“I can only manage artists who truly touch my soul,” says the website of Comme C’est Beau, the small cultural business that Emmanuelle Girard started in March of 2019.
Shortly after showing up for our interview, at her favourite café in Montreal’s Little Italy, Emmanuelle Girard makes one thing clear. “I know my limitations as a human being,” she says. “And right now, with these three women, I’m maxed out. I believe in the art of polishing gemstones.”
She adds, “I know I’m an intense person, and I give everything my best shot, like I did back in the days when I was still an athlete. I’m not a music lover, I’m not that keen on going to see shows. I listen to Chilly Gonzales over and over, to some jazz and blues music in the evening, that’s it.”
That was before the pandemic. She was planning her trip to Saskatoon, where Alexandra Stréliski was to take part in the 2020 JUNO Awards, thanks to her Secret City Records Inscape release. Three nominations, a live duo with Dallas Green (City and Color) – things were really looking up for this neo-classical pianist, who’s already won three Felix Awards.
“We recently reviewed our situation,” says Girard. “The more creative people are the ones who are going to make it through, [but] you have to be flexible. I haven’t had any dates cancelled so far, but I’m working as hard as ever, and you always have to take the artist’s well-being into account. But I freaked out at first. We’d been in town [Saskatoon] for a few days already, to set up Alex’s performance. We’d chosen her red carpet outfit together, her stage outfit… The greatest asset of someone working in music is the ability to adapt.
“Once the artist becomes successful, you then have to manage demand. In Alex’s case, we’re getting a lot of requests for free music licences from foundations, schools, or young people who are making YouTube videos, and want to use her music. We’re giving out a lot of those.
“As for Beyries, we were planning to release her second album this spring, but she wasn’t ready, and we postponed the whole thing.” But international development is well underway with both Stréliski and Beyries.
“Beyries’ song The Pursuit of Happiness [licensed online by Montreal’s Bonsound] reached more than 12 million views on Spotify, and was a hit in Turkey, where it was played in Istanbul in front of an audience of 150 people who knew the lyrics by heart and sang along,” says Girard. And what about the synch rights, that are so essential to music publishers? “That’s what put her on the map!” she says. “Her 2016 cover of Paul Daraîche’s “Je pars à l’autre bout du monde” ended up on the Unité 9 TV series!”
According to Girard, Maude Audet, who released her Tu ne mourras pas album on Grosse Boîte in February, has a very “1970s France, Françoise Hardy-like” musical sound. “My work is very different with her, it’s an all-Francophone project. We have meetings, and afterwards she sends me recaps of our conversations!”
Before launching Beyries’ career in 2015, Girard had been working for the Montreal Canadiens hockey team, among others, before landing a job with the prestigious Cossette advertising agency. “Serving as a management consultant between the client and the creative staff is precisely what I’m doing right now,” she says.
A former professional handball player with the Canadian team, Girard, now 40, ended her elite athletic career at the age of 28. Taken under her wing by Sonia Cesaratto (who was handling press relations for Universal France at the time) and later by Anacrouse’s Brigitte Matte (who was managing musicians Yann Perrau, Michel Rivard, and Catherine Major), she learned her trade at two excellent schools if life, with two experienced women.
Girard even sought producer Jacques Primeau as a mentor. In spite of his myriad professional commitments (RBO group, the Tout le monde en parle talk show, Quartier des spectacles, artist manager, and now General Manager of L’Équipe Spectra), Primeau immediately saw Girard’s potential, and they began a partnership in the fall of 2019.
“Thanks to him,” Girard explains, “we can apply to SODEC together, since my business is still too young to be eligible for some grants. He helps me find money. But we’re not business partners – I’m my company’s sole shareholder. Les Productions Jacques K. Primeau are providing me with access to his assistant, with whom I speak regularly. Jacques is helping me structure and grow.
“My business model is this: travelling with my artists, seeing what’s happening on the ground, meeting people, getting a better understanding of the music business. I’m a St-Lambert-de-Lévis girl, I come from a modest family, and I’m a proud self-made woman.”