Briefcase not required: POP Montreal’s Dan Seligman talks to recent grads about building a career you love

Briefcase not required: POP Montreal’s Dan Seligman talks to recent grads about building a career you love

When we invited Daniel Seligman, BA’00, Founder and Creative Director of POP Montreal to speak to graduating students and recent graduates at Backpack to Briefcase 2013, we didn’t really know what to expect. B2B (as it’s commonly known) is the annual life skills workshop and lecture series designed to help prepare students and recent grads for life after McGill. However, Dan started his prepared remarks by letting us know that he’s more of a “hoodie” than a “briefcase” guy. Over the course of the evening, Dan went on to share his career story and some of the key lessons learned.


Get involved; you never know where you’ll meet people and build your network; from accepting a free bottle of rum at OAP in exchange for becoming a member of the Caribbean Students Society (CSS), to joining CKUT and getting to know the McGill and Montreal local radio scene and work on radio shows, a lot of business is about building relationships and connections and university provides a great opportunity to get out there and start to do that. Two of three of POP Montreal’s co-founders are McGill grads; friends who were passionate, interested and looking for something to do.


After graduating from McGill and with no clear plans, Dan asked if he could go on tour with his brother’s band, Stars, and help out where possible. While on tour with the band, Dan took full advantage of the opportunity to learn first hand how the music industry worked and make himself indispensable by doing absolutely anything and everything that was needed until he was practically managing the band. Dan credits the first tour with providing him with a great base of practical knowledge that he was later able to apply broadly.


Luck can be critical in breaking through; the idea for POP Montreal came from a four hour conversation on the train with a fellow passenger who noticed Dan’s record collection and struck up a conversation about music. The stranger would later become one of the co-founders of the festival and a mentor. Additionally, at the time, there were also no festivals like POP Montreal in the city and Dan was just young and naive enough to go after the opportunity to create something lasting.


In response to a question about maintaining the festival’s status in a crowded field; Dan pointed out that personally while one needs to be aware of competitors, he is not obsessed by what others are doing. He explained that over the course of his career, he keeps the focus on working hard and moving forward as there’s always room to do better. Festivals are so big that the management team must always focus on learning, building and growing while constantly striving for perfection. He added that if this means bringing in help so as to better focus, then that’s the right thing to do. In POP Montreal’s case, after starting out as an LLC, they had to restructure a few years in, to make the festival a non-profit and focus more squarely on fulfilling their mission and values.


Some of POP Montreal’s biggest successes have come from instances in which they have produced their own shows in new locations and created vibrant new artistic experiences for guests. In addition to the customer experience, being innovative in programming and incorporating new locations showcase the city and create more opportunities for POP Montreal to generate ancillary revenue.


Dan foresees POP Montreal tapping further into global interest in music; taking advantage of opportunities that may present themselves but staying true to what POP Montreal stands for. In his words: “We define ourselves by our integrity and ability to be creative and innovative. We’re POP Montreal, after all, not Obscure Montreal. We want to continue to appeal to the city and engage in inventive partnerships that make sense and move us forward.”

Well said, Dan!

Were you at the Backpack to Briefcase Session with Dan? Sound off in the comments about any additional lessons learned.

To learn more about Backpack to Briefcase, visit the schedule of activities.

Check out a few of our pictures from the event!

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