No-risk predictions for 2014

Chris JonesAs discussed last week, making resolutions is a popular January pastime. Making predictions for the coming year is another one, and many psychics, whether amateur, professional, or semi-pro (weekend psychics), are already weighing in.

Really, as with New Year’s resolutions, there’s no harm in this, especially if it’s thought of as a kind of sport. The bluegrass music business is a little slow in January (I’m getting my “Understatement of the Year” entry in early this year) and some of us need something to do right about now. Making predictions isn’t expensive, and it’s so much easier than working out or dieting.

The best part is that no one seems to care if they’re completely wrong. Considering that people who had forecast the end of the world 30 years ago (or two years ago) are still predicting various calamities, and still selling plenty of books, this kind of crystal ball-staring is pretty foolproof.

Even Nostradamus himself is only batting around .225, though he did successfully predict the 49ers win over Carolina, and Steve Dilling and Edgar Loudermilk’s departure from IIIrd Tyme Out.

Reviewing some of the failed predictions for 2013, I read that one “psychic” called for a chemical attack on the U.S., monkeys escaping from a lab and causing a pandemic (who doesn’t love a good escaping-monkey prediction?), and a massive midwestern earthquake. Will this psychic just give up on trying to forecast the future, and go into cheese-making, or become a professional bowler? It’s very unlikely. Any day now, from the same source, we’ll be reading that 2014 will bring with it the complete collapse of the U.S. Dollar, Pope Francis resigning so he can propose to Linda Ronstadt, and the discovery of a 900-pound killer sardine just off the coast of Norway.

And what about erroneous bluegrass music predictions? These are a few that were more than a little off the mark in 2013:

  • The IBMA will break its contract with Raleigh and begin a system of rotating among various international and U.S. locations beginning with the letter “B” (for Bluegrass), e.g. Brussels, Bhopal, and Brooklyn.
  • Rhonda Vincent will market an exercise video called Raging Workout, with an accompanying clothing line.
  • The California Bluegrass Association will hold the world’s first underwater bluegrass festival, due to the fact that the rising Pacific ocean will have plunged most of the state below sea level.
  • The last bluegrass CD will be sold in 2013, with most fans downloading all of their music. The cheaper fans will either copy the music illegally, or just resort to humming the songs they like to themselves.
  • Following the success of the Alan Jackson bluegrass album, 2013 will see bluegrass releases by Jay Z, Christina Aguilera, and Pat Boone.

Needless to say, none of these came to pass, though Rounder Records acknowledged having “discussions” with Pat Boone.

Even though the bluegrass prognosticator who came up with these gems will likely suffer no loss of credibility over it, I personally can’t bring myself to stick my neck out like that. I’d much rather play it safe and be right. 

With that in mind, here are my somewhat modest predictions for the world of bluegrass music in 2014. If any of the following turn out to be wrong, I’ll gladly predict different things next year, but I feel pretty confident about these ones:

  • There will be heated debates in various internet forums about bluegrass music between traditionalists and “big tent” advocates. Nothing will be resolved.
  • A number of bluegrass songs will be recorded in the key of B.
  • Musicians will change their strings regularly, though the ones with string endorsements will change them more often than those paying retail price.
  • There will be personnel changes in several bands. The most common reason cited by musicians for leaving a band will be “to spend more time with my family,” even by those who don’t have families.
  • Those same musicians will join other bands or form new ones.
  • The untucked shirt will remain the prevailing fashion for male bluegrass musicians for stage attire and promotional photos, until the next fashion trend comes along.
  • The mullet and the bolo tie will not be ready for their comeback yet in 2014.

Business trends:

  • Professional bluegrass musicians will attempt to get paid more for their services in 2014, while event producers will try to pay them the same or less.
  • Major repairs will be required on some artists’ touring buses. Those repairs will be expensive.
  • Festival attendees will pay more for gas around the Memorial Day weekend.
  • CD sales will see a modest increase at venues where merchandise tables are moved closer to the stage or are blocking the exit.

In January of 2015, you can bet I’ll have that “I told you so” look on my face.