Here it is, the most well-read, if not the most controversial, article of the year — a clairvoyant peek into untapped regions of time to ponder what will happen musicwise in the Year of Our Lord 2013.
But before we get to that, let’s see how well I did with last year’s predictions:
2012 Prediction: Vinyl record sales will peak in 2012 and then begin to flatten out as the novelty wears thin.
Reality: According to October Nielsen Soundscan numbers published in Billboard, vinyl LP sales were up another 16.3 percent in 2012 vs. the previous year, with 3.2 million units sold. Where will it end?
2012 Prediction: Streaming music services such as Spotify will get bigger, better and become the “norm” for listening to new music.
Reality: It’s getting to the point with a lot of listeners that if your record isn’t on Spotify, it simply doesn’t exist.
2012 Prediction: Spotify and other music streaming services will adopt an iTunes model, offering tracks for sale.
Reality: Nope, and it doesn’t look like it’ll happen until these services have completely destroyed the ability for artists to make a living selling music.
2012 Prediction: Music publishing rights income will erode as artists begin to pay to get their music used on TV, movies and in commercials to widen their exposure.
Reality: Not yet, but only because no one has figured out how to do it.
2012 Prediction: Kickstarter and other online fundraising platforms will become matter-of-fact go-to options for musicians to fund new albums in the absence of signing with a record label.
Reality: In 2010 Kickstarter projects raised $27 million in pledges. This year through October, the number was $381 million, with Kickstarter campaigns coming from heavy hitters like Amanda Palmer (Dreseden Dolls), Daniel Johnston, Murder By Death, Polyphonic Spree, Bob Mould, Of Montreal, Paula Cole, even our very own Simon Joyner.
2012 Prediction: A low-watt or web-based alternative “radio” station will be developed in Omaha, partially as a result of the Local Community Radio Act.
Reality: Non-profit local music website Hear Nebraska was awarded a grant to develop Hear Nebraska Radio. Watch (or listen) for the first online broadcast this year.
2012 Prediction: Benson will be the subject of a reality TV show along the lines of The Real Housewives of Benson or Benson Venue Wars.
Reality: TLC and Bravo don’t know what they’re missing.
2012 Prediction: Another poor year for ticket sales will force MECA to rethink the future of the Red Sky Music Festival.
Reality: MECA announced this fall that it no longer will host Red Sky.
2012 Prediction: The Maha Music Festival will land one of its all-time dream acts. The festival’s success will cause Maha to outgrow Stinson Park.
Reality: Maha booked arena act Garbage along with national touring local stars Desaparecidos and enjoyed record attendance of 4,300, but it still wasn’t big enough to budge them from Stinson Park, which will host Maha again this year on August 17.
2012 Prediction: Artists we’ll be talking about in ’12: Conduits, The xx, Sleigh Bells, Garbage, The Shins, The Mynabirds, Digital Leather, Tilly and the Wall, Beck, Paul Westerberg.
Reality: The first eight all had successful albums released in ’12, while Beck released a song book and Paul Westerberg reunited with some of his Replacements buddies for a benefit recording.
2012 Prediction: This year all of Eddie Van Halen’s problems will be resolved once and for all.
Reality: Not only is he alive and kicking, but Van Halen went on tour.
2012 Prediction: A new locally produced, slick-print publication will emerge in 2012 with a special emphasis on music, art and fashion.
2012 prediction: As an experiment, Matador, Sub Pop or our very own Saddle Creek will release an entire formal full-length album by one of their top acts as a free download (You’ll still have to pay for the vinyl, and there will be no CD).
Reality: It’s now the norm for labels to premiere entire albums as free streams from major websites such as NPR.org or Huffington Post, but you still can’t download them…yet.
2012 Prediction: Cursive (not Bright Eyes) will be the first Omaha band to debut on SNL this year.
Reality: This did not occur.
2012 Prediction: One of the city’s longest-running local music columns will call it a day in ’12.
Reality: The Reader’s long running Lazy-i music column closed shop in March, replaced with a new non-music column by the same author. Lazy-i.com, however, lives on (forever).
So. I didn’t bat a thousand for ’12, but I didn’t strike out, either. With that in mind, it’s time to gaze into my mystical, magical crystal Marshall amp to unveil visions of the coming days, weeks and months. Before we get to the quick hits, here are the global premonitions for 2013:
Some could argue that indie music in Omaha peaked in the early 2000s but maintained a strong presence throughout the decade right up to the pre-20-teens. But it was only a matter of time before the erosion of the music industry began to take its toll both locally and on a national scale. At a time when musicians depend on live performance income more than ever, next year larger clubs will begin to slope down the number of indie shows they book in favor of more commercial options, such as cover bands and mainstream-style pop acts (Some say it’s already begun). That isn’t going to stop indie bands from touring. Instead, it will force them to find other options, effectively driving indie music back underground. Just like in the early ‘90s, next year we’ll begin to see a revival of shows hosted at alternative venues, including hall shows, house shows and temporary one-off venues — anywhere local promoters can find a stage for bands to play.
