CMJ: The L Train, Passes, and oh yeah… Music

The College Music Journal Music and Movie Marathon or as most call it, CMJ, is a week long festival of the arts that is held in Manhattan and Brooklyn every year towards the end of October. I wish that I could write a long review about the interworking and technicalities of the festival, but I’d be better suited with a review of New York’s Subway since that’s where I spent the most time.

CMJ is not a very “user-friendly” festival, because it isn’t a festival at all. There is no set venue, so those who attend CMJ must walk, take trains, ride buses to get to their destination.
This year, CMJ provided a brand new smart phone application (The CMJ App), which was supposed to help those in attendance to navigate their way from venue to venue.  This doesn’t help those who don’t have a smart phone but a pass is still supposed to get you admittance to shows.

CMJ-goers are provided with a pass that permits you to get into any venue during the six-day event for free and without hassle.  The CMJ badge is advertised as a foolproof way of attending shows, art galleries, information providing seminars, and independent film showings, however this is not guaranteed. CMJ does not rent out any space for any CMJ events. Instead the festival pays for a certain amount of tickets so that a specific number of CMJ badges can attend any particular event. Many of the events don’t have anything to do with CMJ other than being in New York City during the same week and CMJ buys about 20 slots for it’s participants. With this being said, if you don’t show up early, chances are you will not be let in. In a city like New York, being late is more than a possibility.

I arrived fairly early at Terminal 5 to see one of my favorite bands, Portugal. The Man. Although I was early they said they were not accepting any more badges because they were at full capacity.  My stomach sank. This was supposed to be the pinnacle of the CMJ experience for me. I was then told that I could pay for a ticket and get in. How could I buy a ticket if the venue was at capacity? I Spent the $25 anyways. Portugal. The Man., like most of the art being showcased at CMJ, was phenomenal.

I feel sorry for the many artists who went unseen because those in attendance were lost in New York, stuck on a subway, or just didn’t feel like traveling to different borough when there was another showcase closer a few hours down the line.
Despite this being a “college” festival, I met more post grads at CMJ than actual students. In fact many venues were 21 and up. How can this event be advertised as the Mecca for college music and have an age limit? Most juniors don’t even turn 21 until midway through the second semester. Why not call this “Senior Music Journal… if you arrive early and own a smart phone, otherwise you’re fucked, Marathon” I like many others, would not have minded skipping out on drinking to see the acts I planned to.
It seems like the creators of this event are more interested in networking and making money than putting together a festival of the arts. At one venue there was a table of what looked like important people right in the middle of the room all on their laptops not even glancing at the bands performing. There wasn’t much college or music going on at CMJ, journalism on the other hand…. That aspect was ever so present.

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