Music Visions of 2018 (What will happen next year in the Omaha music scene (and beyond)?)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:00 pm January 2, 2018

by Tim McMahan,

You’ve seen what happened in 2017, now read what will happen next year in the world of music. This was originally published in The Reader, also in print this week.

* * *

The year 2018 is the Year of the Dog in the Chinese Zodiac, but something tells me the music of 2018 will be anything but doggy! But wait, before we get to the predictions for next year, let’s see how well I did with my 2017 predictions

2017 Prediction: With the inauguration of Donald Trump, most indie artists will write at least one controversial track this year, but don’t look for these protest songs on the pop charts.

Reality: Downtown Boys lit the fuse with their take on “The Wall” between U.S. and Mexico; Fiona Apple went after a certain someone with “Tiny Hands,” and Priests sang about a “Pink White House,” but for the most part, we’re still waiting for the anger to come out. Come on, rock stars.

2017 Prediction: A system will emerge that will give starving musicians some sort of subsidy that will allow them to perform their craft.

Reality: Wishful (and some would say deluded) thinking in the Trump Era.

2017 Prediction: Hear Nebraska will emerge in 2017 bigger and stronger than ever, with programs that are even more artist-focused than in the past.

Reality: Nebraska’s music non-profit merged with Lincoln’s The Bay to form super non-profit Rabble Mill that will be bigger and stronger than its parts.

2017 Prediction: More quasi-independent booking agents will emerge to help finance and organize the booking of touring indie shows at local clubs.

Reality: It’s happening, though you may not notice it, yet. To keep up, check out “Nebraska DIY” on Facebook.

2017 Prediction: Watch as Virtual Reality (VR) integrates into live performances, allowing people to feel like they’re at live rock shows while standing in their underwear in their bedrooms.

Reality: On Oct. 4 Matchbox Twenty broadcasted a concert from Denver billed as the “first fan-controlled virtual reality experience” in 360 VR.

2017 Prediction: This will be the year we see a sort of “singularity” with streaming, when so many people will be listening to streaming services that record labels and artists will finally begin to see real income from having their music hosted online, not unlike how film studios make money from HBO and Netflix.

Reality: Streaming service subscriptions now comprise 62 percent of total music revenue in the U.S., according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Labels are seeing some of the money and so are the big artists, but the little guys are still left with pennies.

2017 Prediction: After reaching a 28-year high, vinyl sales finally will reach its ceiling, either leveling off or falling compared to the last couple years’ numbers.

Reality: Year-end numbers weren’t out at press-time, but as of mid-year 2017 vinyl album sales were up 3 percent, to $182 million in revenue.

2017 Prediction: You’ve heard of mix tapes, mix CDs and, of course, Spotify playlists? This year someone will offer the ability to create your own mix vinyl album.

Reality: Uh, no.

2017 Prediction: Too many legends died in 2016. This year no one leaves this earthly plane.

Reality: Unfortunately, we lost a legend in Tom Petty this past October.

2017 Predictions: Bands we’ll be talking about this time next year: Black Keys, Algiers, LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, Beck, Father John Misty, Monsters of Folk, Jenny Lewis, St. Vincent, Matt Whipkey, Spoon, Courtney Barnett, High Up, Nine Inch Nails, Little Brazil, and friggin’ U2. Bands we won’t be talking about: Kanye, Bright Eyes, Lady Ga Ga, The Rolling Stones, Phil Collins, Metallica, Morrissey, Beyonce and R.E.M.

Reality: Pretty dead on, actually, except for Black Keys and Morrissey.

2017 Prediction: While no local act will make his or her way onto a national television broadcast for a live performance, one local band will hit pay dirt in 2017 with a licensing deal that results in hearing their song in heavy rotation… via a TV commercial.

Reality: If there was one, I didn’t hear it.

