Innovator Spotlight: François Lamoureux – Music is Magic

Editor’s Note: We got a chance to sit down with François Lamoureux and pick his brain a little bit. Born in Sudbury, he’s an alumnus from McGill’s music program. Now, he’s a film director over at FogoLabs, where he’s had the chance to work with big names like deadmau5, Rush, and Joe Satriani. Together with his brother Pierre, he’s won a Grammy, an Emmy, 2 Juno Awards, and 2 Gemini Awards.


Tell us a little bit about yourself Francois!

Sure! I graduated from McGill’s music program back in the day – now I’m a film director and I work with my brother Pierre over at FogoLabs. My mother was entrepreneurial, and my father was an education commando dropped in every job from teacher to the head of school boards. My sister is the Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ottawa. Growing up with them was great, and I was very competitive. I was born in Sudbury, Ontario, and then I moved around a lot – I now reside in Hudson, Quebec, and have 2 kids: Victoria, and Charles.

Fun fact: I’m an early riser – I get most of my work done between 4AM and 9AM and the rest of the day I do meetings.

What natural entrepreneurial spirit looks like

My daughter Victoria has been good at business since childhood.

I went to a parent-teacher meeting when she was in kindergarten, and her teacher said “I love Victoria, she draws me a picture everyday”. Months go by, and I ask Victoria if she’s still drawing pictures for her teacher. She says yes. At the next PT meeting, I ask her teacher about it and the teacher says, “She doesn’t draw for me anymore.” So I wondered where all her pictures were going.

The teacher said that one day she decided to follow her after she finished drawing her picture. She went into the hallway with her picture, went and gave it to someone at the next door over. I thought “who’s at the next door?” And it was the principal! “There’s a lady that’s much more important than the teacher”, my daughter said. That’s what natural entrepreneurial spirit looks like. She was 5….

On parenting, and working on weaknesses versus strengths

More people should focus on building their strengths instead of covering up their weaknesses. My parents did a great job at fostering my curiosity and helping me cultivate my knowledge. People work on their weaknesses, but as I get older I realize now that I should work on my strengths.

I got good at a lot of things (because I wanted to cover my weaknesses), which helped. People like to talk about Malcolm Gladwell’s “10 000 hours” theory a lot but they don’t talk about how intensely focused you need to be. The hours aren’t enough – many people put in a lot less hours than that, yet are able to focus and outperform people that put in way more hours. The deep focus and intensity is more important than how long you’ve practiced.

On specialization versus being a generalist

There was a girl at McGill who was a piano player back in my day. One day she picked up the bassoon just for fun, and the teacher said “Who are you?” and the girl says “I’m a piano player”. The teacher replies, “Why aren’t you playing bassoon? You’re one of the best bassoon players I’ve ever seen.”

With music, you are a musician first, the instrument comes later . Train to be a musician, not a bassoon player – that way you can be good at all instruments. The same idea can be applied to athletes, and even business: you can succeed at selling cellphones, or coffee, or anything else. Seek to become a strong businessman or businesswoman.

On transitioning between being a musician and being the boss

Transition: It’s a tough transition! I used to be one of the guys. But all of a sudden, I wasn’t being invited to watch the Super Bowl at the guys’ house. And that’s when I realized I’m no longer one of the boys… I’m the boss. Your initial reaction is resistance: “I don’t want to be the boss” But as you grow your business, that’s just what happens – things change.

My father (who was in education) handled a similar transition when he went from being a teacher to being a principal. You can’t really be both, there needs to be a separation.

No matter what you do, you’re a salesman – you’re always selling yourself.

Using gum as currency with children to teach them about money

As soon as my kids were young enough to count, I started using gum as currency with the kids. I figured the currency in prison is cigarettes, right? Well, the currency with kids is gum. If the store is closed and you’re 4 or 6 years old, you can tell them “You gotta wait until tomorrow when the store re-opens” and the kids would say “No I want it now!”

So now we can trade, because I have some gum – something they want. And they can trade in things for it. Over time, the kids became street smart, good with money, and good at business…without even knowing it.

No matter what you do, you’re a salesman – you’re always selling yourself.

McGill’s Schulich School of Music now offers a Minor in Entrepreneurship for Bachelor of Music students who want to learn how to manage a professional career in the creative arts – click here to find out more!

What do you wish they taught you in school?

When I was studying music at McGill, I wish they taught us how musicians can take the skills they learn, and apply them in real world settings that don’t necessarily involve playing music. (Editor’s Note: McGill’s Schulich School of Music now offers a Minor in Entrepreneurship for Bachelor of Music students who want to learn how to manage a professional career in the creative arts” – click here to find out more!)

Students that study music are incredibly skillful. We’re great at listening, we can listen to complex conversations and retain everything, because we’re used to listening to complex symphonies that move. You also have to balance the playing and listening with rigorous academic-oriented courses in the curriculum. You have all these skills that the average guy doesn’t have.

There was this one course back in my day called “Life as a pro musician” – that was useful, but even more would have been better.

Also, they should teach you how to approach education: go to school for knowledge, not the credentials. The knowledge and experiences and the connections are what’s going to shape you. Nobody cares about your degree. Meeting like-minded people who had the same goals is what got me to where I am today. I always made it an active effort to seek them out, and they’re still lifelong friends.

Having kids is the most wonderful thing because you get to discover everything again for the first time.

His definition of success

My definition of success is constantly changing.

Sure, the projects that I’ve worked on have gone on to win things like Emmy, Grammy, Juno, and Gemini awards. I’ve even worked with all my heroes. And all that stuff was great.

But now my definition of success is making sure my kids succeed.

Things he learned from having kids

You gotta make sure the inputs are right. Just like a glass can be filled with different types of things, so can kids. They’re empty glasses, so you have to make sure that the things you put into them are high-quality.

The values you have are transferred by your actions to your kids. Pick the inputs carefully. Try to put the best ones into your kids – they’re blank slates when you start.

Having kids is the most wonderful thing because you get to discover everything again for the first time.

“He wanted to show that yeah, he can do a big show with everything set up, but he can walk into any club with no equipment or set-up and still blow people away.” – Francois Lamoureux (on deadmau5)

A cool story about deadmau5

People sometimes look at someone great and think “I could do that”. When most people do this, they assume ideal conditions: they think they’ll have all the equipment and a team, and everything. Some people figure out everything beforehand and just put it on a USB key.

The people at the highest level don’t need any of that.

Many years ago, he (deadmau5) was at the Juno’s in Ottawa. He didn’t win, and he wasn’t too happy about it. I was hanging out with him and his manager. After he finished his show at the big stadium, he wanted to blow off some steam so he decides, “Let’s go to a random club and do a show tonight, and I’m not going to put the mousehead on.”

At the time, nobody really knew what he looked like. So a few of us went with him to take over a club in Ottawa at midnight. Nobody announced who he was and nobody knew it was him, man. He just started doing his magic, and the people went nuts. He wanted to show that yeah, he can do a big show with everything set up, but he can walk into any club with no equipment or set-up and still blow people away.

François Lamoureux with the team at the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship

Click here to find out more about FogoLabs!

Comments

comments

mm

Mo Akif

The Editor-in-Chief of the Dobson Chronicles, Mo is a U1 Arts student at McGill majoring in Economics and minoring in everything else. Never having started a lemonade stand as a child and tired of reading blog posts about entrepreneurship without actually doing anything, he was on the verge of giving up and joining a pyramid scheme. Luckily the McGill Dobson Centre decided to adopt him, allowing him to get a closer look at what it takes to build something valuable.