Yesterday marked the beginning of the CMJ (College Music Journal) Music Marathon in New York City. The marathon celebrates all that music and film have to offer, new and old, over the course of five chaotic days. During last year’s marathon I volunteered my services, along with many other music enthusiasts, to get into the shows for free. For what I think was probably 10 or 20 hours of service over the course of the week, I received a badge that allowed me to get into just about any show I wanted, which was seriously a dream come true. I picked apart the CMJ schedule for the bands I wanted/needed to see and literally created an all-inclusive timetable of my own to make the best use of my time over the week. Each day I had a listing of the band playing along with time and venue (obvi) but I went so far as to map out the best subway route(s) to take so I wouldn’t have to stop and think for a second. For the marathon, I made sure to purchase a 7-Day Unlimited Metrocard because I knew between subways and buses I’d get more than my $24 worth for the week (generally a single ride on the subway/bus is $2).
Over the course of the week between classes, my internship, being an RA, volunteering for the marathon and attending shows, I probably got about 4 hours of sleep a night, but it was absolutely worth it. Since high school I’d been heavily involved in my local music scene and decided that I would one day want to start a record label. Attending college in New York City was great at helping me get my foot in the door through internships, but during the fall of my junior year I interned with a company that absolutely sucked (not to name names, BurnLounge), and ruined all of my aspirations and desires to be involved in the music business. Immediately following I’d taken an internship with a [not so typical] women’s fashion magazine and found something new to love. It was working at the CMJ Music Marathon and attending shows like it was my job that opened my eyes to how much I truly love and want to be a part of the music industry.
Needless to say I was initially destroyed when I moved back to Philadelphia and got a full-time job, dashing my hopes of volunteering at this year’s CMJ Marathon. Last year I got to see Ben Lee (awesome), Birdie Busch (amazing), Boys Like Girls (fun), Breakup Breakdown (excellent), Dan Keyes (beautiful), David Bazan (melancholily gorgeous), Forward Russia! (off the wall), Hotel Lights (haunting), Kaddisfly (okay), Kevin Devine (my #1 true love, see also: omg amazing as always!), Matt Nathanson (amusing), Pablo (so good), Rooney (booty-shakin’), Scenes From A Movie (not bad), Snowden (okay), Soft (pretty good), Straylight Run (beautiful), The Decemberists (rad), The Format (fun), The Hint (good), The Oranges Band (awesomely fun), The Rapture (dance party orgy), These Arms Are Snakes (awful!), Tigers & Monkeys (amazing!), Valencia (amazing, they’re my boys in the most literal sense) and Wax On Radio (awful!). There were also a ton of amazing people I met through volunteering and just around the city that week. I ran myself ragged all over New York and loved every second of it.
After actually seeing who was playing this year, my disappointment at not being able to attend dissipated. There are very few bands in the line-up that I recognize or care to see, and some bands just seem totally out of place on the roster (Bouncing Souls, The Counting Crows ?!?!) — though maybe it’s not possible to be out of place at CMJ. There are 38 bands, out of hundreds, that I’d like to see play this year, only five of whom I’d try to go out of my way for. My lack of excitement for the current line-up makes me feel way better about not volunteering this year, and even about not being in New York.
In the future I hope to get back in the festival game, but this year I’m okay with missing it. Mostly, I’d like to head over to Austin for SXSW and City Limits, perhaps even Coachella in CA someday. There are music festivals all over begging for volunteers to help out in exchange for free shows, great music, and rad people, and I would like to be able to do that professionally (though the technical definition of professional makes that impossible as I wouldn’t be “earning a living” by it — whatever). You want in? Let’s go, go, go!
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