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Visions of '10

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

by Tim McMahan Bookmark and Share








Technics Turntable


It's that time of year again where I gaze into the lid of my magical Technics turntable and see visions of the future -- your future! But before I do that, let's look back at how I did last year.
I can say without reservation that last year's predictions were the worst I've ever made in terms of accuracy. Part of the reason is that I let myself get carried away with technology. I predicted '09 would see the beginning of a paradigm shift in how we listen to "broadcast" music. Instead of traditional terrestrial radio or satellite radio, Internet radio would emerge as a major player, thanks to the proliferation of simple Internet radio receivers that would allow you to tune into streamed Internet stations via wifi or 3G broadband. With this would come a rebirth of the traditional DJ, who would host these streamed broadcasts and become the nation's music tastemakers.
Well, it didn't happen. Yes, Blaupunkt did show off a new Internet car stereo at CES this past year, and Pandora has emerged as an important streaming music source, but nothing has really caught fire in terms of web radio. Wishful thinking? If it ever does happen, Internet radio will change the playing field and open up a whole new way for listeners to discover new music.
OK, so what else did I get wrong (and right) last year?


LY (last year's) Prediction: New "smart phones" will effectively killing the iPod and iPhone.

Reality: We said hello to Android and Pre, but neither have seriously bitten into Apple's market share.

LY Prediction: Record labels will evolve into entities that loan money to bands to allow them to tour and quit their day jobs, and act as mere brands that bands want to be associated with.

Reality: Not really, though labels continue to become more marginalized as the industry continues to decay.

LY Prediction: Venues like The Waiting Room and Slowdown will begin to webstream live video broadcasts from their stages.

Reality: This one's just around the corner.

LY Prediction: One of Tim Kasher's bands – Cursive or The Good Life – will release an album somewhere other than Saddle Creek. Creek will release a project this year that will outsell all of its past releases.

Reality: No, though no one knows where Edelweiss (Kasher's solo project) will be released. And not only didn't Creek not sign a huge new act, they lost Tokyo Police Club to Qprime label mom+pop.

LY Prediction: A well-known local club will switch hands. A West Omaha club will catch traction among the indie crowd.

Reality: Mick's became The Sydney (and no, that hadn't been announced when I wrote that prediction last year). We're still waiting for that West O club.

LY Prediction: A young entrepreneur will launch a promotion company to compete with One Percent Productions.

Reality: One Percent continues to dominate the market, with no real local competition in sight.

LY Prediction: Bands we'll be talking about this time next year: Box Elders, Pavement, Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies, Cursive, U2, Titus Andronicus, Spoon, The Show Is the Rainbow, Replacements, Outlaw Con Bandana, Liz Phair, Talking Mountain, Alessi's Ark, Jake Bellows, Little Brazil, Denver Dalley, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fullblown.

Reality: For the most part, right on, except for those illusive Fullblown and Replacements reunions..

LY Prediction: Bands we won't be talking about this time next year: Girl Talk, Okkervil River, The Faint, Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket, Nickelback, Britney, Kanye, Animal Collective, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Of Montreal, Metallica, British divas.

Reality: Well, The Faint just played three sold out dates at The Waiting Room, and Animal Collective's EP was No. 1 on Pitchfork's "best of '09" list..

LY Prediction: Conor Oberst will break the hearts of thousands of his female fans.

Reality: He's still available, girls.

LY Prediction: One of the city's three renowned downtown record stores – Drastic Plastic, The Antiquarium or Homer's Old Market – will close its doors.

Reality: Homer's did close its Old Market store... only to reopen it a block west of its old location.

LY Prediction: One of Omaha's under-the-radar record labels will gain national attention when one of its bands breaks nationally.

Reality: Not yet, but Bear Country (on Slumber Party) could make it happen this year.

LY Prediction: Due to the death of one of its members, we will say goodbye to one of the few remaining all-time classic rock acts that originated in the '60s and is (was) still performing today. The loss will be recognized as the passing of an era.

Reality: They're now called The Jackson Four.

LY Prediction: ARC Studios will host an arena-level superstar to record his/her next album.

Reality: The closest thing (I know of) was Pete Yorn.

LY Prediction: In an effort to attract new blood to the OEAA's, one of this year's OEAA showcases will be held at Slowdown.

