King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are among the ones to watch at this year's CMJ MusProvided

Roughly 1,300 acts will perform throughout the city as part of the CMJ Music Marathon. While this number may seem daunting, it’s not even the half of it.

“It’s about a 25 percent acceptance rate,” says Matt McDonald, who programs artist showcases at CMJ.

“Music is the most important thing, obviously,” says McDonald, “but we look at what kind of press they have, what kind of tour history they have, online profiles, what kind of team they have in place. If we commit to inviting them and if they commit to making the trip, whether that’s across a bridgeor across an ocean — the last thing we want for anybody is to play to an empty room — then we’re really looking for bands who are at a point where playing CMJ can really benefit them.”

Some of CMJ’s biggest success stories — Arcade Fire, Lady Gaga, Avicii, Mumford and Sons — all played small rooms in previous years and broke out to bigger success because of the CMJ exposure.


McDonald, who’s in his 10th year with CMJ, says one of the biggest differences with this year’s marathon is that attendees don’t have to do too much extensive research to figure out who they want to see.

“It’s the first year we’ve really had a top-notch app,” he says. “With almost every band, you can just click on the link and with a festival like this, you have 1,300 acts and most people only know some of them, so just being able to hear it right then, right there can make a huge difference in terms of being spontaneous.”

So who is McDonald looking forward to this year?

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. “Have you seen them? They are awesome live! They’re a great rock band. There’s either three or four guitars.”

Moses Sumney. “I haven’t had the chance to see him live yet. He’s from L.A. and he has a really impressive voice. It’s a little bit on the new R&B side.”

Spookyland. “Spookyland are from Australia. The guy has a pretty interesting voice. I saw them live a couple months ago, and they were kind of all over the place in terms of influences, so that’s one I would definitely like to check out again.”

Joey Bada$$. “Joey Bada$$ is an up-and-coming hip-hop act. He’s been around for a couple years now. He played two years ago when he was very, very new still. So this is kind of like his return.”

And during the daytime. “Zola Jesus is doing a Q&A, Mac and Laura from Merge are doing a ‘looking back on the Merge label’ sort of thing and Tom Scharpling is going to do a Q&A. It will be interesting to see what he’s been up to since ‘The Best Show.’ ”

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