Final score: 7 for 11, not bad. Now onto the Year of the Dog…

2018 Prediction: With Milk Run gone another DIY venue will emerge to try to fill the void in booking up-and-coming touring indie artists. The hook: It’s a venue you already know about.

2018 Prediction: Saddle Creek Records has been on a roll the last couple years, signing two new artists last year and hitting it out of the park with Big Thief and Hop Along. With new California offices, expect as many as three or four new bands added to the Creek roster in 2018, including at least one veteran indie band looking for a new home.

2018 Prediction: With its numerous world-class venues and recording studios, Omaha always has attracted national musicians to adopt it as their new home, but this year watch as some rather big names leave NYC and LA behind for the cheap digs and central location only Omaha can provide.

2018 Prediction: Those who freaked out when vinyl returned will be doubly shocked when cassette tapes begin to make a comeback this year. Cassettes provide a low-price alternative to music fans looking for a tangible fix who can’t afford to buy vinyl, and for musicians who can’t afford to press it.

2018 Predictions: Speaking of vinyl, as albums sales begin to flatten this year, watch as prices for new vinyl finally begin to drop. Can the $9.99 album be far behind?

2018 Prediction: Fed up with facing a crowd of people holding up smart phones during concerts, artists will implement new technology that will block smart phone cameras from operating inside venues. Now what are we gonna do between acts?

2018 Prediction: With Hi-Fi House going public last summer and Hear Nebraska merging with Lincoln’s The Bay, look for yet another music-related organization to emerge, this time as a non-profit performance venue.

2018 Prediction: In an effort to avoid suffering a sophomore (or junior) slump, more and more bands will change their names after their first of second release. Same band, different name, all to keep their music in front of the ever-fickle music public always looking for the next big thing.

2018 Prediction: With the opening of the new Capitol District we will see even more live original music somewhere downtown other than at No-Do. When was the last time you went to an indie show in the Old Market?

2018 Prediction: As the Maha Music Festival turns 10 this year, expect a mega-spectacular headliner and possibly the festival’s expansion to a two-day event. The time has come.

2018 Prediction: You thought Prince’s and Bowie’s deaths were earth shakers, someone even bigger will be knocking on heaven’s door this year.

2018 Predictions: Bands we’ll be talking about this time next year: LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, Monsters of Folk, High Up, Little Brazil, David Nance, Low, Stephen Malkmus, Cursive, Car Seat Headrest, Whitney, Navy Gangs, Bib, Hop Along. Bands we won’t be talking about: Eminem, St. Vincent, U2, Kendrick, Lorde, The National, Fleet Foxes, The xx.

2018 Prediction: Director Alexander Payne, who is about to move back to Omaha, will be so bowled over by the area’s music scene that he not only will try to integrate Omaha music into one of his upcoming films, he’ll begin work on a movie based loosely on the Omaha music scene circa 2003. I know where you can find a screenwriter, Mr. Payne…

First published in The Reader, Jan. 1, 2018. © Copyright 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

* * *

Lazy-i Best of 2017

Hey, don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Lazy-i Best of 2017 Comp CD!

The collection includes my favorite indie tunes I’ve come across throughout last year as part of my tireless work as a music critic for Lazy-i. Among those represented: Sheer Mag, David Nance, LCD Soundsystem, Digital Leather, Beck, CLOSENESS, King Krule, Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile and lots more. The full track listing is here, or take a listen if you have Spotify.

So the big news is you, too, could win a copy of the CD. To enter, either: 1. Send an email with your mailing address to, or 2) Write a comment on one of my Lazy-i related posts in Facebook, or 3) Retweet a Lazy-i tweet. You also can enter by sending me a direct message in Facebook or Twitter. Hurry, contest deadline is midnight Jan. 5.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Kevin Devine covers Conor Oberst; United’s having a sale, and how do bands make money off 7-inch vinyl?

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:50 pm January 17, 2017

by Tim McMahan,

Quiet times these days, but it’s that time of the year where few touring indie bands are coming through and there’s just not much going on.

