CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival Gets Recapped

Back in the ancient days of the 1980s, the CMJ Music Marathon was a New York arts fest whose primary purpose was to get unsigned bands Oberhofer at Pianos [photo: Bryan Bruchman]hooked up with the major record labels. Over the years, even before the internet co-opted a great deal of the recording industry, the major labels seemed to lose interest in this fest as a farm-league styled source for new talent.

For CMJ's 30th anniversary (October 19 to 23, 2010), these majors -- Columbia, Atlantic and Warner Brothers among others -- were hardly a blip on anyone’s mind at the New York University (at the NYU Kimmel Center, 60 Washington Square South) and other downtown venues.There were panels, mixers, workshops etc. One panel was titled Major Label Dilemma: Get In or Get Out of the Way which certainly reflected the dilemma of this year's event.

Still there were more than a thousand bands trying to get noticed -- the best-named among them were Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, Team Facelift and Gringo Star -- but they were mostly out to land paid gigs and sell albums via their websites. The Marathon kept nearly every Manhattan music venue busy with showcases from SoHo’s City Winery to Times Square’s BB King’s Blues Club.

Presented by the alternative music publication College Music Journal , CMJ Marathon organizers have worked hard over the years to reach out to the film industry, so it seemed like this year nearly as many films were shown here as at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. These days, the five-day event is called CMJ Marathon & Film Festival, and justly so.

The major studio title that made its debut was 20th Century-Fox’s Love & Other Drugs. Edward Zwick's romantic comedy about two free-spirited, 20-something commitment-phobes starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway was arguably as market-tested as most pharmaceuticals, though that didn't deflate the high of CMJ festival-goers.

There was also a serious social-mindedness to this year’s CMJ as the festival gave booth space at the Kimmel Center, where the vendors as per tradition gathered for their expo, for the non-profit organization, Invisible Children. The mission of Invisible Children is to shed light on the shocking civil war in Uganda where children are being kidnapped and are being forced to become soldiers against their will. The plight of these unfortunate minors was also the subject of a documentary, also titled Invisible Children, that made its debut at the CMJ event.

See the complete lineup at

CMJ Music Marathon
October 19 to 23, 2010

New York University's Kimmel Center
60 Washington Square South

and many New York music venues