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When do you say no? Pop Montreal symposium

PhotoGrid_1380920882482.jpgHere's a question everyone who's made music -- or any kind of art for that matter -- has had to answer: Why am I doing this?

Is it art for arts sake, or am I creating because I want to or need to make money?

For many working artists and musicians, the answer is surely "a bit of both".

But where do you draw the line?

That's the question that we grappled with last Sunday at Pop Montreal

Cinq à Six host Jeanette Kelly introduced a symposium called "When Do You Say No?"

The timing couldn't have been better. Montreal collective Godspeed you! Black Emperor just declared a pretty high profile "no" the week before .

They won the prestigeous Polaris Music Prize, an annual award for best album, chosen by music journalists and critics around the country.

But Godspeed you! Black Emperor said NO THANKS to coming to the gala. They explained why in a post on the Web site of their label, Constellation Records.

You can read the whole post here, but to sum it up in three points:

  • They said holding a gala during a time of austerity is a weird thing to do.
  • They don't like the idea of musicians competing against one another for a prize.
  • They object to Polaris having car company Toyota as a sponsor of the gala, giving the state of global warming and melting polar ice caps.

The band still took the $30,000 in prize money, and say they'll be starting a program that will provide musical instruments to prisoners.

Many people seemed kind of taken aback by the way Godspeed You! Black Emperor responded to the prize. Music journalists and cultural critics had a heyday, asking questions like, does this band take itself too seriously? Or, do they maybe have a point?

The Pop Montreal panel was presented by the Music Managers Forum of Canada and MROC, the group that collects and distributes royalties to performers.

Speaking on the panel were:

  • Ian Ilavksy, co-founder and co-owner of Montreal-based Constellation Records.
  • Brendan Canning, co-founder of Broken Social Scene.
  • Jake Friedman, co-founder Lovepump United Records, based in Brooklyn.
  • Sebastian Cowan, artist manager and co-owner of Arbutus Records.

The moderator was Drew Nelles, former editor-in-chief of Maisonneuve magazine. Read an article he wrote for Bullett Media about Godspeed You! Black Emperor, saying no, and Pop Montreal.

Listen to the panel:

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