Column 253: Visions of 2010, Pt. 2…

Category: Blog,Column — @ 7:04 pm January 6, 2010

Before we get to Pt. 2 of the three-part “predictions” columns, a few words of wisdom: There’s nothing wrong with making money. I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again. It needed to be said before I sent you onto the column, because there are those out there that think that “making money” is a dirty, selfish thing, especially when it comes to anything associated with art and music. It’s not. There’s nothing wrong with making a living. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with making a lucrative living. So when I say that some bands will begin demanding to get paid to play and that venues will start raising ticket prices, the comments aren’t “negative” or made out of spite. Commerce is essential for art to exist.

Bands, if you value the music you’re making, then you should demand to get paid for it (unless music is merely your hobby). Venue owners, if you feel a band’s music can help you make money, you have the option to pay the bands to get them to perform on your stage.

Conversely, if a band feels that its music is worthless, then by all means, play for free. Venue-owners, if you feel a band’s music can not draw people into your establishment and/or make you money, then by all means, don’t pay them to play on your stage (or, if you like, charge them).

But, if a venue owner is unwilling to pay a band that can draw a crowd, it’s the band’s perogative to refuse the gig. No one is holding a gun up to anyone’s heads.

Column 253: Visions of 2010, Pt. 2
Sage music predictions of the year to come…

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.

So, 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.

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?

Next week, the final chapter: Predictions Pt. 3 — The Lightning Round.

* * *

No shows tonight. Again. Ah, but there’s something going on tomorrow, if we’re not trapped in our homes…

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