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Visions of '08

Uncanny visions of the future of music (local and otherwise).

by Tim McMahan











Before we get to '08, let's look back at how well I did figuring out what was going to happen in '07. Without a doubt, it was the worst year for predictions since I began doing these almost 10 years ago:


LY (last year's) Prediction: It won't be disco, but something very close will emerge as the dominant sound heard both on the radio and in the clubs. A dance craze will sweep the nation as horny singles tire of staring at the Internet and return to the sweaty, Brut-soaked dance floors.

Reality: Though a few dance songs emerged, there was no national dance craze (unless you count Dancing with the Stars). Still, a significant dance-related trend did emerge in Omaha last year with DJ-fueled, theme-inspired dance parties like Loom held at España and Goo at Slowdown. Goo has become this generation's Sprite Night (and if you "get" that reference, you're too old to be reading this), where the city's youth gets together to get down, both on the dance floor and Slowdown's big stage. As much as I love dance music, I've never been to Loom or Goo because, well, going to a dance party and not dancing is like going to a nude beach with your clothes on -- you're either part of the loving mob or you're the freak with binoculars standing along the periphery. No one wants to be that guy.

LY Prediction: A new sound will finally emerge that redefines indie music as we know it.

Reality: Indie bands kept playing that same ol' song.

LY Prediction: Apple's Steve Jobs will merge the iPod and the cell phone in a new device that will revolutionize communication and signal the end of the old-fashioned iPod.

Reality: A few weeks after that prediction was published, Jobs announced the iPhone, along with a new line of iPods, and the Age of the Apple continued.

LY Prediction: With the advent of digital downloading, the sun will begin to set on the CD, while new value will be placed on vinyl records.

Reality: CD sales are, indeed, continuing to decline as digital downloads continue to grow. Meanwhile more and more artists are looking toward vinyl, including local boys Mal Madrigal, who aren't even offering their new music on CD. Still, it's going to be a long time before CDs go the way of the cassette tape.

LY Prediction: Slowdown will finally open, along with two new venues -- one in mid-town, the other near the Old Market. The casualties won't be the Sokol, but smaller clubs, which likely will either get out of the live music business or close their doors.

Reality: Slowdown opened, as did The Waiting Room, though no other downtown music venue opened (yet). Instead, Benson emerged as the city's hot new music district. Sokol is still limping along, while The Saddle Creek Bar and O'Leaver's cut back on live music.

LY Prediction: A CMJ-style indie radio station will be launched, financially fueled by a successful local business person.

Reality: Omaha continues to lack a decent radio station, and it doesn't look like it'll ever get one.

LY Prediction: Musicians we'll be talking about this time next year: Radiohead, Bright Eyes, The Faint, Sarah Benck, Desaparecidos, U2, Husker Dü, Pavement, Sufjan Stevens, Neil Young, Rilo Kiley, The Good Life, David Bowie, Madonna, Brimstone Howl, Eagle*Seagull and Blue Moon Ghetto.

Reality: Radiohead released the most controversial album of the year. Bright Eyes is up for a Grammy (for packaging), Benck, Young, Rilo Kiley, The Good Life and Brimstone all released important albums in '07.

LY Prediction: Musicians we won't be talking about: Dylan, Cursive, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, Tenacious D, Tool, Dave Matthews Band, Springsteen, Incubus, Evanescence, My Chemical Romance, Blue October, Hinder and Michael Jackson.

Reality: Yup, though Springsteen did release a new record this year.

LY Prediction: Britney breeds. Again.

Reality: The breeding took place, but with a different Speers.

LY Prediction: The expansion of the Qwest Center will make way for Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Van Halen and the return of U2.

Reality: Van Halen has been booked, but we're still waiting on the others.

LY Prediction: The American public will finally tire of the American Idol, but even more hideous reality shows will emerge.

Reality: Fox, of course, is picking up Idol for another season, but do you remember who won last year? Didn't think so. And you can thank the writers strike for that new batch of shitty reality shows that will begin airing next fall.

LY Prediction: With one of the holy triad leaving the nest, Saddle Creek will sign an already-established act that no one will expect, and the label will have its first gold record.

Reality: : Well, as far as non-North American distro is concerned, Bright Eyes did leave Creek for Polydor last year (but remains with Creek for the good ol' U.S.A). No other band has left (yet), and no established act was signed. As for that gold record -- Conor and Creek will have to keep waiting.

LY Prediction: A new Mogis Bros.' recording studio will open that will attract some high-flying non-Creek musicians who will be book "secret shows" in some unexpected locations.

Reality: Mogis' ARC studios opened last spring, and though it did pull in some interesting artists (Lightspeed Champion, for example), none performed around town.

LY Prediction: One of Omaha's premier singer-songwriters will sign to a major label.

