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In a perfect world Bust out the crystal ball for an idealistic look at the music industry in 2007

The dawn of another year gets me all misty eyed for a number of reasons.

First, to borrow a phrase from Keith Richards, I'm glad to be here; in fact, I'm glad to be anywhere!

Second, a new year's arrival, though it is really just an arbitrary acknowledgment of the calendar, brings out the optimist in me. I start believing things can and will change for the better. This is ridiculously naive, of course, since my optimism is directed toward the music industry, an entity Joni Mitchell once referred to, and I paraphrase, as a cesspool populated by vipers. (Nice one, Joan.)

But that little seed of hope remains, against all reason. Here are a few of my (wishful) predictions for the coming "year in pop."

10. Canadian troubadour Ron Sexsmith's gig inside the Buffalo Icon on Monday will be sold out, and his in-store appearance at New World Record at 5:30 p.m. that day will be packed with fans eager to celebrate the release of his gorgeous new album, "Time Being." This will send a message to Sexsmith, and the world that great melodies, thoughtful lyrics, strong musicianship and well-crafted recordings are still worth something, to someone, somewhere.

9. Pete Doherty, late of the Libertines and currently of the aptly named Babyshambles, will retire from music altogether, instead concentrating full time on heroin-chic photo-op moments with his pal, model Kate Moss. Doherty, after finally copping to the fact that he has no musical talent, will then be made an honorary judge for the 2007 "American Idol" competition.

8. Gwen Stefani will collaborate with producer of the moment Timbaland and husband Gavin Rossdale. Timbaland will sample elements of the "Fiddler on the Roof" soundtrack and fuse them with the best bits -- there aren't that many, after all -- from Rossdale's former band, Bush. Stefani, draped appropriately in gross amounts of bling, will then "rap" over the top of the whole mess. The resulting album will sell millions, and prove once and for all that modern recording technology can make anyone and anything sound like a "hit."

7. Thom Yorke will drop his solo career for the time being, and Radiohead will reconvene to make a record that reflects the zeitgeist as effectively as did its late-'90s magnum opus, "OK Computer." Fans of that album will then no longer be able to say, "Sure, I loved Radiohead -- back when they were good."

6. Rod Stewart and Elton John will join forces to record an album of songs made famous by Josh Groban. Clive Davis will underwrite the project, which will be called, imaginatively, "John-Stewart Sings Josh Groban." "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart will then sue the two multimillionaire has-beens and win a bundle.

5. The Dave Matthews Band will hire an instrumentalist familiar with the tenets of extended improvisation. Its 10-minute mid-song jams will no longer feel like long walks through the scorching desert, nary an oasis in sight. The fans won't notice, but Matthews will smile more often.

4. Big-name headliners and up-and-coming buzz artists will no longer skip over Buffalo as they journey between Toronto and Cleveland. Grown men who've spent decades waiting for Buffalo to become a primary concert market will weep openly.

3. Madonna will retire and open an organic foods store/yoga shop in London. On the same day, David Lee Roth will rejoin Van Halen. The band will go on tour and party like it's 1984. The planets will temporarily realign. Jack Daniels' stock value will skyrocket.

2. According to music industry research outfit Coolfer (www.Coolfer.com), the 2006 numbers make it plain that the CD is still the dominant mode of music dissemination. Last year, digital sales constituted 5.5 percent of all album sales, while CD sales claimed 94.1 percent. Sales of new releases dropped 7 percent between 2005 and 2006, while catalog sales -- that's the "old" stuff, the music you're being trained to forget about so that the industry can continue to crank out an ever-increasing amount of "next big things" -- stayed the same, and reissues and albums more than three years old sold more than they did last year.

This proves two points. One, digital downloading has not killed the concept of "the album," nor has it replaced the hard CD as the mode of choice. And two, consumers aren't necessarily enthralled with the "new" music they're being offered and continue to dig into the past for something they aren't getting now. In 2007, this trend will continue.

1. According to a study by InsightExpress published by the Digital Media Association (and recently mentioned on Rolling Stone magazine's Web site), digital music consumers listen to more music, purchase more music, go to more concerts and talk about music more often with others than they did before they became digital music consumers. In 2007, the music industry will finally realize that digital downloading is actually a good thing and will begin behaving accordingly. This means they'll stop putting ridiculous budgets behind recording projects that aren't worth the plastic they're burned on and start treating pop music as an art form with a broad and lasting appeal to consumers who don't necessarily fit neatly into "target markets." Amen.

e-mail: jmiers@buffnews.com

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