Looking through the clips, I found this clip of singer/songwriter Kevin Devine covering Conor Oberst’s “Mamah Borthwick” from Oberst’s last solo album, Ruminations. It’s part of a video project that Devine talks about here.

Also, for those of you looking to press some vinyl, a pitch letter arrived in my in-box from United Record Pressing for 7-inches: 300 with white sleeves for $849; 300 w/ one-sided foldover and polybag for $1,149; and 500 w/one-sided foldover and polybag for $1,349. I include this information only because I didn’t realize how expensive it was to press vinyl.

So let’s say you press 300 of the polybag version and then sell them for, what, $5 each? That’s a gross of $1,500, minus your $1,149 and then minus recording costs, etc., equals you’re in the hole. How do bands make money off vinyl?

Anyway, the sale runs through Feb. 15. A bigger question is whether United can guarantee you receive your vinyl by Record Store Day…

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Winter screwed my weekend; is vinyl a ‘fad’ or here to stay?; Pono sound challenge…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 2:36 pm February 2, 2015

recordsby Tim McMahan,

I spent all day yesterday cooped up in my house watching bad pre-Super Bowl television and playing Trivia Crack on my phone. That’s the extent of my weekend. It wasn’t a total loss. I did score some very fine original artwork created by Brian Tait, which I spent the daylight hours hanging. Tait’s the guy that runs Midtown Art Supply. He also makes great art, including the large, giant possum painting I’m looking at over my shoulder right now.

But what does any of this have to do with music? Maybe this:

Last Friday AV Club published this bit of click-bait called “Vinyl is just a fad, record executives say.” The piece compiled quotes from RCA Records president Tom Corson and Universal Music Distribution general manager Candace Berry pooh-poohing the recent jump in vinyl sales (up 52 percent last year, while digital sales dropped 12.5 percent).

Among the executives interviewed for the story was Saddle Creek Records exec Robb Nansel. Says Nansel about vinyl in the story, “It’s always going to be a niche…Not to be negative about it, but I feel like it’s going to peak, if it hasn’t already.

Turns out the AV Club story is merely a rehash of this more detailed Rolling Stone article, and the AV Club writer left out the rest of the Nansel’s quote, which was:  “From a label perspective, it’s expensive. You’ve got to ship it. There are environmental concerns. But we love vinyl. It’s our preferred format.

Robb’s “niche” comment sounded eerily like one of my 2015 predictions, which went something like: “The vinyl craze will slow, this after a year that saw 49 percent increase in U.S. vinyl sales vs. 2013 numbers. The growth will level off as younger music fans refuse to embrace a medium they see as an interesting but inconvenient gimmick that costs twice as much (or more) than what they pay to download the same album (if they pay at all).

Both my comments and Nansel’s raised the eyebrow of Homer’s general manager Mike Fratt. Fratt said (on his Facebook timeline) that the AV Club article caused him to spit out his drink in laughter. In response to my 2015 prediction, Fratt emailed me saying. “Vinyl is still on the way up and we don’t anticipate a peak until 2017 or 2018. 16 to 24 year olds make up 22 percent of the vinyl buying public. This means they will remain invested in the format for another 10 years until they start getting married and have babies which can curtail music/purchases/discretionary items.

Fratt went on: “Right now vinyl pressing plants cannot meet demand so as more come on line this year sales will continue to increase. Also, less than 100 indie stores report sales to Soundscan, so actual sales are WAY under-represented. Soundscan reports 6 million; (the) real number is over 10 million. This holiday season we sold more turntables than the last three years combined and reports are there is no stock to replenish stores as they sold so well everywhere this holiday season. I believe three or more vinyl titles sold over 100,000 units in 2014. Pretty amazing.

