Indie Montreal meets Project Noise

Over the past two years, Indie Montreal has become a catalyst in promoting the local music scene, offering a stage for bands too small-time for the city’s other indie promoters, but too hot to ignore.

Jon Weisz, a McGill University alumnus, conceived this one-man concert promotion company, deciding to put his love of music and business towards a good cause for the city’s artistic community.

Indie Montreal began simply as Weisz organizing parties for his friends.

“I started doing parties when I was 16. Friends who were in bands started asking me to put on shows for them. Then, about two and a half years ago, I started doing concerts more seriously,” Weisz said. “It kind of spiraled into me doing shows with traveling acts, booking agents, managers and all that.”

Before Indie Montreal arrived on the scene, Weisz said there was no real promotion company or market for small, up-and-coming indie bands, despite Montreal being a hotbed for those kinds of acts. When Weisz’s operation began to gain success around the city, other established promotion companies took notice.

“It’s an extremely competitive market,” said Weisz. “The people who have been doing this for [many years] do not want new companies to enter the market, and they’re very vocal and active [about it]. We just stand our ground.”

Lately, the local indie scene has been taking hits from the city’s controversial attempt at controlling noise pollution, deemed Project Noise. Weisz and his friends in the scene have all been feeling the heat. As a business in the indie music market and a lover of the local art scene, Weisz is concerned about Project Noise’s greater ramifications.

“[Project Noise] has affected Indie Montreal indirectly because most of the shows that we do are at smaller venues, and a lot of the smaller venues are either getting shut down or having severe pressure from the city about noise,” said Weisz. “It makes it much harder for smaller touring acts to come through, or even for smaller local acts to put on shows in adequate venues. There are really only two or three venues in the city that [have] 200-person [capacities] that are really adequate for touring acts.

“The general consensus is that the Project Noise thing is not only about noise—there are other, political things going on there,” said Weisz.

“The smaller venues and art spaces, from what I have seen, are expected to spend tens of thousands of dollars in noise-proofing. But even if they noise-proof, there’s still no guarantee they won’t get fined,” he said. “If [a venue] gets fined $12,000, they’ll close. I don’t know any small venue that can pay a $12,000 fine and remain open.”

For Weisz, the ability to put on these shows—and the ability for Indie Montreal to survive—rests on the presence of well-equipped, smaller venues with enough capacity for bands to cover their touring expenses. The indie music market is not very lucrative as it is, but Weisz is driven by more than monetary gain.

“The most rewarding part, for me, is knowing that a lot of the shows we put on legitimately help touring acts who someday may be really major international acts but, for now, are [doing] small tours. Without us, [a lot of bands] would not be playing in Montreal at all.”

Indie Montreal is putting on an official showcase at this year’s POP Montreal festival, giving Weisz the opportunity to shine that spotlight on five bands he believes in: The Balconies, The Golden Dogs, Ben Sinister, Laurent Bourque and Honey Honey.

Indie Montreal’s Showcase is happening at 3 Minots (3812 Saint-Laurent) on October 2nd. Show starts at 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $8.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 07, published September 28, 2010.