Dangerous Visions

Music predictions for 2011, Pt. 2

I'm not saying that all of the following visions will happen in 2011, but the ball will start rolling next year that will cause the walls of the music industry to finally come tumbling down. It may take years, but it'll happen sooner than anyone (except me, of course) expects. -- As you read this, everyone will be talking about the new Verizon iPhone; and the talk of 2010 was the iPad. But the big news in 2011 will be when Apple announces that iTunes now lives "in the cloud." What that means is that all of your music in iTunes on your PC or Mac, as well as all of everyone else's music, will be available on any PC or iPhone/iPod with 3G/4G or Wi-Fi connectivity. And that includes in your car (with a new 3G/4G-accessible car stereo). Apple's purchase of lala.com helped make "music in the cloud" possible, along with Apple's enormous capital investments in massive server farms. Add to that a technological breakthrough that results in a quantum improvement in file compression that will make near-CD-quality music files available via streaming, and you're seeing the beginning of the end of the Compact Disc. It also could signal the demise of the traditional album format as we know it, since music no longer will be sold in units, but in a subscription format -- all the music in the world on your speakers or earbuds for just $10 a month. -- iTunes "in the cloud" and this new subscription format also will mark the end of illegal downloading -- what would be the point? -- Picking up on the Pandora model, artists will no longer be paid based on album or singles' sales, but on how often their music gets played in iTunes. Record labels will turn into full-time promotion companies, whose goal is to get their artists' music listened to via iTunes as much as possible. -- Pandora, Grooveshark, Rhapsody and all the other streaming services will see the writing on the wall and will file anti-trust suits against Apple, who will argue that competition exists in the form of other media, such as radio and television, and other stream-tech companies such as Google and Microsoft. The glacial speed of the legal system will cause the case to drag on for years, long enough to put Apple's streaming competitors out of business. -- The old standby revenue stream known as "publishing rights" -- artists getting paid to have their music used in TV commercials or movies and TV -- will dry up. Suddenly artists will be willing to pay whatever is necessary to get their music used in commercials and movies. "Selling out" becomes known as "buying out." -- iTunes "in the cloud" will become the boot on the throat of the radio industry. But without radio, how will new bands capture the attention of an audience outside of their hometowns (as if they could depend on radio before)? We will welcome a rebirth in the importance of music videos, but this time making a video will have nothing to do with art or music. A three-minute clip of your band performing its song on YouTube just ain't gonna cut it. Instead, it's all about "going viral," and that means filming something that no one has seen before. Expect to see videos that push the envelope not only of good taste, but of human experience. For the first time, we'll see a band member get killed while making a video. And it'll be a monster hit. -- Another way to get your music noticed -- get the stars to talk about it. Having your band name-checked on Kanye's playlist already is an effective tool for young bands. Soon all the big-league commercial artists will post their playlists online or in Rolling Stone, effectively putting a spotlight on unknown artists. But be wary, it'll only be a matter of time before those greedy bastards start taking money to include bands on their playlists (if they don't already). -- With this quantum change in how we listen to music just around the corner, old-school record industry execs will make one last-gasp attempt at keeping as much market as possible by finally dropping CD prices below $10 a unit for all content (not just "sale items"). Some CDs will be as cheap as $5.99. This price drop will result in a brief resurgence of record stores -- Homer's might even consider expanding its worldwide chain of stores to three. But it's too little too late. The audience for cheap CDs is dying off, literally. And the last kick in the crotch will be when automakers quit offering pre-installed CD players in their cars. -- The scariest part about all of these visions -- the same thing will happen to the movie and book-publishing industries. Keeping with tradition, I can't leave out these predictions: -- Artists we'll be talking about this time next year: Bright Eyes, Deathcab for Cutie, Justin Timberlake, U2, Cat Power, Beastie Boys, Madonna, Tilly and the Wall, Decemberists, Commander Venus, Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship, Dismemberment Plan, Beck, Radiohead, Animal Collective, Conduits and Grasshopper Takeover. -- Artists we won't be talking about next year: Lady Gaga, Kanye, Eminem, Ke$ha, Susan Boyle, Arcade Fire, The Beatles, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Bruno Mars, M.I.A., Wavves, Best Coast, The National, Sleigh Bells, Vampire Weekend, Sufjan Stevens and The Faint. -- And finally, all of Courtney Love's problems will be solved once and for all. So what will happen in the local music scene in 2011? Find out next week in the third and final chapter of the 2011 Predictions!

posted at 04:55 am
on Thursday, January 13th, 2011

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