December 16, 1999 | 4:00am
In all likelihood, nothing's going to happen when the clock strikes midnight on December 31. Still, the government has advised us all to take a few precautions -- stock up on some extra water or freeze-dried lentils, just in case. Which leads some of the more paranoid among us to believe that maybe the folks in Washington know something and they're just not telling us what it is.
But what does this have to do with music, you ask? Here are some of the effects we predict all this millennial madness will have on the music industry.
January 1, 2000:Ticketmaster loses all of its data detailing the actual services and courtesies rendered in exchange for its per-ticket service and courtesy charges. As panicked computer programmers scramble to rebuild the system, they ask Ticketmaster CEO Terry Barnes if he has any idea what all of the charges are for. "I'm sorry, I can't help you -- but thank you for calling Ticketmaster," Barnes responds. He is later forced to resign when it's revealed that, indeed, Ticketmaster has not shown courtesy to a single patron -- in person, over the telephone or online -- in the past ten years. As the new company head, Larry Flynt shocks the public by announcing that the firm will begin selling tickets at face value, with no service charge, saying, "If you pay a service charge to go see Britney Spears, you should get a little personal service, if you know what I mean."
The suits at House of Blues Entertainment hold a press conference in Denver announcing that, unfortunately, all of the company files relating to the Backstreet Boys ticket-broker scandal (wherein a huge block of primo tickets to the band's Halloween performance were sold to ticket brokers, by the promoter, for a sizable markup over face value) were lost in an office fire sparked by a non-Y2K-compliant fax machine. The machine blew up when company president Jay Marciano attempted to send over a proposal for a new HOB restaurant in Kuwait City. Also lost in the blaze was accounting information for every show Universal Concerts handled before it was swallowed by HOB in July 1999 -- diminishing any hope of determining whether the mammoth promoter routinely sold large blocks of tickets to brokers in the past, as has been alleged by former employees. Company vice president Mark Norman tells the eager media gathered at the Pepsi Center that "the company would have been vindicated by the sadly scorched documents. But since they were torched, burned and charred beyond recognition, you'll just have to take our word for it: We've never sold tickets to brokers. We promise!" Denver Post reporter and music scribe G. Brown later discovers that some of his fellow members in the press corps paid more than $350 for their front-row seats at the press conference.
Though still pissed about the HOB debacle, The Firm, a Los Angeles-based company that manages the Backstreet Boys, begins to panic when execs realize that their cash-cow act is steadily approaching what could be mistaken for adulthood. Desperate, they form the first strange split-bill revival tour of the century with Backstreet Boys II Men Without Hats. The tour (each night's finale is a harmonic rendition of "Safety Dance") fails to impress the Backstreets' former audience of largely pre-pubescent females, drawing instead large hordes of confused gay men and the occasional leprechaun.
Station programmers and program directors at Denver alternative stations the Peak (KXPK-FM/96.5) and the Adventure (KTCL-FM/93.3) are forced to admit that even they can't tell the difference between Eagle-Eye Cherry, matchbox 21, Creed and Third Eye Blind when text copies of the nearly identical playlists of both stations are unreadable by newly fangled Y2K software. Befuddled DJs, forced to actually listen to hours of the stations' pre-programmed broadcasts in an effort to determine who is who, are overheard cussing in the background during station identifications. Meanwhile, the computer program that initially created all of the aforementioned bands suffers fatal errors system-wide, causing all related bandmembers to simply vanish into thin air at the strike of midnight on New Year's Eve.
Jim Musil of University of Colorado at Boulder affiliate Radio 1190 AM reports that the station's own playlists are also lost to the Y2K bug, but no matter: The eclectic student-run station has little interest in spinning the same old shit anyway, seeing the clean slate as yet another chance to spring new music on its audience. Nationwide, classic-rock stations are the only radio format in the country to experience zero computer-related problems. Staffers at Denver's Fox (KRFX-FM/ 103.5) tell reporters that the station will simply continue to rely on the same programming method it has for the past decade: plugging in an analog tape loop of songs from Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and the Doors.
Massive internal failures at the Broadcast Data Systems' Radio Track service, Aribtron and SoundScan Inc. cause the companies responsible for compiling the Billboard sales and radio charts to lose track of both consumer retail purchases and the frequency of airplay enjoyed by hit singles. As a result, the Universal Music Group makes a completely unprecedented announcement, stating with apprehension that it is left with no choice but to begin signing artists based on talent and not market viability. "This is a sad day for the recording industry," a UMG spokesperson tells the stunned crowd gathered in New York City.
MTV execs are horrified to discover that irrevocably scrambled digital encoding of old Real World tapes will force the network to actually revert to playing music videos until a new season of shows can be taped. Panicked, they persuade a group of thoroughly attractive but psychologically mismatched twentysomethings to pretend to live out an entire year together in a house -- in the course of one week. As a result, when the broadcast finally begins airing, the relationships between the housemates seem forced and superficial, and no one really seems to give a shit about one another. Ratings soar.
Rolling Stone editor and publisher Jann S. Wenner scouts the globe for unpublished photos of Kurt Cobain after discovering that his twenty Zip disks containing pictures of the deceased songwriter aren't compatible with his new-edition Hewlett-Packard PC. Foiled in his mission by his own publication, which has already published the bulk of the world's collection of post-fetal photos of Cobain, Wenner commissions the scientists responsible for cloning Dolly the Sheep to work their magic with a remnant of Cobain's DNA Wenner fetched at a Christie's auction. After a successful mission, the young Kurty spends the first 24 years of his life in complete solitude in Wenner's impressive Manhattan loft so that the editor might capture that lonely, tortured artist look for all of the cover shots he spent two decades planning. Unfortunately, in 2024, no one remembers what a guitar -- much less Nirvana -- was.
And finally, it becomes abundantly clear that a loving public has accepted the suggestion of Will Smith's new album when, from Times Square, at 12:01 a.m., Tom Brokaw officially declares 2000-2999 "Willennium."