Reality: Nope.

LY Prediction: A local music journalist will announce that he's been working on a book that chronicles his experiences with the local music scene, but instead of just focusing on Saddle Creek, the book will include almost every band and musician he's ever covered over the past 20 years.

Reality: No announcement was ever made, though I hear that book is almost done.

LY Prediction: Bright Eyes will be a special musical guest on Saturday Night Live.

Reality: Nope.

  So, if I stretched it, I went 9-1/2 for 16. Not bad, not great. I know I'll be more accurate with this year's predictions because something tells me '08 will be just like '07. Here's what I see:

  • The Downward Spiral. The music industry will continue to fall further into the abyss, helped along by established bands like Prince, Radiohead, Madonna and Nine Inch Nails turning their backs on the majors, and by the emergence of new technology that allows downloading even higher quality sound files that'll make old-fashioned mp3s sound like wax cylinder recordings. To survive, labels will finally reduce the price of CDs to below $10 across the board, but it'll be too little too late.
  • The 360 Game. Indie record labels will see their business model shift from selling products to becoming service industries. With more and more bands recording their own music, and with the decline in CD sales, labels will leverage their reputations and connections to line up press, organize tours and provide merch to their bands -- all for a fee. It's not the majors who will rely on the "360 record deal," it's the indies, who will begin to treat bands more like clients than products.
  • The Starbucks Effect. When it comes to downloading, music fans will slowly begin turning away from their computers and start turning to their cell phones, thanks to the iPhone and the plethora of iPhone knock-offs. These new devices allow music downloading wherever there's a WiFi hotspot. So in addition to record stores, you'll begin to hear new music in coffee shops (like Starbucks, which already offers this service), music venues and retailers -- all of which will be playing music over their house sound systems and coaxing you to download it while you shop.


  • DJs and Cover Bands. Following the success of Goo and Loom, venues known for live music will begin hosting more DJ-driven music events. You'll also begin to see more cover bands playing in venues that never would have considered them just a year ago, all in an effort to grab a bigger share of that precious nightly audience.

  • The Return of the Heavy. After years of putting up with fluffy acoustic ballads, retro psychedelic chamber music and low-octane dance tracks, indie music fans will push back and demand a return to real rock music instead of all that jangly stuff they've been getting for the past decade. We're talking about the return of heavy music, god help us all.


  • Performers we'll be talking about this time next year: Yo La Tengo, Madonna, Husker Dü, The Whipkey Three, Prince, The Strokes, The Replacements, Tom Petty, Baby Walrus, The Faint, U2, Mousetrap, Aimee Mann, Sufjan Stevens, Midwest Dilemma, Death Cab for Cutie, Son, Ambulance.

  • Performers we won't be talking about: Bright Eyes, The Good Life, Radiohead, Jay-Z, Beck, Josh Groban, The Arcade Fire, Interpol, Led Zeppelin, Hannah Montana, Linkin Park, Bruce Springsteen.

  • All of Amy Winehouse's problems will go away.


  • New Kid in Town. A new Omaha-based indie record label will emerge that will rival Saddle Creek in its ability to attract national exposure, thanks to a roster of bands that will catch the attention of the next generation of indie music lover.


  • Bensonfest. Based on the success of the Omaha Entertainment Awards showcase held just a few weeks ago in Benson, a two-day showcase will be held this summer in the same venues with similar bands plus a few Saddle Creek high fliers and some out-of-towners. Mixed within the audience will be reps from a number of record labels looking to sign the next big thing.


  • Don't Call It a Comeback. Watch for one-off reunion shows from a number of Omaha/Lincoln Golden Age-era (circa the mid-'90s) rock bands that influenced an entire generation of Saddle Creek bands, but who are all but unknown to the Hotel Frank generation. One of these reunions will take hold, and that band will record new music.


  • Blogger Wars. Already becoming a credible news source, music blogs will become an even more dominant resource for music fans, further crippling old-line music publications and alternative weeklies. The press will react with robust blogs of their own, powered by journalists who will get paid peanuts for their contributions (Musicians aren't the only ones being hurt by the Internet). Bonus: The Omaha World-Herald will, once again, redesign its shitty website, and fail.
  • The New Ranch Bowl. Just like every year, a couple new high-dollar music venues will open, each with the goal of replacing the long, lost Ranch Bowl. Neither will put a dent in Slowdown and The Waiting Room, who will continue to rule the roost. Watch as one of these two new venues closes by the end of the year.

  • SNL. I say it every year, and every year I'm wrong. With that in mind, '08 will be the year that Bright Eyes finally takes the stage on Saturday Night Live.

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Published in The Omaha Reader Jan. 3, 2008. Copyright 2008 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.