Amazing indeed. Only time will tell who’s right in predicting the future of vinyl. The only thing I have on my side of the argument is personal experience. The few 20-somethings I’ve spoken to who aren’t already vinyl collectors find the idea of acquiring a turntable amusing. They love listening to music, not collecting it. And believe me, there is a distinction.

As a 40-something guy, I grew up with vinyl, switched to CDs, bought a click-wheel iPod and now subscribe to Spotify. That said, when I buy music (and not rent it), I almost exclusively buy vinyl, and then download the album via a digital key that comes in the package. I doubt I’m alone. But then again, I’ve always been a collector, as evidenced by the bookshelves filled with comic books and albums, drawers filled with CDs and the local art hanging on my walls (like those amazing Taits). For many, collecting vinyl is like a fetishist activity — just ask the dudes standing in line outside of Homer’s on Record Store Day.

Where do I listen to the vast majority of my music? On my iPhone, while I’m running, shopping, working. I rarely listen to the vinyl copies of new albums more than a few times because I’m never sitting where my turntable is located very long (unless I’m writing, in which case, I don’t have music on at all). I think that could be the case for most people, especially those who work in an office or go to school. If you want to listen to music during the day, you probably have to take it with you. It’s that necessity that will limit vinyl to a collectors’ market.

I hope I’m wrong; I hope Fratt is right. I’d like nothing more than to see vinyl sales continue to grow, and believe me Nansel would like to see that, too.

* * *

Speaking of music portability, Yahoo! Tech shoots holes in Neil Young’s PonoPlayer High Definition music device, saying it lost in a blind taste test vs. a regular ol’ iPhone. A summary is here at 9-to-5 Mac, that says: “For the blind trial, Pogue assembled 15 people aged 17 to 55, asking them to flip between three songs on the iPhone and PonoPlayer, each song in the device’s best resolution. In separate tests using ‘standard Apple earbuds’ and Sony MDR-7506 headphones, more people preferred the iPhone to ‘Pono’ or ‘neither.’

Interesting. Reminds me of all the articles comparing vinyl to digital. In the end, can anyone but those with the most expensive audio equipment tell a difference in sound quality?

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Vinyl reprise; Whipkey 3 tonight, Thunder Power; Relax, It’s Science, Conchance Saturday, The Front Bottoms Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 1:57 pm January 10, 2014

by Tim McMahan,

A brief follow-up to yesterday’s story about record sales and collecting. The original draft was about 500 words longer (cut for space). Left on the cutting room floor was a point that another Lazy-i reader also pointed out yesterday: There could be a future when all hard-asset releases — vinyl or CD (but especially vinyl) are marketed as “limited edition,” with a press run of a few hundred or a few thousand. You want to just listen to it? Stream it or download the digital files. You want to own it? Buy the limited edition, collectable version. And as that wise reader pointed out, in turn prices will go up. He says they already have for vinyl releases — be they limited or not.

One more thing: Mike Fratt emailed to clarify that his comment about vinyl being a fad was meant in jest. With the way vinyl is blowing up — and the improvements he’s making in his store to cater to vinyl buyers — I’m sure Mike is laughing all the way to the bank.

* * *

Lots of local shows this weekend.

Tonight, The Whipkey Three opens for newcomers The Last Draft at Slowdown Jr. The Toppings also are on the bill. $5, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night Thunder Power headlines a show at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Seer States and newcomers Relax, It’s Science, a trio featuring Jeremy Stanosheck (ex-Thunder Power). $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also Saturday night there’s a hip-hop show at The Hideout — yes, that bar that used to be E’s Hideway on south 72nd St. The line-up: Articulate/DJ CMB, Conchance/Kethro and Artillery Funk. $7, 9 p.m.

Sunday The Front Bottoms headline a show at The Waiting Room. The New Jersey band’s latest album, Talon of the Hawk (Bar/None) sounds like the second coming of Too Much Joy. If you liked Too Much Joy, you’ll probably like these guys for their acerbic humor (and chiming guitars). Opening is You Blew It! and The Wild, whose new album Dreams Are Maps, was recorded by Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace. $10, 8 p.m.

