall structure, we looked at similar festival like SXSW, CMJ, NXNE in Toronto, but we wanted it to be different, to have a unique character. Peter Rowan and I were both managers of artists when we built Pop. I certainly felt that the experience from the artist’s perspective at more industry-focused festival wasn't that great, that the artist was an afterthought. One of the reasons why we started it was to challenge those basic structures.

At SXSW this year, you took part in a Montreal panel with other important figures in the music industry. Do you feel like you’ve become an influential leader in the music biz in Montreal?
I guess so since Pop has become an established organization. We’ve worked with great bands over the years and have been able to help them. Hopefully Pop Montreal is a part of the equation of the ecosystem of Montreal music.

How is Pop perceived internationally?
From what people tell me, Pop has a good reputation. We've had a lot of bands play the festival before they became much bigger so people see it as a good launching pad for emerging talent. Outsiders who come to Pop and go to a lot of other festivals say they find it to be a refreshing experience. It’s more grassroots, not as industry-focused.

What will you get to enjoy at this year’s festival?
Hopefully as much as possible. I’m allowed to roam around and go to shows. If there are problems, I can help out, but I definetly have the luxury of to venue off and meet people. It’s a lot of work but a lot of fun. I’m excited to see it all together. Hope there won't be an Air Canada strike, though!

Pop Montreal | September 21-25