32 years after its formation in 1981, the CMJ Music Marathon is still going strong. Held every autumn throughout New York City, the festival has grown significantly from its modest roots—it initially started with just two bands at a small club in Manhattan—and has become a starting point for launching successful careers for hundreds of artists and bands from around the world, including Lady Gaga, Arctic Monkeys, Mumford & Sons and Mastodon.

In recent years, the marathon—which will be held Oct. 15-19—has expanded from Manhattan into Brooklyn, reaching a grand total of 80 venues over four days. Showcases begin in the early morning and finish in the late hours of the night, as thousand of musicians play throughout the four-day span. While many of the venues allow fans to purchase tickets to shows individually, attendees of the festival have the opportunity to buy passes that give them full access to the marathon’s showcases, panels, parties and other events. The same passes are available to students, who are eligible to receive discounts on badges. The festival also accepts applications on their website for people to donate their time as on-site volunteers and photographers.

This year, CMJ welcomes the return of several veterans such as ’90s indie rockers The Dismemberment Plan and industrial metal band Godflesh as well as embracing new artists who hope to reach a broader audience they might not have had access to otherwise. Proudly celebrating music diversity, showcases depict a large range of acts, from electronica and punk to jazz and metal. Lee Fields & The Expressions bring their particular brand of classic soul to the city that never sleeps on Friday, Oct. 18, at Webster Hall in Manhattan alongside retro R&B artist Nick Waterhouse, while Metalinsider.net hosts a showcase across the East River at Brooklyn’s Club Europa. This show, which will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 16, sees West Virginia-based Byzantine returning to New York City to play for the first time in six years alongside black metal band Nachtmystium.

Anticipated newcomers include Northampton’s Speedy Ortiz, who will headline a showcase at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn with hometown heroes Hunters and punk four-piece Ex-Cult Thursday, Oct. 17.

Santos Party House is the place to see up-and-coming electronica pop acts as well as established artists during marathon, with The Griswolds, an Australian five-piece that describes their music as “tequila-inspired party pop” ending the night on Wednesday as well as hosting newcomers Claire the next night. Other acts on the same bill include an 11:30 p.m. set time of Haerts followed directly by Lovelife, the British band formerly known as Viva Brother. Saul Williams & The Dragons Of Zynth, who is recognized not only as an alternative rapper and poet but also for his role in the 1998 film, Slam, closes the showcase Friday night.

Staying true to their name, which stands for College Music Journal after their trade publication, the festival hosts a College Radio Day on Oct. 17, celebrating stations produced by universities and honoring their accomplishments. The event offers a wide array of panels for broadcasting students, such as Autonomy, Authenticity, And Defining Independence, which aims to teach students how to “attain funding, respect, and good will” from their community while keeping the station’s best interest at heart, as well as Radio Relevance: 2013, which takes on the subject of radio’s role in the ever-changing world of digital streaming. The day closes with the ninth annual CMJ College Radio Awards, which honors the best college stations in categories such as Rookie of the Year, Most Creative Programming and Station of the Year; the latter which Seton Hall University’s WSOU is nominated for. Festivalgoers can cast their votes for all 20 categories on site the day of and winners are announced later in the evening.

CMJ also offers seminars for those who aren’t affiliated with college radio and are instead catered to musicians and those who wish to break into the business side of the industry. These seminars run throughout the week at New York University’s Kimmel Center and are hosted by a wide variety of industry insiders, such as company CEOs and musicians. Topics explore where the business stands and where it is headed, such as The State Of Emerging Music In 2013, which takes a close look at the drastically changing music industry and what that means for both artists and fans alike. Close Encounters: Artist Free For All gives fans a chance to hear straight from CMJ artists themselves the honest reality of “living out their dreams.”

A common theme this year is surviving in the digital and crowd-sourcing age. Give It Away Now: Music’s Freeconomy is centered around the idea of using tracks as a marketing tool as opposed to the actual market, sparked by the “free download” and music sharing craze. Along the same lines is The Age Of The Musicpreneur, which takes a look at self-production and funding through the internet and how to set a solid business plan. This goes hand-in-hand with Global Digital: Emerging Markets, which focuses on promotion through digital platforms and how to break through the barriers to reach international fans. Other panels include The Challenges Of Indie Labels In A Streaming World, which looks at how indie record companies are staying afloat in the digital landscape as well as Broadcasted: The Reign Of The Music Video, which examines how video platforms like YouTube aid in helping artists build a fanbase through visual means in their videos and other visual outlets.

A day of legal seminars are also offered, geared toward those who are involved in the business side of the entertainment industry, and contains lectures on licensing (Sync Or Swim: Licensing Music For Film/TV/Video Games In The Digital World), copyrighting, and managing live shows (Managing Risks: Live Venues And Sponsors).

From the hundreds of talented acts to the dozens of educational conferences, the CMJ Music Marathon has something to offer all of their attendees year after year, and 2013 is no different. Check out some of these artists before they become huge, so you can brag you saw them before they hit the mainstream.

For tickets, schedules and additional information on the CMJ Music Marathon, go to cmj.com/marathon.

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