Have a good weekend….

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


2012 sales report: The Compact Disc is Alive and Well (for now); Icky Blossoms tour diary; sun sets on Sun Settings tonight…

Category: Column — Tags: , , — @ 1:54 pm January 10, 2013

by Tim McMahan,

My column in The Reader this week focuses on 2012 album sales and includes an interview with Mike Fratt who runs Homer’s Records. I typically don’t include my Reader column here at, but make exceptions for music-focused commentary (such as this). You can also read the column online at right here, or in print in this week’s issue (on stands now):

Over the Edge: The Compact Disc is Alive and Well (for now)

Billboard Magazine last week presented the final music sales numbers for 2012, and it appears to be filled with woe for the future of the compact disc.

The CD, which first became commercially available in 1982, has seen a steady decline first with the emergence of Napster (the first effective mp3 distribution device) in 1999 and then with the launch of Apple’s iTunes (and the invention of the iPod) in 2001 that made downloading digital music files “legitimate.”

But despite the constant heralding of its demise, the compact disc continues to survive, though its pulse weakens ever-so-slightly year after year. Case in point: Billboard reported that for the Year of Our Lord 2012, the sales of physical CDs (according to Nielsen SoundScan) were down a whopping 13 percent compared to 2011, reflecting a decline in U.S. album sales of 4 percent to 315.96 million from 330.57 million in 2011.

While CD sales continued to flounder, digital album downloads continued to increase their share of the overall album sales pie with a 14 percent gain to a record 117.68 million. Says Billboard, 37 percent of all albums sold in 2012 were downloads, up from 31 percent in 2011. For the first time in January 2012, digital surpassed physical with 50.3 percent of all music sales.

You might be scratching your head thinking, “Gee, 315 million albums seems like a lot to me.” Contrast that number with 2001, when Nielsen SoundScan reported CD album sales of 712 million. We’re talking a nearly 50 percent decline in album sales (of any format) in 11 years. It begs the question: Are people listening to less music or simply buying less music because they’re either 1) stealing it or 2) getting it from “free” sources, which could include anything from websites to free streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify?

For a local perspective, we turn (as we always do) to Mike Fratt, general manager and head buyer at Homer’s Records. Fratt said what’s driving the decline in sales over the past two years is the “huge reduction in (physical inventory) and square feet devoted to music retail at mass merchants” like Best Buy and Target.

“This is driving many people to online stores like Amazon,” Fratt said. “Non-traditional sales (online stores, non-music retail, non-mass merchant) biz was way up again this year. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to make up the difference, as many consumers think (record) labels have stopped making CDs. We heard that comment a lot this holiday season.”

In fact, there are no plans to abandon compact disc production before the end of this decade, Fratt said. NARM (not the North American Registry of Midwives but the National Association of Recording Merchants) and the record labels project that sales of compact discs will remain an important part of the total retail music business through the next five years.

The big box stores’ retreat from music sales would seem to be boon for stand-alone record shops. Unfortunately, the shift came too late for many. According to The Wall Street Journal, the number of physical record stores dropped 77 percent between 2000 and 2010 and is expected to decline another 11.6 percent by 2016. HMV, Tower Records, Sam Goody’s and Virgin have all gone the way of the dinosaur.

Meanwhile, there are still about 2,000 independent music stores like Homer’s, according to the Huffington Post. And their sales are growing. Fratt said Homer’s CD sales were up last year in both dollars and units.

“Being up in dollars is significant because the average price of a CD has fallen to nearly $10 as labels have radically reduced prices in the last two years,” Fratt said. “We now have a quarter of our CD inventory below $8 and a third below $10.”