Reality: Too bad that didn't happen.



By my skewed math, I’m 5 1/2 for 14. That's pretty bad. Um, let's move on...

The biggest change of 2010 will be in how bands and musicians react to the continued demise of the music industry. Dreams of living off CD sales have become just that -- merely dreams with no bearing in reality. And that means everyone -- including the local high fliers -- have to figure out ways to better leverage their performance income. Here's how:

dollar signs

  • Prediction No. 1: In 2010, local bands will become more insistent than ever about getting paid for gigs, and it's a long time coming. While the army of hobbyist ensembles who are "just happy to be able to perform on a stage" will continue to roll over and lick their nuts for any venue owner willing to put a microphone in front of their mouths, the real bands and performers who have invested long hours and lots of dollars on the road and in the studio no longer will be willing to "suck it up" and play for free or for next to nothing so that the clubs have something to draw people through their doors to buy their booze. With fans no longer buying their CDs, bands will have little choice but to insist on getting paid to play if they want some sort of income for hanging their asses out on stage every night.?

  • Prediction No. 2: As a result of venues (both locally and around the country) being unwilling to knuckle down to those demands from unproven acts, the number of local bands will begin to dwindle. Many long-time stalwarts of the scene that have been struggling to break through the waves will finally realize that it just isn't worth it, and that maybe it's time to get on with the rest of their lives.
  • Prediction No. 3: The serious touring indie bands that can draw hundreds to their shows also are seeing their CD sales dwindle to almost nothing. As a result they will either charge venues higher guarantees or bypass towns like Omaha altogether, assuming that not enough people will show up at their gigs to make it worth their while.

  • Prediction No. 4: Being forced to actually pay the "good" local bands and pay higher guarantees to touring acts will put more strain on venue owners who have been trying to eke out a profit during these tough economic times. As a result, the number of live music venues will continue to dwindle all over the country, including in Omaha, where the serious options will boil down to The Slowdown and The Waiting Room.

The 49'r

  • Prediction No. 5: Despite having fewer venues, there still will be plenty of good, young, unproven touring bands looking for a place to play. This will spawn an increase in "alternative venues" like we saw in the '90s, when social halls and what were essentially practice spaces became options for one-off shows. You'll also see a rebirth of a serious house-show circuit.

  • Prediction No. 6: Ticket prices will continue to rise at local club shows. If the $7 ticket became the new $5 ticket three years ago, the $9-$10 ticket will become the new $7 ticket. And $20 to $25 ticket prices for the next-tier acts will become commonplace. Considering what it costs to see a movie these days, $10 is a value for a night's worth of original live music. Besides, someone has to pay those higher guarantees.

  • Prediction No. 7: Ultimately, there will be fewer indie shows booked in Omaha next year, but they will be better shows.

  • Prediction No. 8: Conversely, ticket prices for huge national touring acts at arenas like the Qwest Center will actually go down, driven both by the economy and the bands' desire to get butts in seats so they can peddle their $100 T-shirts and other assorted non-CD-related merch.



So, to summarize: there will be fewer bands overall, and all of them will be trying to get paid more to play in fewer clubs that will be booking fewer shows but with better national bands playing at a higher ticket price.
Extend that beyond the clubs and you'll see fewer record labels with fewer bands recording fewer albums. But despite that, I still think local recording studios will be just fine, even though cheap, high-quality home-studio options are more available than ever. There always will be someone willing to invest in serious recording, understanding that it's the price of admission if they want to get to the next level (whether that level exists or not).
Overall, the slow demise of the music industry will continue to impact every community in the country just as it impacts ours. But there is a wildcard that could change everything in a heartbeat.
All it takes is another Conor to break through. Because every scene needs a prophet to lead it; someone to give musicians' hope that it could happen to them, too. Well, it's been about a decade since any Omaha band has broken through the way the core Saddle Creek bands -- Bright Eyes, The Faint and Cursive -- broke through nationally, and people are beginning to give up hope that it'll ever happen again.
If in 2010 another music prophet emerges from the Omaha music scene and becomes a national focal point, everything will change, for the better.

Prediction No. 9: It's going to happen. But who will it be?



