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CMJ shows @ Mercury Lounge & an e-mail snafu (scandal?)

Sonic BidsAs a New Yorker who loves to see live music, I love the CMJ Music Marathon (SXSW and Pop Montreal too). Yes, it’s almost always like CMJ in NYC (aka there is never a shortage of live music to see and discover), but CMJ (October 16-20 this year) adds the element of around-the-clock hour-by-hour themed music showcases. You can create a schedule, and see a lot of artists from around the world in a short time. Many CMJ shows also often offer much more for your money than you get on a normal bill, but yeah, sometimes that means shorter sets (if that bothers you). I like CMJ (and Bowery Ballroom) so much, that I even couldn’t turn down the opportunity to set up my own showcase when I was offered the chance this year. And on top of the official shows, you get the countless, mostly-free unofficial ones to choose from (my own included). From the point of view of someone who wants to see as many bands as possible live (at least once), it’s all very efficient.

That said, I’ve never been a big fan of the CMJ application process. I feel bad for the bands that fork over some non-refundable cash (currently $35-$45), only to find out later that CMJ (or SXSW/Pop Montreal/whoever) did not accept them for the festival. CMJ can only accept as many bands as there are clubs to play in, so obviously everybody can’t get in. I don’t know if there’s a better way to do it, but it still sucks for those who don’t make it. Rejected bands do get something out of it though – a “Sonic Bids Electronic Press Kit” – a page they may or may not ever use in the age of MySpace.

Sonicbids was launched in 2001 on a simple idea: that it should be super-easy for artists and music promoters to find each other online, without sending bulky press kits through the postal mail.

Since then, Sonicbids has become one of the fastest-growing music communities on the web trusted by over 70,000 artists and over 6,000 festivals, music conferences, and clubs from over 100 countries. [What is Sonic Bids]

If a band does use their Sonic Bids page though, they can then easily track (like MySpace) how many people played their music. That brings us to today’s scandal. Part of the idea behind the Sonic Bids page is that CMJ will use it to judge you – at least that is what the many disgruntled band members who emailed me last night & this morning are claiming – that CMJ will listen to those songs to decide if you should be accepted in the festival. I did not fully research this – it sounds right though (correct me if I’m wrong in the comments). And according to those emailers,

  1. CMJ sent out a rejection notice to approximately 670 bands (who each paid approximately $35-$45)
  2. CMJ accidentally CC’d (instead of BCC’d) all of those bands (OOPS).
  3. 670 upset bands suddenly all have access to each other – all are now pissed off together- all can reply-all
  4. At least one person replies-all and says something like, “hey check out my band everyone”, thus pissing off the other 669.
  5. At least one other person replies-all and says something like, “hey, did anyone else notice that their Sonic Bids music got zero plays?” (aka, in theory at least – CMJ did not listen to their submission before rejecting them after they paid $45 for CMJ to do that very thing)
  6. At least one or more people suddenly notice the same thing
  7. Lots of people are even angrier, etc….

To be fair, one commenter at Ghost Media (who documented the whole email thing in more detail), wrote…

but, i don’t think sonicbids is complete drivel. it has worked for us. we actually got a spot on one of the cmj new music monthly sampler cds that goes out to college radio stations, industry people and subscribers all across the world. we did that by entering the cmj/sonicbids contest a few months ago, which we won a week to be featured on both sites, then, we also won the enitre month, so, we earned a spot on the cd. that is a $3000 value. i don’t remember how much it cost to enter, like $10.

overall i’d say we have dropped about $250 into promo via sonicbids. given the numbers, i am happy with the return.

they also contacted us directly to license songs to tabacco companies overseas and offered us $250 a track. royalties and free promotion would be a factor too. but we said no to that.

so, the point is, sonicbids does work in some cases.

but, i don’t like spending $45 bucks on a contest i potentially wasn’t even assessed upon paying a fee.

that pisses me off.

I did not contact CMJ for comment – just reporting from the point of view of the disgruntled. Is it reasonable to assume that CMJ will listen all applicants? Is it possible that CMJ did listen to the music, but that it just doesn’t show up in Sonic Bids (thanks commenter)? If not, is it fair to make people pay to apply? More commentary over at QCLA music blog and Ghost Media.

On a more positive (and related) note, here is who did get in to CMJ, or more specifically, here’s who did get in to CMJ and is playing their show at Mercury Lounge (which I was going to post today anyway, so why not combine the posts?):

Tuesday October 16th
Jesse Lacey & Vin Accardi (Brand New) 8:15
House & Parish 7:30 (info)
Jay Brannan 7:00

Wednesday October 17th
Eskimo Joe 1:00 (info)
Robbers on High Street 12:00
The Little Ones 11:00 (info)
The Airborne Toxic Event 9:00
The Loose Salute 8:00
Rock And Roll 7:00

Continued below….

The Dirtbombs
The Dirtbombs

Thursday October 18th
The Dirtbombs 12:00
Jay Reatard 11:00
The Intelligence 10:00
Miss Alex White 9:00
Cheap Time 8:00
Turbo Fruits 7:00

Friday October 19th
White Denim 1:00
The Broken West 12:00
Polytechnic (feat. Andy Rourke) 11:00
The Shaky Hands

Saturday October 20th
Tigercity 1:00
The Harlem Shakes 12:00
Professor Murder 11:00
Georgie James (ex. Q & Not U) 10:00
Dragons of Zynth 9:00

And then there are the bands playing Bowery Ballroom, and expect a full schedule of bands playing everywhere to pop up any day now.

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