Building on Opportunities – Sylvain Parent on Bringing Top Entertainment to Québec

Building on Opportunities – Sylvain Parent on Bringing Top Entertainment to Québec

LiQ_Mag_Cover_July2014This article first appeared in the July 2014 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.
Life in Quebec Magazine is a lifestyle publication covering the Quebec region and is currently published at least 3 times per year.
Subscribers have their copies mailed directly to them.
You can subscribe here to guarantee your copy.
Voir aussi cet article en français.

By Farnell Morisset

Calling in from a cultural festival in Toulon, France, Sylvain Parent’s voice shows slight signs of exhaustion, but the energy behind it is undeniably real. As president of QuébéComm, the company behind many of the region’s top shows and entertainment, he and his team have busily been promoting Québec’s Grand Rire festival and its top-billed star Jerry Seinfeld for months. He took time out to speak with us about what it takes, exactly, to bring world class talent to our city.

Life in Québec Magazine (LiQ):
QuébéComm is very diversified. You do shows, television, and have movie projects… what guides your decisions like that?

Sylvain Parent (Parent):
QuébéComm started as a communications company 17 years ago. It went towards shows through public relations events it organized in the comedy world. Year to year, I’d say that it was mostly entrepreneurial drive that guided me and guided the team. We’ve always profited from the opportunities that presented themselves to us, mostly in the field of music and comedy.

LiQ:
You do music and comedy. Is this, as far as you’re concerned, a natural alliance?

Parent:
MadonnaMusic was always something that really animated us. We started to do it in 2008, with Paris-Québec à travers la chanson for the 400th anniversary of Québec. The event drew over 100,000 people on to the Plains of Abraham and was broadcast on Radio-Canada and France Télévision. It was our creation, our concept, and our production, and it really gave us a taste for music. We also saw the important potential of international relations, and that fits well with comedy. But it was particularly the opportunities that presented themselves.

As for me, following Paris-Québec on the Plains in 2008, I had the occasion to meet the New York agency that had brought Paul McCartney to Quebec City in 2008 and Sting to the Festival d’Été, and I presented them with a project for Central Park in New York. Bit by bit we developed projects, and that led to Madonna on the Plains in 2012. It was a nice opportunity that presented itself, we surrounded ourselves with the best team, and people put faith in us. It was the first large-scale ticketed show on the Plains of Abraham. A lot of people had doubts, but we proved them wrong when it turned out to be a great success.

LiQ:
The Grand Rire has now existed for several years. It’s become well-known and you attract big names. Tell us a little about your history.

Parent:
We’re celebrating the Grand Rire’s 15th anniversary this summer. The coming of artists of languages other than French started a few years ago with Roberto Benigni, who we brought to the Grand Théâtre de Québec. This gave us credibility on the international comedy scene. It allowed us to then invite John Malkovich, Bill Cosby, Whoopi Goldberg, and now this year Jerry Seinfeld. He’s probably the biggest name in the world of comedy, and the Grand Rire welcomes him this summer for our 15th anniversary.

LiQ:
So it’s mostly a question of credibility?

Parent:
LiQ_Mag_Abonnez-vousThe more we attract big names, credible people, and the more we deliver the goods – and the more the population of Québec turns up – the better our position with regards to international artists. You see, managers and agents in the United States and elsewhere in the world speak to each other a lot. Artists want to be reassured where they’re going. Will they be well paid, is the organisation credible, will the majority French-speaking population come to the show, and will the show be successful? All that is very, very important.

LiQ:
What does it mean, concretely, to “Deliver the goods”?

Parent:
Delivering the goods, that means to properly host the artist, adequate promotion, building the show well, ensuring the room will be full, assuring a professional welcome for the artist, making sure they have fun, also, and seeing to it that their experience and press fallout will be good for them, so that it’s an additional string to our bow, so to speak.

LiQ:
Québec is obviously a very French-speaking city. How do you reassure artists that even though the majority is French-speaking, they’re still going to turn up in large numbers?

Parent:
For Seinfeld, for example, 35% to 40% of ticket buyers come from outside the greater Québec City region. So we’re advertising in Ontario, eastern Canada, the north-east United States, and we advertise to the English-speaking community in Montréal. Of course, there’s also Anglophones in Québec, and anglophiles in Québec as well. For Bill Cosby, there was an opening act in French which ended in English to help tune the ears of the people in the room.

LiQ:
Is there a certain reticence from some who would prefer that festivals and shows be entirely Québécois or have only French-language content?

Parent:
I’d tell you that as far as the industry is concerned, absolutely not. From the population, of course when we announce English-speaking artists, there is a very small minority – it’s insignificant, I’d say one out of a thousand – who will ask “why are we doing English-language things in Québec?” I tell myself we need to open ourselves to the world. Of course we’d never dare get to 25 to 50% English-language programming, but the small quantity has its place and is very well received by festival-goers. Listen, if you knew how many calls we get from people wanting to see Seinfeld in Québec… they completely support us.

About Author

Farnell Morisset

Farnell Morisset is passionate about discussing (among other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québécois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québécois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image. He has an engineering degree from Université Laval and is currently a law student at McGill University.

Write a Comment

Only registered users can comment.