Spectra turns 40 – Responsible for Montreal Jazz festival, FrancoFolies, etc.
Spectra turns 40 – Equipe Spectra celebrated its 40th anniversary this past week by throwing a party at M-Telus (formerly known as Metropolis), an event that also made people like me and other journalists present to reflect on what the presence of Spectra has meant for the music scene in Montreal. After all, Spectra is the reason why we in Montreal enjoy one of the best jazz festivals in the world (conceded, not all the music heard at this event could be properly classified as jazz, but that is another discussion). Spectra is also responsible for the FrancoFolies, a mostly music festival devoted to French song which—to its credit—has expanded its focus beyond Quebec and France to explore the rhythms originated in French-speaking Caribbean and Africa. This festival held at the beginning of summer has become a genuinely multicultural event with French as the language of musical expression. Perhaps the boldest venture was the launching of Montréal en Lumière, a combination of various musical and performing genres with a strong gastronomical component. Of course, the riskiest part of this festival that takes place in mid-winter was to stage some outdoor events, and believe or not, people actually came.
Besides these well-known festivals, Spectra also has a label division that features emerging and big names in the Quebec music scene and has installed, right in the middle of the Quartier des spectacles, its own Maison du Festival.
Speaking during the celebration, two of the founders Alain Simard and André Menard, and the current president Jacques-André Dupont remarked what these 40 years have meant for the team and the impact the organization has had on the artistic scene in Montreal. They also mentioned the role Spectra has had on the economy of the city, a point these festival organizers always like to emphasize. One can read on their website: “The three major festivals organized by L’Équipe Spectra generate annual spinoffs of $75M, including about $50M solely from tourists, with over $11M in tax revenue in new spending for our governments. L’Équipe Spectra has thereby created or maintained about 1000 annualized jobs and increased the GDP by over $50M every year.” I guess this is in response to some critical voices regarding the use of public money in the production of these festivals; the truth is that it would be money well invested after all.
One of the crucial moments for Spectra came right around this time in 2013, when the media were called for “an important announcement.” The big announcement, of course, was the acquisition of Spectra by the CH Group (Canadiens de Montréal) which is owned and operated by the Molson family. The group also holds Evenko, the largest entertainment corporation in the province. Simard, Spectra CEO at the time remarked that Spectra would keep their structure and autonomy. Of course, keeping the non-profit character of the festivals it produces is very important to assure government funding as well as to maintain their credibility with the artistic milieu and the public. One has to remember that we live in times when people show some justified distrust of big corporations.
Four years after that marriage, however, one can see that Spectra has kept its primary vocation and indeed, has continued bringing Montrealers and visitors each year some of the best entertainment in the world without neglecting its commitment to local artists. Of course, there are always aspects that could be improved, but overall one has to admit that these 40 years of Spectra have meant a significant contribution to the artistic scene in Montreal. Happy anniversary guys!
By: Sergio Martinez – mtltimes.ca