Why I turned down a streaming-job in the middle of the Pandemic

I am sure you have heard this story before by now. The beginning of march was very good me and with lots of jobs for different companies and venues. Then the lockdown hit us hard on the 12th of March, and since then Brekkelyd has been out of work.


In the beginning of the crisis I actually got an offer from a concert-venue to produce the video for a series of live-stream concerts. This could be seen as a great opportunity to stay afloat during the crisis, but I decided to turn the offer down.
First of all because it was not practically possible as I had to take care of my daughter. My wife was working as a personal assistant and was needed more than ever, and the kindergarten was closed because of the Corona. In the strictest times of lockdown it was just very hard to commit oneself to demanding projects outside of the home.
Secondly, I am not even sure if I would say yes if I was available. The reason I got the offer is probably that I work regularly in a venue with streaming, and I have several years’ experience producing video of concerts. But this project required more than that. I would need to gather equipment, personnel and a plan on a short notice for a job that would also get a lot of attention. In the end I think the effort and risk to take on this project would not be worth it for me.  

But shouldn’t businesses that are hit hard by the corona-crisis try to adapt to the new situation and find new ways of surviving? Wasn’t this the perfect opportunity to change my business- model to offer something valuable even during the crisis?

Yes, and I have so much respect for people and companies that have learned new skills and offered new services during these troubled times. However, for me personally, I wouldn’t want to jump on the wave of new streaming-services.

Video-streaming is nothing new. Filming of concerts has been going on from decades, and for the past years more and more companies have started offering streaming for events that are not shown on television. It is already an established service and it takes years of experience to master the filming of an event. The companies already offering this services have such an advantage compared to audio-engineers trying to change their business-model because of the corona-crisis. If this was uncharted territory then that would level out the competition. But I just have too much respect for the craftmanship of filming, photography and producing live footage. I wouldn’t risk producing something that would fall below the standards I would expect as a viewer of a streaming-event.


Am I being too cowardly critical here? In the beginning of the lockdown in March there were a lot of popular lo-fi concert-streaming events that were a direct replacement of going to concerts. The viewers didn’t always expect top technical quality of the stream, they just wanted to replicate the feeling of attending the concerts that were not allowed. When I was offered the streaming-job, perhaps they would be content with a lo-fi solution with one camera? This is something that I easily could have offered them.
Having said that, I don’t think there would have been a great future for me offering these simple streams. A static camera filming a concert can never compete with the real experience. Soon after the first shock of lockdown, the live-streams of concerts developed into something more than being just a mere documentation of a fake concert-experience, they become an expression of their own that didn’t have to accept the limitations of a live-concert with audience. For example, some streams involve pre-recorded material and virtual reality. The video-productions become more complicated, and the demand for simple video-productions decreased. The audio-engineers who started with video-streaming could very soon find themselves out of work even before the corona-crisis is finished.  

So then, what should I do instead? How can I ensure that my business survives this pandemic? The answer is simple: By doing nothing. The best I can do is to sit down and wait. Any activity at all has a major risk of not returning the investment. There is simply no market for my engineering-skills at the moment. And luckily for me the government has provided for us who have organized ourselves in a sole proprietorship. It’s the simplest form of business that pays the lowest tax-rate for the income, but it’s also the most risky because we don’t pay for any added security that other workers get. When the pandemic hit Norway the government discovered that we had absolutely no safety-net, and they couldn’t afford a bunch of people in my situation losing their homes and lives. So deservedly or not they gave us a very generous fallback that will keep me floating, although it’s not decided how long this support from the government will last. Nevertheless me and my company will have no problems surviving this pandemic without making a single effort to get hired for a project.

There is a new viral meme of a fat guy eating potato chips who is compared to a soldier during the war. The fat guy is the hero of Corona because he won’t spread the virus. Unfortunately I can’t show this meme because I don’t want to infringe the copyrights, and the last thing I want in these troubled times is to get sued. But I’m sure you can imagine what he looks like. Now, my point is that I really envy people who can be like him, people who can just forget any ambitions whatsoever until the circumstances allow for that. In fact I think it’s very difficult to be that guy, and I definitely have problems adapting to his standards. Every day, after I have followed my daughter to the kindergarten, I need to have something that gives me a purpose. I am simply not very happy if I don’t have some professional ambitions.
And luckily for me I have found just that. Last month, on the 18th of May, my new company PresentationTools A/S was established. This has been my main occupation since this pandemic started. I have worked with this project for a while, but I guess the pandemic accelerated the process since there was not much better to do. And perhaps this was another reason why I said no to the streaming-job. There’s a lot more to be said about this company, but the easiest for you is to go to the website and read about it yourself:

www.presentationtools.com

Initially my plan was to make this website a part of my old company Brekkelyd, but I soon found out I wanted to separate my regular work and business as an audio/video engineer from the new webpage which goes in a new direction. That way I can explain to my regular clients that I am not changing the way I work or moving away from working with audio and video, I am just exploring some new opportunities to see where that takes me. I still have plans for Brekkelyd, but, as I have already explained, I don’t feel there is much I can do right now to get regular engineering-jobs so the activity for Brekkelyd is kept to a minimum until circumstances improve.

Having said that I am very positive that this business will come back and I am highly motivated to go back and work for the venues and companies that have served me in the past. The situation now in Norway is that a gathering of up to 200 people is allowed after 15th june. (except for demonstrations and sunbathing but that’s another story) This will not be enough to create some activity for me during the summer because the regular season for concerts and conferences is near its end, and the festival-market during the summer needs a lot more than 200 people per concert to be profitable. I am not expecting any work until the fall when the new season of concerts and events starts here in Oslo. Then, hopefully, there will be some events for me work on even with todays limit of 200 persons.

I will be out of work for almost half a year, and it is hard to tell how this business will be after the corona-crisis is over. I think the government has taken well care of small companies like mine who don’t have much regular expenses, but the bigger companies are struggling more. Recently one of the biggest AV-rental companies in Norway, Bary A/S, went broke because they couldn’t pay their rent and loans when they no longer got any income because of the pandemic. I didn’t work for them so it doesn’t hit me directly, but this can also happen to some of the other companies that hire me as a subcontractor. In the future there may be less jobs and more competition, but there will always be new companies and new opportunities when the event-industry starts to recover from the effects of the pandemic. In some way or another I will continue to do the work I have been doing for the past 10-15 years.

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