Before we can look forward, we must look back. Last year’s predictions for 2010 started with nine hunches that can be summed up this way: There will be fewer bands all 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. To gauge my accuracy, we went to the expert. Marc Leibowitz, whose One Percent Productions books most of the indie rock shows in Omaha (at The Waiting Room and The Slowdown), says last year the number of shows booked was about the same, though “some were just smaller.” Ticket prices went up “a little bit, but not much. We fight to keep shows cheap.” And there weren’t fewer quality bands, just “fewer bands that have big followings.” All of which neither validated nor disproved my predictions. What we do know: A number of notable local bands did break up or went into hiding last year, their official whereabouts unknown, including It’s True, UUVVWWZ, Box Elders, Beep Beep, Son Ambulance and The Faint. Both It’s True and UU are returning with new line-ups. And filling the gaps was the arrival of The Mynabirds, Conduits and So-So Sailors — all potential breakout national acts. As for the number of clubs, the choices have dwindled to just The Waiting Room and Slowdown for touring indie bands. O’Leaver’s is booking fewer shows, and The 49’r was deep-sixed. Last year I also predicted that we’d see fewer record labels with fewer bands recording fewer albums. But recording studios have hung in there despite the availability of high-quality home-studio options. And we’ve actually seen the rise of Grotto and Grapefruit Records, which join local entities Saddle Creek, Speed! Nebraska and Slumber Party. So, I’m batting less than .500. Let’s see how I did in the Lightning Round. 2010 Prediction: Another well-known mainstream band will give away the digital download of its next album. Gorillaz, The Fall ; Girl Talk, All Day ; Prince, 20Ten and Phoenix, Live in Sydney were among last year’s free downloads. R.E.M would be wise to follow suit. A new kind of record store will open that specializes in just that: Vinyl records. Not here, not yet. We’ll see an increase in “alternative venues” like in the ’90s, when social halls and practice spaces became options for one-off shows. The Faint’s old Orifice practice space on Leavenworth has become a funky option for smaller shows. A new social media tool will be optimized for easy, instant (and legal) distribution of online music, revolutionizing how musicians and fans access “music content” on portable devices. We welcomed Apple’s Ping, but Ping ponged. The MAHA Music Festival will become the event organizers dreamed it could be, if they get the right line-up. Direct hit. Adding to the annual “Youth Concert” and the July 4th weekend county-fair freedom-rock concert, look for a third free major concert event featuring a genuine outside-the-box performer. Slowdown’s free “block party” featured Built to Spill. Like other big cities, we’ll see DJs spinning at more and more clubs and restaurants in Omaha. DJs are becoming so ubiquitous; there’s even one (Reader contributor Brent Crampton) spinning at the new Republic of Couture jeans store in Midtown Crossing. A new all-ages performance space will take hold, becoming this generation’s Cog Factory. We watched the rise and fall of The Hole, the all-ages venue that started downtown and moved to Benson, and whose future remains uncertain. 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. Most were hot topics, though we’re still waiting for Radiohead, Ritual Device and The Wrens’ return. 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. There’s no avoiding Lady Gaga. UK musician/dope fiend Peter Doherty will finally see his problems resolved once and for all. He’s still kicking. Conor Oberst will break the hearts of thousands of his female (and a few male) fans. Well, he didn’t get married anyway. 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. Cursive’s Tim Kasher returned home from the wild last summer. A major musician will record his/her new album at The Faint’s Enamel Studio. Didn’t happen, as far as I know. 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. We welcomed Omahype.com last month, and HearNebraska.org is at the starting gate. Like Michael Jackson another 6-year-old raises the eyebrows of an America still mourning the passing of the King of Pop. Willow Smith, Will Smith’s daughter, had a mega hit with “Whip My Hair,” but she’s downright elderly at 9 years old. Look for a new live original music venue to open in Midtown Crossing among all those restaurants. Nyet. 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. Well, there was Lovely, Still . Next week: Visions of 2011.