Fratt said music lovers who want to buy an entire album’s worth of music still choose physical over digital 65 percent of the time. “New music (digital sales) is driven by songs,” Fratt said. “Very much like the ‘50s, ‘60s and early ‘70s when 45 rpm’s drove the business before albums took off.”

But the other life blood for independent record stores is vinyl — that’s right, those old-fashioned records that you play with a record player, the format that everyone shoveled dirt over when the CD emerged as the medium of choice in the ‘90s.

For the fifth consecutive year, more vinyl albums were sold than in any other year since SoundScan launched in 1991, reported Billboard. In 2012, 4.55 million vinyl LPs were sold — up 18 percent compared to 2011’s then-record haul of 3.87 million. And 67 percent of those vinyl albums were purchased at independent music stores.

“While some indies are reporting lower CD sales for 2012, everyone was up in vinyl again,” Fratt said, adding that vinyl was “huge at Christmas, but was up all year long.”

So with all this in mind, when was the last time you bought a CD or a vinyl album?

Maybe even more important: When was the last time you printed out a photo you took with your cell phone? When was the last time you printed a letter or clipped a newspaper article? When was the last time you burned a DVD of a home movie? These were all activities we used to do regularly when we felt we needed a physical backup of our digital memories for fear that our computer hard drives would crash and we’d lose it all.

Today we have backups of everything, and backups of backups that reside in the mystical “cloud.”  We’re becoming confident that our digital memories are secure (whether they are or not) and are throwing away the backups, clearing out the clutter, selling back our compact discs.

More than anything, it’s this new confidence in digital security that could kill off the compact disc once and for all as we begin to walk the digital tightrope without a net.


Some additional thoughts….

Fratt says that vinyl now represents almost 20 percent of Homer’s sales, and that they’re looking at building new fixtures to hold more vinyl product in the same space. As for labels going “digital only,” Fratt said a record label is more likely to go out of business before going that route. “There are still infrastructure costs associated with digital,” he said. “It is not cheaper to be digital-only.”

In addition to that, I’m not sure why a label would want to go “digital only.” I guess it would still control licensing and get a portion of the download revenue. But why would an artist want to be on a digital-only record label? The label maybe would pay for an album’s recording costs (studio time, producer) and help with promoting the album. The label also could help sell the artist’s publishing rights to television, movies and Madison Avenue. Certainly there’s cache to being associated with a brand like Saddle Creek, Sub Pop or Matador. Plus the artist could leverage the label’s connections for booking, tour management, etc.

Beyond that, I don’t know. These days a bands can record and release their own material digitally rather cheaply, but what good is having a record available for download if no one knows it exists?

* * *

If you ever wondered what kind of hi-jinx bands get into on the road, read Icky Blossoms’ tour diary, written by the frontwoman Sarah Bohling, who proves if the rock and roll thing doesn’t work out she can always have a successful career as a writer (or strip club owner). The article is right here at

* * *

Tonight at The House of Loom Chris Aponick presents Wintertime Beach Party with bands Sun Settings and Dads. This will be the last-ever performance by Sun Settings, according to the band’s Facebook page:

It has been decided that we took Sun Settings to an end. Over the last year we did some Big things and we would like to take the next step and do even bigger things. Since everybody has different opinions, the best thing we can do is disband and move on to form new ideas. Don’t worry though there will be NEW NEW NEW things from the members of sun setting…

Come bid them adieu tonight at House of Loom. The show starts at 9 p.m. and is absolutely free. More info here, including apparel suggestions.

* * *

Lazy-i Best of 2012

Lazy-i Best of 2012

It’s winding down, folks. Only a few short days left to enter to win a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2012 compilation CD. The collection includes songs by The Intelligence, Simon Joyner, Ladyfinger, Twin Shadow, Ember Schrag, Tame Impala, Paul Banks, Cat Power and a ton more.  The full track listing is here (scroll to the bottom). To enter the drawing send an email with your name and mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.comHurry! Deadline is Jan. 15.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.