The underground trajectory will touch all facets of indie music. For example, the dream of signing with a record label and “breaking big” has all but disappeared as labels have become little more than PR firms with musician clients. While there’s still value to being signed to a mid-level label (especially for touring), a new, unfortunate music distribution model will become more commonplace, one that involves bands giving away their music as free downloads in the hopes of generating income from vinyl and merch sales.
As a result of these gloomy financial prospects, the number of viable touring indie bands will dwindle as it becomes painfully obvious that it’s nearly impossible for even nationally known bands to make a living solely from their music. Day jobs will become the norm for bands who before survived solely on album and touring income.
With touring becoming less of an option for bands, watch for a revitalization of local and regional music scenes. Instead of waiting for them to come to their hometowns, fans will begin to venture to their favorite bands’ hometowns to attend local shows. Under this model, a music district such as Benson could become a true destination spot for music fans, but only if more venues open along Maple Street and an enterprising entrepreneur decides to build lodging (hotel, etc.) nearby.
In the end, 2013 will be a bleak survival test for nearly all indie bands unless something big happens that shakes up the music industry and makes listening to music “something special” all over again. Like punk, grunge, and hip-hop, a new major music style is due to emerge that’ll change everything. But don’t look for it next year…
Pretty grim stuff, but it ain’t all bad news:
— Forget about hearing new music on the radio. The internet will take its toll once again, forcing all radio stations to switch to oldies formats. If you want to hear new music, you’re going to have to go online.
— A new digital music format will emerge next year that will make mp3 and AAC formats obsolete. The tiny file’s audio quality will be so fantastic it will drive music lovers to replace all their old music files and will hasten the demise of CDs as at least one mid-major label will announce next year that it no longer will offer new releases in compact disc format.
— A new music-based reality competition TV show will debut in 2013, but instead of focusing on performers (like American Idol and The Voice), the show will focus on singer/songwriters. Starting the season with 12, each week, a songwriter will be eliminated in head-to-head battle, eventually leaving only one. Instead of a record deal, the winning songwriter will get a contract with a top LA-based talent agency.
— Rolling Stone will follow SPIN and become an online-only music website, while Pitchfork will debut the first issue of its new monthly print publication by year end.
— With the naming of a stellar headliner for 2013, the Maha Music Festival will announce a format change from past years that will involve either an additional night of music or a third stage.
— Meanwhile, MECA will fill the void left by Red Sky’s demise with at least two major outdoor concerts at Ameritrade Ball Park and six sell-out-quality shows at Century Link Arena, including at least one “significant” indie-style band that we never thought we’d ever see in Omaha.
— Bands we’ll be talking about this time next year: Husker Du, Wilco, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, PJ Harvey, Pavement, My Bloody Valentine, Tom Waits, Lloyd Cole, Matthew Sweet, Liz Phair, Beck, Arcade Fire, David Bowie, Grasshopper Takeover and Bright Eyes.
— Bands we won’t be talking about: Green Day, The Rolling Stones, Springsteen, Metallica, Lady Gaga, Maroon 5, fun., Ke$ha and Psy.
— All of Aerosmith’s problems will be resolved once and for all.
— Local record stores will get some new competition from a music shop that will open in Benson next year that caters to vinyl enthusiasts and musicians. Meanwhile, yet another new record store will open in a strip mall somewhere west of 120th St.
— Saddle Creek Records will adopt a “damn the torpedoes” business plan and release more full length albums and singles in 2013 than anytime in its history. Expect at least two new bands to join the roster, including one well-known indie music veteran, while at least one long-standing Creek act will jump ship for a major label.
— Another all-ages venue will open in Omaha in 2013 operated as a non-profit by some familiar faces and catering to the indie music crowd. Expect some high-profile bands and musicians to lend a hand getting the venue off the ground.
— An out-of-this world national performer will play a last-minute “secret show” at either O’Leaver’s or Pageturners, making national music news.
— A local performer will be “discovered” by a big-time movie or TV mogul who catches their set while in town visiting a production.
— And finally, it wasn’t Bright Eyes, The Faint or Cursive but Icky Blossoms who will finally break the barrier by making their television premier on Saturday Night Live.