Adaptation and Distribution

The CMJ Big Break? Not Such a Big Deal

Recording contracts aren’t as glamorous as they used to be, not with major labels floundering. MTV and commercial broadcast radio haven’t helped by narrowing their offerings to a few nearly incompatible genres: self-pitying emo rock, bump-and-grind rhythm-and-blues and catchphrase hip-hop. At the CMJ showcases, some bands were still aiming for careers in current mass-market rock. They were the ones slavishly imitating Fall Out Boy’s punk-pop hooks and making music-video rock-star faces.

[…] The do-it-yourself circuit was once a patchwork of live shows and sporadic college-radio exposure, but the Internet has changed that. Now, the most obscure band can put up a page on myspace.com and have its music streamed on any Internet connection, any time. So a showcase at CMJ or its springtime counterpart, South by Southwest, is no longer such a make-or-break moment.

But a live performance, something more tangible, hi-fi and sloppy than a faceless MP3 file, can still make a band vivid. Born Ruffians, a band from Toronto, writes crisp, staccato songs about awkward feelings, harking back to the early Talking Heads. The songs can easily stand on their own. But onstage the band’s lead singer, Luke LaLonde, brought an extra dollop of endearing, unabashed nerdiness to the music.