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The CMJ Music Marathon is a yearly gathering of jaded music industry types and eager, not-yet-jaded college radio kids in New York City.  Young, pretty radio girls, beware: don’t be seduced by that seemingly sweet and handsome radio promoter! Just a word of advice from years of experience. The festival, which is put on by the publication CMJ (College Music Journal) takes place over 5 days and if you go hard and party till you drop, can be a 24 hour affair. From day panels to day parties to evening shows to late night shows, CMJ is not for the weak-hearted or weak willed.

Most comparable to SXSW in terms of the industry aspect, the festival begins with a Film portion and then ends with the music marathon. There are day panels that cover every aspect of the industry, from recording to merchandising to publicity, aimed at both industry professionals and musicians themselves. Panelists range from musicians (past years have seen the likes of Ted Leo, this year is Seth Jabour from Les Savy Fav, Dar Williams, among others), to record label owners (this year includes the owner of Razor & Tie), to journalists, to media moguls (the founder of the Hype Machine, the founder of eMusic, etc). The list goes on, but it is always impressive and ideally, it is informative. Just don’t go to a panel, desperate to get a job in the music industry, meet an aging industry record promoter, and agree to work for him for weed. True story. You’ve been warned.

With all of this hoopla going on, it’s easy to lose sight of the primary function of the music marathon: to hear music. An important aspect of CMJ is for up-and-coming bands to get a chance to showcase their music to those ever-powerful wizards: “tastemakers.” NYC is populated with tastemakers; among the crowds are also people who would like to be tastemakers, and people who falsely believe that their opinion matters. For those bands whom are lucky enough to have their music be heard by the right folks, this could definitely be a big break, or at least a starting point. And for those fans who just want to hear some good music, check out a few of the many bands whom I am looking forward to seeing this year:

Pete Rock– Ranked high among the godfathers of hip-hop, Rock has been steadily making music since the early ‘90s. From the classic he did with C.L. Smooth (Mecca and the Soul Brother) to his most recent NY’s Finest, his output is stellar and relevant.

Das Racist– From old school to new. These two Wesleyan grads are well educated in both current events and the rules of hip-hop. The beats are refreshing, and the lyrics are a mind-fuck. They are playing so many shows, why would you even miss them?

The Drums– Surf rock is having a revival right now, and while many bands are doing it pretty straight, the Drums are anything but. A product of a summer camp friendship, the trio released their self-titled full length this year to much deserved acclaim.

Surfer Blood– More surf rock, more FL love (The Drums also hail originally from FL), but with a totally different vibe. Surfer Blood is the perfect package: moody yet not emo, talented yet not egotistic, and fun without being cheesy. Worth seeing live, many times over.

The Golden Filter – Now for the electro-pop, which is ever so hot right now. This band does it especially well, and has the good sense to keep a low profile and just make music.

Lower Dens– Another newer band, I saw Lower Dens at a small crazed venue in Bushwick and they were worth the drunken teenagers spilling beer on me. The band is a side project of Jana Hunter, and they play a quirky folk rock mix.

Check out the rest of the artists and more details about CMJ here: http://cmj2010.com/

-Judy Nelson