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Looking ahead to 2003

Country Standard Time Editorial, January 2003

Now that a very dismal year in many ways, 2002, is fortunately behind us, let's look ahead to 2003 and hope for better days. With world turmoil surrounding us, we hope and pray for peace in the world. As for music, of course, recent years have not been exactly kind, but here's hoping for an improved year.

What are the possibilities that could make 2003 better than 2002?

Tours by the leading lights certainly could help. The Dixie Chicks are slated to hit the road later this year, and chances are like just about everything else about them, they're going to do it their way. For the pop country fans, Shania Twain also has said she would tour in 2003 on the heels of releasing three different versions of "Up!" Whatever your particular brand of country, the necessity of artists to play live is important to increasing attention to the music itself.

A second ingredient usually is the development of new artists who emerge from the pack. Despite fine albums by new acts like Pinmonkey, no one really broke out in 2002, but that doesn't mean they won't in 2003. In unusual move, first timer Cyndi Thompson actually called it quits last year despite success. Tommy Shane Steiner had one hit, but now he is without a label.

Just who might break out of the pack, of course, is an unknown at this point, but let's hope the country music labels have done their homework in finding new talent that country fans can get excited about.

Many labels are not in the best of health with the overall music market being down. Country labels are not immune, of course, to the problems. They can't afford to rely on one big seller to pay the bills, which is why developing new talent is so important.

Will newer labels, like Audium have a hit on their hands? Audium is going to release the next Dwight Yoakam album this spring. His last few albums have been top notch, but that did not seem to revive his standing. Let's at least hope that the quality of the music continues from Yoakam. The problem that the Audiums of the world may continue facing this year is the difficulty in gaining radio play, which leads to sales. Let's hope that radio is more adventuresome as well in the new year.

And what may be most important of all is the need for quality music. Too many acts tend to sound too much alike. Let's hope that the new year brings us a year filled with great music, new, exciting acts and quality live music. That could only make for a better 2003.