When the weather begins to chill and the leaves start to change colors, that can only mean the CMJ Music Marathon is around the corner. Ever since it’s inauguration in 1980, CMJ has been a staple for music lovers eager to discover new, exciting bands. In it’s 34th year, CMJ promises to be more enthralling then ever. With an eclectic array of artists, there’s something for everyone at this years event. EARMILK had a chance to sit down with Showcase Director Matt McDonald to get the low down on this years events. We discuss everything from tips and tricks for making the best and getting the most out of your experience, to what he believes will be the next big thing in music! Check out out one-on-one and get ready because CMJ kicks off next Tuesday October 21st and runs until Saturday October 25th.
Also be sure to stick around next week as we share our Top 10 Official and Unofficial CMJ showcases you can't miss!
EARMILK: Hey how are you? Let’s kick things off with finding out what you are working on right now?
Matt McDonald: Hey, I'm pretty cool. Right now we're just finalizing everything for the new CMJ app, which makes checking out unfamiliar bands super easy and sorting out your schedule for the week completely intuitive.
EM: There are tons of great acts on this years line up, can you tell us a few of your favorite that you personally are looking forward to?
MM: It's hard for me to get to a lot of things that I'm personally interested in, and I hate to play favorites, but we kick off on Tuesday with the New Zealand Showcase at The Studio at Webster Hall and close out with The Aussie BBQ on Saturday at The Delancey, which is a nice indication of how important international acts have become to CMJ (though it certainly includes more than just our Antipodean friends.)
EM: What’s the most difficult part of putting together something on this scale together? What have you learned over the years?
MM: Given the sheer number of people and places that participate in the festival, just keeping on top of all the moving parts is the biggest challenge. It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle while waterskiing. But over the years, I've learned prioritizing is key and a true crisis is rare.
EM: What do you think the next big thing will be, can range from an idea, concept, song, music video, sound, tech platform, event or trend that you think is game-changing or has the potential to be?
MM: The fringe is coming back!
EM: CMJ is a unique live music experience, did you anticipate it would become as successful as it has? Why?
MM: I'm sure 34 years ago it was hard to imagine we'd grow so much, but the mandate has always been to identify and present the best new music to our audience, and that draw is pretty powerful, especially in a live setting. It's gratifying to see how positively people have responded and see it go from one venue featuring two bands to 75 stages and over 1300 performances.
EM: Other than the many bands and musicians, what else do you think draws people to come out every year?
MM: I think people respond to the networking element, the education element, the element of surprise, and also the strange–in a good way–energy that permeates the five CMJ days and nights.
EM: If you had to pick one defining moment of CMJ over the years, what would it be?
MM: Man, that's too tough to answer, so here's my deflection: every year has its own defining moment for each participant. Could be you're an artist whose profile takes a big jump forward; a fan who sees The xx or Kendrick Lamar or Passion Pit perform for the first time; a college radio DJ who meets her peers and then runs around town together all week; a European festival booker who, in the same day, discovers two perfect bands to fill out his undercard and a perfect slice of pizza; a panelist who falls in love…you get the idea.
EM: Lastly do you have any tips for first timers heading to CMJ this year?
MM: Pace yourself, be curious, be spontaneous, and enjoy the greatest city in the world. Also, it's never too early to start planning your return trip to next year's 35th anniversary edition!