It’s time to gaze into my crystal Peavey Amp and tell you what’s going to happen in the music world in 2021, but before I do (as I do every year), I’ll first look back at last year’s predictions. Only a stark-raving lunatic could have foreseen the rise of COVID-19 and its dreadful impact on the music industry. And yet… Let’s take a look:
2020 Prediction: One or two Omaha music venues will shut down permanently this year, while “those in charge” will begin to second-guess the proposed $109 million Omaha Performing Arts concert venue.
Reality: The Lookout Lounge and Barley Street Tavern both closed their doors, and rumor has it there’s some head-scratching going on over the OPA concert venue. Of course a pandemic played a role in both those predictions coming true…
2020 Prediction: A former Omaha Girls Rock student will break through in her own band on our local stages.
Reality: No one broke through on any stage in 2020.
2020 Prediction: In an effort to retain local talent, a new local nonprofit will form that will financially subsidize local musicians, their recording projects and their tours.
Reality: The only way this is going to happen is if I do it myself with Susie Buffett’s money.
2020 Prediction: The popularity of cassettes as a consumer format will continue as more artists choose to release new recordings on tape.
Reality: By July 2020, there was a 103 percent increase in cassette sales in the UK; still, cassette sales comprise less that 1 percent of the overall music market.
2020 Prediction: A major concert will be organized to bring out the vote in Nebraska’s 2nd District, which could play an important role in keeping Trump out of office.
Reality: NE2 did swing for Biden even if the pandemic prevented huge Democratic rallies in Omaha and elsewhere.
2020 Prediction: Despite capturing big sponsorships, Maha will not book an artist as popular as Lizzo to headline this year, instead opting to spend more money on high-end bands across both festival nights.
Reality: The Maha Festival didn’t happen (but having seen the proposed line-up that was never made public, the prediction was spot on).
2020 Prediction: “The trend of booking fewer touring indie bands at Omaha venues will continue. We’ll be lucky to get one A-list indie show per month.”
Reality: When you’re right, you’re right.
2020 Prediction: We’ll all be singing “Deacon Blues” in 2020.
Reality: Donald Fagen did not join Walter Becker last year, though we all were singing the blues.
2020 Prediction: Bands we’ll be talking about next year: Algiers, Bright Eyes, Criteria, Perfume Genius, King Krule, David Nance Band, The War on Drugs.
Reality: All released albums in 2020 despite the pandemic, but we’re still waiting on those new ones by Beach House, Kendrick Lamar, Slowdive and St. Vincent.
2020 Prediction: Conor Oberst will finally walk across the Saturday Night Live stage.
Reality: Here I thought, at the very least, Conor would make a cameo alongside Phoebe Bridgers. Nope.
Final score: Around 50/50, with help from a national pandemic. So what about 2021? As shitty as 2020 was, things will only get better, but…
Prediction: Vaccinating enough people where it feels safe to go to concerts again will take a lot longer than anyone expects. The Waiting Room, Reverb Lounge and The Slowdown all will begin booking touring bands again beginning in July. O’Leaver’s will plug in the amps in early fall, alongside The Brothers Lounge.
Prediction: The Maha Music Festival will be back in late summer, though we’ll all still be wearing masks and social distancing (sort of). On the other hand, South By Southwest, which takes place in March, will remain a digital-only affair.
Prediction: As of this writing (Dec. 16), Save Our Stages legislation as part of a revised CARES Act has not passed, but it will pass eventually, only to be followed by a Save Our Stages II Act.
Prediction: Despite federal SOS and CARES Act money finally flowing, venues will continue to go out of business (including a major Omaha player) because gun-shy audiences still fearing COVID-19 will drag their feet before returning to the clubs.
Prediction: Under pressure from some very large artists, streaming services (and labels) will be forced to look at how they’re compensating talent, considering streaming revenues increased 21 percent in 2019 vs. the previous year, while Spotify now boasts 320 million monthly active users as of Sept. 30.
Prediction: After a year of ordering stuff online, shoppers will rush back to brick-and-mortars post pandemic, and record stores are going to be one of the big beneficiaries. Watch them enjoy their biggest 3rd and 4th quarter sales in years.
Prediction: One bi-product of the pandemic — live-streamed rock shows — will become a new revenue generator for bands and venues who learned how to properly produce and monetize online events. Look for venues to offer streaming tickets right alongside live show tickets on a regular basis.
Prediction: Home recording was already a thing, but after spending a year stuck at home, bands and musicians have honed their skills. Look for more home-recorded releases in 2021, though formal studios will be plenty busy servicing the big stars who have been holding their water throughout the prior year.
Prediction: While there was a surprising number of albums released in 2020, watch the floodgates burst this year, as artists rush to release recordings they’ve held onto until they could return to the road.
Prediction: Bob Dylan won’t be missing that song catalog he just sold to Universal after this year.
Prediction: Bands and performers we’ll be talking about this time next year: Arcade Fire, Bright Eyes, The Faint, The Good Life, David Nance, Courtney Barnett, Little Brazil, Nick Cave, The National, Angel Olson, Modest Mouse, Phoebe Bridgers and U2.
Prediction: I’ve given up on my annual “Conor Oberst on SNL” prediction, which almost guarantees this is the year it’ll happen.
Over The Edge is a monthly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.