Australian Artists Run This Town. By Kirsty Brown
This month, I have the privilege of writing this column from the CMJ Conference in New York City.
The CMJ Music Marathon is a hosted by the College Music Journal, an incredible organisation that represents college radio stations across America. College radio is the lifeblood of independent and emerging music in the States – individual stations on campuses handpick their own playlists and support the live music scenes in their hometowns, which results in an enviable network of live and radio opportunities for artists from all across the world. College radio has been responsible for breaking artists into the mainstream time and time again, and the unique format of each individual station (some playing entire albums rather than singles) has provided a platform for many Australian artists to really succeed in a highly competitive market. If your music is good, it will find an audience here and bands like the Jezabels and The Drones have broken into the lucrative US market purely on the back of college radio support.
The CMJ Music Marathon takes place over 5 days and nights in New York City, utilizing over 80 venues from uptown to Brooklyn, showcasing over 1200 artists and performances and in this week, around 120,000 punters will hit the town. Additionally, the conference element of the festival is ran out of NYU (with an enviable view of the city, Empire State Building looming large in the distance) and discussions this year have largely focused on new technology, experiential marketing, the Cloud, and new ways of generating revenue in an increasingly competitive marketplace that’s becoming more and more reliant on social media.
Sounds Australia, the organisation that assists Aussie artists with showcasing opportunities abroad has helped more than 23 bands maximize their CMJ experience this year, with each band playing several showcases and Australian music industry representatives speaking on and hosting panels.
This year, Sounds Australia brought WIM, Cameras, Grace Woodroofe, Guineafowl, Seekae, The Grates, John Steel Singers, Boy & Bear, Art vs Science, Bleeding Knees Club, Little Red, Gotye and a stack more to the Big Apple for the experience of a lifetime. Unlike SXSW, which attempts to connect musicians with higher levels of the music industry, the focus of CMJ is giving artists direct access to the people who will play their music. At College Radio Day, 9 Australian bands showcased 2 songs each to nearly 300 student-staffed station managers and programmers from all across the US.
The response to Australian bands is thrilling! What is particularly evident at a conference like CMJ is just how capable, enthusiastic and *tight* our bands are. They are simply world class, and as cliché as that statement may be, when you’re whisked to the other side of the world and have the chance to comparatively view scenes, it’s impossible to deny.
The quality of live performance is what really pushes the bands over the line when attending a conference like CMJ and ensures that the band can return to America and enjoy the fruits of their labour. Of course, the bands are already here having been selected on the strength of their music, but when they arrive in CMJ, they are here to work and maximize every available opportunity. WIM for example are playing 11 shows in the space of a week while in New York – they got up at 7am on a Thursday morning the night after a 2am show to play just two songs to the college radio staffers. Little Red arrived to the same showcase without having even been home to change from the show the night before! But you would have hardly known that these bands were tired, exhausted, probably hungover and most certainly jetlagged. Who can say what doors this may open in both the short and long term – but even if 3 of those station managers decide to play their album, it would be well worth the effort.
Ultimately, the lesson here is that the world is ready for what we’re offering – our scene is strong, our bands are great and coupled with the diligent work ethic, sunny disposition and dedication we are renowned for, there is no longer any disadvantage in being Australian. The world is our oyster!
As published in the Drum Media, Oct 25th, 2011.