the music marathon.

We had given up on CMJ and the Music Marathon.

I had gotten so snobby at this point that I felt that CMJ was doing much more harm than good for indie music; the cottage industry that had sprung up around “alternative music” was actually squeezing out indie labels.  The few that had managed to infiltrate the ranks of “commercial alternative” radio – Sub Pop, Matador, Touch And Go, Dischord, and Epitaph – were certainly not representative of what was going on in indie rock, despite at least four of the above being great labels.  But indie labels were suffering.  Distribution was difficult, mainstream press was generally not helpful, and college radio was squeezing out indies in favor of the latest Nirvana clone.

In 1992, we had hoped that our status as a new, local indie with a ten-band compilation would have helped us get a Music Marathon showcase – we were completely ignored.

In 1993 we had grown, gotten a little more notoriety, and had a few bands move on to bigger things, and we thought that might help.  Once again, we were ignored, despite having one band wind up with a showcase for a bigger label (which wound up becoming a clusterfuck in and of itself).

In 1994, we had decided we weren’t interested in participating.

We knew we wouldn’t be asked to, and we knew that if we applied, we would be rejected.  I just wasn’t interested in acknowledging the fact that CMJ was somehow the talent arbiter of alternative rock even as they were destroying it with their new, glossy format and their monthly, pay-to-play CDs.  Dromedary was a true indie, broke as shit and struggling like hell to get some interesting sounds out there, and CMJ couldn’t have cared less.  We couldn’t get CMJ to turn their heads to look at Melting Hopefuls until March Records became interested, then they were happy to put them on a March showcase.  When March’s more popular bands backed out, they became dead to CMJ and once again the band was ignored.  But when they signed their big deal, suddenly they had a review in the magazine, a showcase at the convention, and lots of nice coverage.

Nothing had changed about the band.  The songs were the same – three of them had come out on Dromedary, and two on other compilations that CMJ couldn’t grace with a review.  But once they were out on a label with big distribution and a nice radio promo company, suddenly the music was good enough.

It was, in my opinion, a big sham.

So I wasn’t trying to stage any great protest or anything – I was still a CMJ subscriber, I still got value out of their playlists and radio station listings, and I still participated in their “Dialogue” sections – but I just wasn’t going to be bothered incorporating the magazine or convention into my promotional planning.

“We should have a showcase anyway,” Rich said one night.

“You mean, just do a show at a club, and invite convention attendees in for free?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.  “Have your own convention showcase.  Book it yourself.”

We called ACME.  At that point, we were regulars there, and so were a few of our bands.  Between all of us, there was a Dromedary band, a former Dromedary band, a future Dromedary band, or a friend of ours playing there at least once a week; we made sure that the club knew who we were affiliated with and I tried to talk to the woman who reserved the space at least once a month.  I thought there actually might be a chance to make that work.  So I called her and told her what I wanted to do.

“You could do it the day before the convention, or the day after,” she said.  “During the convention, they’ve got the club every night.”

The other clubs we frequented – Maxwells, CBGB, Continental, Brownie’s, and Coney Island High – were all participating in the Music Marathon.  So were all the second-tier clubs, and the big-name clubs that were too cool for us.

If we were going to do this, it would have to be at a third tier club like the Bond Street Cafe, or it would have to be in Central or South Jersey, at a place like the Brighton Bar, the Melody, the Court Tavern, or Stone Pony.

This really pissed me off.  If you factored in all those clubs, our bands and friends were spending thousands of dollars in those places every month, and they were all off-limits to us during the big convention.  Not one of them was willing to help us out with this.

Not only could I not get a CMJ showcase, I couldn’t even find a club willing to let me have a CMJ protest show.  Which, to me, just reaffirmed the fact that we hadn’t come as far as I had hoped we would have in our first two years.

~ by Al on May 11, 2009.

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