Music History


The year was 1981. Blondie, Kool & the Gang and John Lennon topped the charts. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” made adventure archeology the misplaced career choice of a generation. Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a dove. And in October of that year in one small New York City venue, with only two bands, CMJ was born.

Now the festival is one of the world’s most important outlets for new music, with more than 1,400 performers given a chance to shine in over 80 nightclubs and theaters spread across the city. Merging historical legacy with the most influential platform for the discovery of emerging artists, CMJ draws 120,000 people into the city that never sleeps for five nonstop days and nights. Venues bustle with exclusive parties, over 100 cutting edge conference events featuring industry insiders, an Entertainment Business Law Seminar and College Day, a mixer designed especially for college and non-commercial radio programmers.

The CMJ Music Marathon offers an up-close opportunity to see future stars on the rise, often in an intimate setting that artists are about to leave behind.

In 2004, a then-unknown Montreal-based band named Arcade Fire played at the 250-capacity Mercury Lounge—a show still regarded as a crucial part of the band’s success story. The same venue played host to Mumford & Sons in 2009. A year later the band garnered several Grammy nominations and achieved multi-platinum status for their debut album, Sigh No More.

Other success stories at the Music Marathon have included breakout performances by an eclectic array of artists. The past 10 years at CMJ have included appearances by the following:

2002 – Iron & Wine, Lamb of God, Mark Ronson, Mastodon, Moldy Peaches, My Morning Jacket, Sigur Ros, Gossip, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Explosions in the Sky, James Murphy, The Used, Jason Mraz

2003 – Andrew WK, Killers, Damien Rice, Jet, Sufjan Stevens, Against Me!, Mars Volta, My Chemical Romance, The National, The Rapture, The Shins, Broken Social Scene, Citizen Cope

2004 – Arcade Fire, Keane, TV On The Radio, Antony & the Johnsons, The Bravery, The Decemberists, Battles, Brazilian Girls, Regina Spektor, Coheed & Cambria

2005 – Feist, Grizzly Bear, Hot Chip, Wolfmother, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, We Are Scientists, Paramore, Jose Gonzalez, Devendra Banhart, New Pornographers

2006 – Justice, The Knife, Clipse, Cold War Kids, CSS, Girl Talk, Walkmen, Shooter Jennings, Secret Machines, Beach House, Ra Ra Riot, Mute Math

2007 – M.I.A., MGMT, Band of Horses, Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend, Dan Deacon, Deerhunter, Yeasayer, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Ghostland Observatory, Santigold

2008 – Lady Gaga, Passion Pit, Friendly Fires, Lykke Li, B.O.B., Crystal Castles, Janelle Monae, Jay Reatard, Justin Townes Earle, Naked & Famous

2009 – Mumford & Sons, Sleigh Bells, Surfer Blood, Temper Trap, The xx, Portugal. The Man, School of Seven Bells, The Antlers, Atlas Sound, Lana Del Rey

2010 – Avicii, Neon Indian, Dale Earnhart Jr Jr, Diamond Rings, Lower Dens, Oberhofer, Big Freedia, Oh Land, US Royalty, Braids, PS I Love You, First Aid Kit, Company of Thieves

2011 – Alabama Shakes, Gotye, Gary Clark Jr, Kendrick Lamar, Caveman, ASAP Rocky, AraabMUZIK, Art Vs. Science, EMA, Givers, Zomby

2012 - Icona Pop, Foxygen, SKATERS, Daughter, Savages, DIIV, Sky Ferreira, Mac DeMarco, METZ, Joey Bada$$

2013 - Courtney Barnett, HAERTS, Kelela, Magic Man, The Head and The Heart, Wet, Kodaline, The Preatures, Eagulls

Who will join those names at the 2013 event? Keep an eye on CMJ.com for details of our lineup this year.