Silver lining: Recession opens opportunities for creatives

The gig economy as we know it — and many of its associated growth strategies — were born of a recession.

After the 2008 financial crisis, companies such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb enabled laid-off workers (or those whose hours were slashed) to recoup losses while ideally adopting a mindset of independence, entrepreneurialism and side-hustle dynamism.

As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. While the gig economy has since transformed into something more legally and ethically complex, it nonetheless still creates opportunities for millions who need them.

A lot has changed between 2008 and 2020, when Covid-19 shut down economies worldwide, in time causing inflation, then a recession that only now we’re beginning to feel. In that sea of change, few industries have been revolutionised as dramatically as the creative field.

Wave of lockdowns

Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Disney and Apple now compete aggressively for exponentially growing audiences, whose content consumption habits skyrocketed to eight hours daily during the onset of the first wave of lockdowns in April of 2020, and haven’t fallen much since.

The race to produce more content — and make it fresh, innovative, engaging and insightful — is more intense than ever. And, just as in 2008, this creates opportunity.

Another revolution we’ve witnessed since 2008 is a quantum technology leap. Gigabit internet is now widely available in many cities — unlocking absurdly fast speeds, direct to homes, for less — which means faster uploads and downloads and more streaming power.

Cameras, meanwhile, barely resemble their decade-old predecessors: Blackmagic, for example, has a new model that can shoot 6K video, while Apple recently unveiled an iPhone equipped with a 48mp camera capable of shooting 8K.

Those are comparatively affordable alternatives for equipment that would easily have topped $10,000 (Sh1.2 million) just a few years ago.

Perhaps the greatest shift, however, has been in data storage. Professional creatives are moving away from expensive physical servers and toward cloud-based solutions, rightly seeing remote work, AI integration and cloud computing as the future of the industry.

In 2013, Adobe transformed its one-time-purchase software to a cloud-based SaaS solution, recognising the desire for flexible and multi-platform creative collaboration.

Working in this way throws off the shackles that once bound content creators. Modern cloud technology makes it so that any device with an internet connection can view and process large video resolutions, since the majority of the heavy lifting isn’t being done by the device itself.

The payoff is a more affordable solution for independent creators who don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on a server, or who simply prefer the flexibility of SaaS solutions that scale up and down.

Find the right cloud-based content management system and you can even consolidate several of those SaaS subscriptions into one.

We are in the midst of the greatest democratisation of creative expression the world has ever seen — an evolution that completely changes the game for creative professionals, particularly the small businesses and freelancers who do the lion’s share of work in productions.

This is additionally critical because most movies and TV shows are not created by monolithic studios paying their staff salaries, but rather by smaller production companies that use freelancers.

Economic downturn

These revolutionary shifts in camera hardware, cloud computing and internet speed have unlocked a new era of opportunity for independent content creators to find new jobs and create their own work, without needing the resources once only supplied by larger enterprises.

Creatives could be forgiven for fretting over the current recession. After all, during almost any economic downturn, the first thing decision-makers do is cut costs, and if they can’t find other solutions, start looking at personnel. Creatives in those ranks are often perceived as expendable, and therefore vulnerable.

But over the last three years, we’ve seen the inverse proven true: there is a huge demand for arts, entertainment and culture.

Ask almost anyone stuck at home what helped them get through the pandemic: Aside from hobbies, most will report that it was movies and television that made the difference.

My message to creatives is therefore simple: This recession is an opportunity. Streaming platforms are hungrier than ever for new stories, and the potential audience is the widest it’s ever been.

Unprecedented technology exists to help you to create whatever you want and share it with the world.