We are not going to repeat ourselves by saying that 2020 was a crazy year. Everyone knows that. Still, crazy doesn’t mean it was a worthless year. Of course it has been exciting. And even disastrous for many entrepreneurs. For the audio / hi-fi it certainly didn’t turn out to be a bad year after all; a lot of people had to sit inside and they started to miss ‘good sound’. Though that too has had its challenges. Think of stock issues. Let’s look back and see how 2020 has changed things for Alpha Audio.
Like everyone else, we started 2020 in good spirits. The year 2019 we had grown nicely (again) and we already had some plans for 2020; after the Live switch test with readers we carefully made some plans to do more tests live. We had even bought a nice pair of Red TF5 microphones and a Grace M108 microphone amplifier in February (as a result of a Live Stream pilot with bookshelf speakers).
The start of the live streams was around November 2019. The Switch test was the first major live stream with readers.
The bomb fell…
And then came Covid-19 and soon after that the ‘smart lockdown’ (In the Netherlands). Just after we made a substantial investment in our livestream server, cameras, microphones, storage capacity and microphone amplifier. Ouch. That hurt quite a bit. Because very shortly afterwards – we’re writing about April 2020 – we were also told by some major advertisers that there was no prospect of extensions for a while.
And the network-related training activities? Of course we can’t do that as well. In short: on both sides we see the income collapsing. You can imagine that April 2020 was not a fun month for your author.
At the beginning of 2020 we did some heavy investment in live streams. Before Covid broke out and the lockdown came… with all its consequences. That hurt for a while, but in the end it worked out well.
Crisis = creativity
The great thing about people is that a crisis also brings creativity.
Since November 2019, we have been working with Alpha to weave Live Reviews – and sampling (recordings) of the test candidates – into the media mix. (These samples are in our database and processed in the articles). The goal was then to let you hear what we hear in order to enrich the articles. To a certain extent, of course. Because one-to-one results are not possible. But how far can we go? How well can we make the recordings? And does it make any sense at all?
At the end of 2019 / beginning of 2020 we were still completely in the testing phase… But anyway: back. We already have most of the stuff for live-streams, so we’ll just get on with it.
With trail and error we’ve learned (a lot) about what can and can’t be done. And how we can perform the live-reviews tightly. We quickly outgrew the phase of budget wireless microphones and a Behringer amplifier and a few simple IP cameras.
In addition: no shows, means no physical contact with the readers and viewers. That’s a pity, because we learn a lot from you. To compensate for that to some extent, we have introduced the monthly Q and A’s. So now we deliver a monthly Live test and a Q and A – with Soundcloud integration to listen back to. Regularity is everything! Without regularity you don’t build an audience. Our statistics show this very clearly.
Let’s get on with it: Live becomes a true pillar within Alpha. We improve the infrastructure, invest in extra cameras, lenses, a better server and a solid microphone setup for the listening room. We also tighten up the listening room, so that it looks a bit better on camera; we can also improve the acoustics immediately
Of course we can’t do everything ourselves. Sometimes it’s just too expensive to do everything in house. At Artone Studios, we pitched our idea for live streams, but back then the time was not yet ripe.
This was different around June 2020. Together we constructed the infrastructure for the live streams. The experience we gained at Alpha Audio came in handy. No trail and error, just good stuff right away. A decent server, good routing, switching, cameras, converters … lighting, everything. It is really top-notch.
We did the first pilots with interviews: first DJ and Producer Mark Otten (July 2020) and then the famous Grimm Audio (Aug 2020). Two successful streams that turned out to be a huge step in quality. We wanted to do more interviews, but because of Covid – what else – that wasn’t possible after the summer. A pity. But that will come again.
We didn’t do any Live Tests in the Artone Studio’s at the time. That started with the Triple Studio Monitor test in November this year. In December we did – with the necessary tweaks in sampling – the Tube Test and the test of floorstanding speakers – part 1 and part 2. This time with a live band! And finally at the last streams also an extra cameraman and director who took care of the switching of the video footage. That was the critical dot on the ‘i’!
In June 2020, together with Artone Studios, we will build an infrastructure for Live Streams in their studio. Together with a decent video-switcher, streaming-server, a complete backup line to a second server and much more. In july that year, we started with a pilot stream. In November and December this year we also did live tests there.
Teamwork and partners
Without a solid team you simply won’t get through a year like 2020. That’s impossible for a platform like Alpha Audio where you simply have to pay rent, hosting, (web) development, subscriptions and people every month. The editors of Alpha have done everything possible to produce beautiful articles. And we’re incredibly happy and proud of that.
In addition to Live Streams, numerous other plans have been developed and good ideas have been put forward. That shows that there is a real heart for the platform. A great feeling. Your editor feels privileged to work with such a beautiful team.
We would also like to thank our loyal partners – advertisers . Real support sometimes comes from unexpected sources… And it can be said openly that it is certainly because of you, we have come through this difficult period. So thank you very much for continuing to support Alpha!
It is clear that 2020 has been dominated by video. Live video to be precise. And not to forget: bringing the experience to you through sampling. Our live tests therefore have two sides: you can see what we are doing. And you can hear what we hear (in a way).
We have learned an unprecedented amount in the field of live direction and sampling. That learning curve is steep. Not entirely surprisingly, not everything went equally smoothly. But yes: that’s how it goes with learning something new… you fall flat on your face a few times, get up and get on with it.
In 2021 we will continue in this direction. Live reviews, Q and A’s and interviews will remain on the agenda. All these broadcasts will be included in the agenda as soon as we have closed the schedule. So keep an eye on the Event Calendar if you are interested. By the way, you don’t have to worry about the regular review stream: written reviews and ‘regular’ videos continue as usual: live reviews are ‘on top’ :-).
To conclude: Happy New Year and see you soon!