Alain Simard, OC, COQ impresario, talent manager, producer, businessman (born 19 January 1950 in Montreal, QC). Alain Simard has been a leading figure in Quebec’s entertainment sector since the early 1970s. He is responsible for the conception and founding of some of Canada’s biggest annual festivals, including the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM) and the FrancoFolies de Montréal, one of the largest French-language music festivals in the world. Simard is also chairman of the board of Équipe Spectra, which manages and operates festivals and performance venues, mounts stage productions, runs a record label and manages artists. In 2003, Simard was named the most influential person in the cultural world by the Montreal newspaper La Presse. He is a Chevalier of France’s Arts et des Lettres, of the Ordre de la Pléiade, and of the Ordre national du Québec; as well as an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Early Years and Career
Alain Simard attended Collège Saint-Ignace in Montreal. In 1969, he began hosting live shows there at the student café. He soon dropped out of school to work as a concert promoter.
Beginning in the early 1970s, he worked with Productions Kosmos to bring major progressive rock acts to Montreal. Genesis and Pink Floyd were brought to Montreal for the first time by Simard. His involvement in promoting progressive rock bands played
an important role in the popularity of the genre in Quebec. Simard then became involved in artist management, representing such acts as Claude Dubois, Paul Piché and
Michel Rivard. Another client, the Quebec progressive blues rock group Offenbach, was the first
Quebec act to headline the Montreal Forum.
In 1977, Simard joined with André Ménard and Denyse McCann to create Spectra Scène (now Équipe Spectra). It quickly became one of the biggest promoters and producers of concerts in Montreal. Spectra championed progressive rock, blues and jazz acts from the United States and the United Kingdom, in addition to Quebec rock bands. In 1979, Simard created the Spectra record label and Spectel Video, one of the first private television production companies in Quebec.
Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM)
In 1980, Simard and André Ménard launched the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM). It has since become Canada’s largest annual music festival. In 2004, it set the Guinness World Record as the world’s largest jazz festival. The inaugural event attracted 12,000 people and was held on Montreal’s Île Sainte-Hélène (the site of Expo 67; now part of Parc Jean-Drapeau). The festival quickly outgrew this location and made its way to the streets of downtown Montreal. It found a permanent home around the Place des Arts beginning in 1986. The 1989 edition drew one million people. The importance of the festival, and the massive crowds it routinely draws downtown, helped led to the redevelopment of a section of Jeanne-Mance Street; it became the Place des Festivals in 2009. FIJM, or the “Jazz Fest” as it is called locally, is generally seen as one of the main reasons for Montreal’s reputation as an international music centre. (See also Music Industries.)
Other Business Activities
Simard launched the Spectrum de Montréal performance venue in 1983. It was an important concert venue in Montreal in the 1980s and 1990s before closing
in 2007. Simard later led the corporate partnership that acquired Le Studio in Morin Heights, which was one of the most important recording studios in Canada during that period. In 1989, he co-founded the FrancoFolies de Montréal, one of the largest
French-language music festivals in the world. In 2000, he founded the annual winter festival
Montréal en Lumière, which focuses on food and dining while offering a variety of free outdoor activities. With an estimated 1.3 million visitors, it is one of the world’s largest winter festivals. Since around 2008, the festival has also included Montreal’s
Nuit Blanche, in which the city’s major cultural institutions are open late into the night.
Alain Simard has received numerous awards, including the Félix Hommage at the annual ADISQ Gala and the Grand Prix Ulysse from Tourisme Montréal. He was made a Chevalier of France’s Arts et des Lettres, as well as a Chevalier of the Ordre de la Pléiade and of the Ordre national du Québec. In 2003, he was named the most influential person in the cultural world by the Montreal newspaper La Presse. In 2016, he was made a Commander of the Ordre de Montréal and was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame. He was made a Compagnon des arts et des lettres du Québec in 2018 and an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2019.