And now, onto the "lightning round":

-- Consider it a raising of the white flag -- a well-known mainstream band will give away the digital download of its next album. You'll simply have to log into the band's website and voila, the files will be transferred to your computer and/or iPod. Though the download will be free, you'll still have to pay for the CD version and the limited edition vinyl (as well as the tickets to see the band on tour).

-- Despite the fact that only old people buy music these days, a new kind of record store will open this year that specializes in just that: Records. This small, boutique-style music store will boast the area's largest selection of new vinyl, but also will sell CDs and music-related merch, such as T-shirts, collectibles and other assorted music-related ephemera.

-- The success of Susan Boyle proves that it doesn't matter what you look like or how well you sing, anyone can be the next American Idol. All it takes is YouTube and a crush of publicity. With that in mind, watch as record labels scour the globe (or reality television) for the next Elderly Idol -- some unassuming, unemployed fat guy or a recently divorced housewife -- anyone with a shred of talent who appeals to aging baby-boomers who still buy CDs.

-- Three years ago, it was MySpace. Then it was Facebook and Twitter. This year, look for yet another new social media service that will eclipse both of those fossils. This one will be optimized to allow for easy, instant (and legal) distribution of online music, revolutionizing how musicians and fans access "music content" on portable devices, while also providing yet another way to tell our BFFs (and anyone else) what we had for breakfast.

-- Omaha dived into music festivals in a big way last year; with every swinging dick putting together a night of shows and calling it "an event." This year you'll see fewer "festivals" in Omaha, with one pushing ahead of the pack. The Maha Festival could finally become the event the organizers dreamed it could be, that is if they get the right line-up. Find out July 24 down at Lewis & Clark Landing.

-- Adding to the annual "Youth Concert" and the July 4th weekend county-fair freedom-rock concert, look for a third major concert event in Memorial Park this year featuring a genuine outside-the-box performer.

-- DJs Rising: Like other big cities, this year you'll begin to see DJs spinning at more and more clubs and restaurants in Omaha. Soon all of us will know at least one person who "spins" somewhere in the metro, even if it's only at Anthony's.

-- Finally, a new all-ages performance space will take hold, becoming this generation's Cog Factory.

-- Who we'll be talking about this time next year: Arcade Fire, Rolling Stones, Radiohead, Liz Phair, Tim Kasher, Of Montreal, Okkervil River, Bright Eyes, It's True, Soundgarden, Prince, Pavement, Ritual Device, Beck, MGMT, Bear Country, Modest Mouse, The Wrens and Sufjan Stevens.

-- Who we won't be talking about: Animal Collective, Susan Boyle, Monsters of Folk, Wilco, Cursive, The Faint, Emphatic, Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Phoenix, Green Day and Vampire Weekend.

-- UK musician/dope fiend Peter Doherty (Libertines, Babyshambles, Kate Moss) will finally see his problems resolved once and for all.

-- Conor Oberst will break the hearts of thousands of his female (and a few male) fans (I know I said that last year, but it'll actually happen this time).

-- Sick of life on the West Coast and seeing no discernable advantages to living near L.A., a member of a national band we all know will move back to Omaha to be closer to his family.

-- A major national musician will come to Omaha to record his/her new album. But he won't be visiting Mogis' ARC studios; he's headed to Enamel.

-- Watch out SLAM Omaha, a new local online resource will launch in '10 that will act as the definitive arts, entertainment and music information hub, featuring news, reviews and schedules, along with another pointless online discussion forum.

-- Michael Jackson was only six years old when he debuted as a member of the Jackson Five way back in 1964. This year, watch as another 6-year-old raises the eyebrows (and hearts) of an America still mourning the passing of the King of Pop.

-- Back in the day (about 20 years ago) there were a few live music venues located in the midtown/Mutual of Omaha area. Who remembers The Chicago Bar and The Brickhouse? With the development of Midtown Crossing, look for a new live music venue to open among all those restaurants that not only will focus on dance music, but will provide a viable stage for original bands.

-- Forget about Saturday Night Live, Conan, Letterman or network television in general. No one's watching anymore. The next national breakthrough for a local band will come when one of its songs is included on the soundtrack of a major motion picture.

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Published in The Omaha Reader Dec. 30, 2009 through Jan. 13, 2010. Copyright 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.