While searching through our archive for a particular piece of CMJ coverage from last year, I came across something I had no recollection of writing but that bears striking resemblance to something I started writing last night, to be posted today. I’ve been thinking a lot about the things people say about CMJ’s waning influence and its questionable usefulness in the Internet Age, and how they’ve been saying those things over and over again for years, with no real, discernible effect on the Marathon itself, at least not when you consider the many, many unofficial (ahem) parties that spring up every year, making up for whatever in-house booking challenges CMJ may face. Anyway, here’s a post from 364 days ago that I could have written this morning.
Because it’s October and because the exact same conversations happen over and over again every single year, there’s been a lot of chatter these past couple weeks about the extent to which CMJ still matters. And there are plenty of reasons to say it doesn’t really matter at all anymore, chief among them its inability to attract big names the way it used to, and the fact that there are a million blogs doing the job of CMJ—exposing us to new bands—every single day of the year, all over the world.
But then again, that stuff starts to seem less meaningful, less damning, the day it all starts. You see that The Times ran a piece about a prevailing trend in indie rock. You see that your mom has called to tell you she cut out an article about CMJ from Newsday for you. You see that your Twitter feed is full of very, very excited people talking about what shows they’re going to see over the next five days. Some of it feels dirty and reeks of self-promotion, of course, but really no more than any other normal day on Twitter. Friends are in from out of town. You can score lots of free booze if you know where to look. It’s fun, basically, when a lot of people pay attention to something you really like.
Even more important than that, though, we’ll be reminded that the process of discovering new music really only starts on the internet. There are probably 25 bands I could name off the top of my head that I’ve listened to online, on my headphones, at my desk, but that I’ve never seen live. I’ll try to see as many of them as possible this week, and it will help me develop more informed opinions than a few low-quality MP3s will allow. The problem, as we all know, is that informed opinions don’t actually get you very far on the internet, and that by the time you’ve taken your precious stance, everyone’s already moved onto the next band. We all know this is bullshit—that it’s a terrible way to think about music, and that it’s probably making music much worse on the whole. CMJ doesn’t have it in its power to reverse any of this, and they very well may wind up not even existing for much longer because of it. But for now, there’s an awful lot of music to see, and that simply has has to matter.