Letter from Amsterdam

The Quarantine Studio

Dear Europe,

Hello from partly sunny, partly cloudy Amsterdam. I hope you are doing well. I heard you’d like to know about how I’m doing during this crazy Corona outbreak. I’m writing to you from my living room desk in my 4th-floor condo. It’s a lazy day after a week of intense work. This living room has been the area where I’ve spent most of my time during these weird COVID-19 times. Holland is in what has been coined ‘intelligent lockdown’ now for… Wait, I have to look that up: 6 weeks. I hear most people seem to kind of have lost count. Intelligent lockdown means we are working from home if possible, we limit social contact but we still get to go outside without any time restrictions. We are asked to keep 1,5 meters of distance at all times. I guess I’m lucky with my type of ‘haircut’ that I don’t need a hairdresser. 

Since the schools are closed and I was able to move my studio to my storage room upstairs I’m in my house almost all the time. This is also because of some health challenges in the past – I have been cautious from the start of this outbreak, limiting supermarket visits to once per week and walks outside to early mornings or late evenings. Avoiding our wonderful parks is a pity but seems the best way to avoid bumping into too many people now.

This quarantine style of living hasn’t been too hard for me if I listen to the experiences of others. Right from the start, I felt a BIG incentive and energy to make the most out of it and adapt my work and business in the best way possible. Ever since I started it, there have been lots of requests for remote sessions for my Producer Coaching by Mark Otten program and I decided, after having thoroughly experienced and enjoyed the process of being in the same room as the coachee to indeed roll out an online option. Together with adapting the studio work to the new ‘studio’ environment as well as figuring out how to teach online for the conservatory, this was an intense ride for sure, oof! But an exciting one as well. I’m so very blessed to have been able to continue my work almost entirely. In fact, I get so many great new opportunities now it seems, new cool music projects and new talented clients to coach. For instance, I was mixing an orchestra worth of strings 2 weeks ago and some hip hop last week. Most musicians seem to fair differently, I am witnessing the total demise of a lot of my colleagues’ agenda for the foreseeable future. Luckily, our government seems to organise different kinds of support options fairly well but I still know of several sad cases close to me. I try to help where possible. 

Right, so all concerts and festivals are cancelled and so most musicians seem to use the time to make shitloads of music. Because of the adapting to the new situation, however, that hardly seems to be the case here! Maybe this will start right about now as we now know how to arrange online classes and meetings, stream sound in pristine and reliable quality, and the updated markottencoaching.com is now live.

For some people COVID-19 might still seem far away, I’m not sure, but for me, there’s enough proof close to home that this is serious. Several of my parent’s friends have died. Some of my direct colleagues have been sick and went through a bit of a hell. The father of one of my best friends was hospitalised and given a 50/50 chance to survive. I’m happy to say he did, he’s home again now but will remain a lung patient for the rest of his life. The outbreak also hits in another way and I was very sad and shaken to hear about one of our conservatory’s former students taking his own life. I have no doubt this can be directly related to the added loneliness that came with the lockdown.

But there also a bunch of silver linings of course: it’s been great organising a new weekly ‘family coffee time’ (ok tea, I don’t drink coffee) every Saturday morning! My parents and sister and family live in the south of Holland and this way I actually get to see them more regularly than normal, be it at a distance. The Producer Coaching remote sessions are going great, I can provide more value in these sessions than I would have imagined beforehand. Most of my clients were already from outside of Holland but now this might become an option for people that are unable to travel to Amsterdam. The reevaluation of the jobs that really matter in the end is another big one I feel (imagine being a doctor or nurse now..). And, maybe the biggest one for me, we get a very clear glimpse of what we’re actually doing to our beautiful earth! I came across this meme saying ‘kinda feel like the Earth just sent us all to our rooms to think about what we’ve done’. Spot on? The sustainability of our home planet has become kind of a hobby for me (I know eeeeverything about Tesla’s too) and I can really imagine that the now much clearer skies, the estimated 77.000 people in China that get to live because of better air quality, the way people around me are now drawn to nature more, are all gonna make sure we make better choices from here on.

I miss meeting up with friends. I miss hugs. I miss my beloved Rembrandtpark. I miss getting goosebumps together with my coachees while listening to great music. But I am well. My friends and family are well. Our country is well. And I look forward to a world where we can appreciate each other even more than before this harsh and crazy teacher called Corona came around the corner. I hope you do, too.


Mark Otten


About Mark

Mark Otten is a music producer, DJ and coach based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He’s solo artist with releases on labels such as Armin van Buuren’s Armada and Tiësto’s AFTR:HRS. 

Next to that, as a producer coach/teacher he works at the Haarlem Conservatory and, for his own Producer Coaching by Mark Otten initiative, at the STMPD studios in Amsterdam owned by his former student Martin Garrix. Partly thanks to Corona, the Producer Coaching program is now available online as well.



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