CMJ Music Marathon, the long-running new music showcase and industry-wide conference, celebrated its 35th year in 2015, its second edition under new owner Adam Klein, who purchased the company outright in 2014. Whether it will celebrate its 36th is the cause of some speculation this week.
The long-running organization’s web site and social media accounts have remained dormant since June. (Its most recent posts on both Twitter and Facebook read, “We love all our dedicated fans. Please bear with us.”) And as the autumn creeps closer — last year, the initial lineup was announced Sept. 9, with the week-long festival running in mid-October — several media outlets have publicly questioned whether the Music Marathon will return.
Multiple sources with longstanding connections to the annual festival have confirmed to Billboard that they are not aware of any plans for CMJ to return to New York this year. However, in a statement provided to Billboard, Klein writes that “a little patience and a whole lot less wild and unsubstantiated speculation is what we need right now,” and that the company will “share more about our 2016 and 2017 program soon.”
Klein makes no mention of the location or timing for the Marathon — or indeed, makes any mention of the Marathon at all — leaving open the possibility of a significantly curtailed live festival, none at all, and/or the introduction of a new “program” altogether.
One talent agent tells Billboard that the festival will not be happening this year, adding that CMJ is deep in debt and could not come up with the funds to do it. Two other sources who had been involved in booking acts for CMJ in the past tell Billboard separately that they have not heard anything about the Marathon this year, despite the fact that in previous years showcases and performances would have been in the works internally for weeks by now.
After Klein’s takeover, last year’s edition brought a slew of changes to the Marathon, which moved its conference from its longtime home at New York University to Manhattan’s Dream Hotel and modernized its infrastructure in an attempt to bring the festival back to cultural prominence.
Complicating matters is the first-annual Mondo.NYC festival, created by Robert Haber — who originally founded CMJ as a college radio trade publication in 1978 and launched the first Marathon in 1980 — and his wife, Joanne Abbot Green, which is set to be held at CMJ’s old NYU stomping grounds from Sept. 14-18. Mondo is set up as both a conference and week-long showcase that will cover essentially the same broad topics that arose at CMJ each year — namely, music, tech, business and the convergence of the three. Mondo has begun rolling out its panel and conference announcements, with Glassnote Records founder Daniel Glass tapped for the opening keynote address.
CMJ’s history as a proving ground for independent artists — not to mention a rite of passage as an early employer of dozens of music industry vets over the years — means that its potential absence will be missed by those who remember its influence. Whether the CMJ Music Marathon returns in 2017, or what it will look like moving forward, remains to be seen.
Additional reporting by Andrew Flanagan.