Predictions columns are always risky because it's easy to look back a year later and see how wrong you were. For the most part, I was on the right track, but too bold--as a wise prognosticator once said, we tend to overestimate the amount of change that will happen in one year, and underestimate the amount of change that will happen in ten.
Here's a rundown of where I was wrong--and right.
DRM will die. I'll give myself half a point here for predicting that all four labels would agree to sell DRM-free tracks on Amazon (Sony capitulated only 11 days into 2008), and for the fact that Microsoft added 10 permanent DRM-free downloads per month to its Zune Pass subscription offering. But I was completely wrong about iTunes--the vast majority of songs on the service still come with DRM, and iTunes Plus is still alive and well. More to the point, Amazon and other DRM-free services haven't made a dent in iTunes' dominance.
3G iPhone and iTunes. Wrong. I can't really take credit for predicting a 3G iPhone, since the CEO of AT&T had already let that slip, and Apple surprised me by refusing to open the wireless iTunes store to downloads over 3G.
No Zune phone. Right. Microsoft hasn't even announced a Zune client for Windows Mobile or other types of phones, although I expect an announcement of some sort next week at CES.
GarageBand will win a Grammy. Wrong. I still expect a recording made with GarageBand or another low-cost digital audio workstation to win a Grammy someday, but it didn't happen in 2008.
Mashups will go mainstream. Half a point. I read more about mashups this year than any year since 2005: music critics expended a lot of digital ink on GirlTalk's latest album, Feed the Animals, which consists entirely of samples. But the rest of the world didn't care much--the pay-what-you-want download didn't exactly light up the Web like Radiohead's In Rainbows did, and the CD (released Nov. 11) didn't crack Billboard's top 200 albums of the year.
Year Zero will become the precedent Wrong. Nobody else went to such lengths in 2008 as Trent Reznor did in 2007 to promote Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero. Lack of creativity? Or just too much work? A few artists, including The Fireman (Paul McCartney and Youth) and David Byrne and Brian Eno, experimented with online-first releases and packages at multiple price points, two other trends that Nine Inch Nails was early to embrace. But as far as full interactivity goes, Trent stands alone.
The world's best record store will go online. Totally wrong. Amoeba is still firmly planted in the bricks-and-mortar world--California, specifically. Chalk this one up to wishful thinking.
The loudness wars will end. This is a bit subjective--you'd need a detailed sonic analysis of releases during 2008 to prove it--but I don't hear quite as much over-compression as I did a couple years ago on mainstream radio. That said, Metallica's Death Magnetic was slammed for continuing this unfortunate trend--some listeners thought the music sounded better on Guitar Hero than on CD!--so I'll have to say I was wrong.
The concert business will follow the recorded music business down. I was wrong in the specifics--revenues were actually up from 2007--but only because average ticket prices were higher. Attendance was down 2%, a smaller drop than the 20% last year.
Led Zeppelin will play again, but not tour. More wishful thinking--Robert Plant wasn't interested.
Two out of ten--ouch--although I was heading in the right direction on a few others, just moving too fast.
Will I do better in 2009? I'll lay out my predictions for the coming year tomorrow.