BTA interview

site.btaA to JazZ Director: Festivals Should be Recognized as Significant Economic Factors

A to JazZ Director: Festivals Should be Recognized as Significant Economic Factors
A to JazZ Director: Festivals Should be Recognized as Significant Economic Factors
A to JazZ Festival Founder and Director Petar Dimitrov (BTA Photo)

The time has come for festivals to be clearly recognized as significant economic factors not only for Sofia but for the whole region, A to JazZ Festival Founder and Director Peter Dimitrov told BTA. The 12th edition of the event took place from July 6 to 9 in the Bulgarian Capital.

Dimitrov argued that people in Bulgaria do not accept culture as a kind of industry. "I understand them. But I am a trumpet player. And when I play on the street, a hundred people know me. When I go to Bulgaria Hall, 1,048 people know me and when I go to the Vasil Levski National Stadium, 40,000 people will know me. I do the same thing. To play on the street I don't need anyone, in Bulgaria Hall I need three stage works and a lighting guy, for example, and for the stadium I need a team of probably 300 people. This is already an industry. Except that of the money I will earn from the national stadium, for example, 20% is value-added tax, 10% of the amount left after expenses will be for corporate tax, while salaries, taxes and social security will also have to be paid," Dimitrov explained.

This year, for the second time the festival team has conducted joint research with Alpha Research on the forum and its impact on the local economy. More than 2000 surveys were conducted for this purpose, as the results will be announced at the end of August or the beginning of September.

"In 2019 we did our first economic study, which included the social and cultural aspect of the festival. The results in economic terms showed a 2.6 times contribution to the local economy. This is on top of the investment. If you have invested BGN 1 in the local economy in the form of taxes, fees, etc., the return is BGN 1.6. I think and hope that now, this added value will have risen a lot", pointed out Dimitrov.

RECORD NUMBER OF GUESTS FROM ABROAD

The A to JazZ Director commented that the festival was attended by such a large international delegation for the first time this year. "It [the delegation] was in Sofia at the special invitation of A to JazZ, but also on the occasion of the first in the country international showcase for world music, which A to JazZ organized in partnership with the European showcase platform for world music Upbeat. We had over 30 international delegates, guests, festival directors, program directors, curators, bookers and music journalists from different European festivals and countries", he noted.

Dimitrov pointed out that the feedback of the international guests from both the showcase and the professional music conference A to JazZ Talks has been positive.

OPPOSITE TREND

Dimitrov added that the feedback from his foreign colleagues who attended the festival was that the trend in Sofia is opposite to that in the West.

"I had the opportunity to speak to a colleague from the Netherlands last night, and this is actually feedback from quite a few of the delegates and artists. John McLaughlin [English musician and composer, pioneer of jazz fusion] said something similar last year - that the developed Western markets are so entrenched that they don't work effectively to develop new audiences. That is, potentially jazz and the niche genres are threatened in already developed markets by the fact that it is very difficult to get young people into concert halls," the A to JazZ Director explained.

THE FEEDBACK, THE ARTISTS, THE LEVEL

The audience’s emotion was among the highlights that made the strongest impression on the performers this year as well, Dimitrov pointed out and added that [American singer, songwriter and producer] Bilal's drummer, who performed on the second night of A to JazZ, had sent a message to the headliner on the last day of the festival, American jazz, funk and R&B saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin. "He texted her that the show had gone amazing and told her to be ready for the tremendous energy the crowd was sending to the musicians. And the musicians gave it back. Lakecia Benjamin was very exalted on stage yesterday. She was constantly talking about Bulgaria and the audience. She said she has never played in front of so many people, and with such an emotional charge, such a lively audience," he said.

Dimitrov stated that A to JazZ features artists who have never come to Bulgaria. "Some of them are huge stars, some of them are not so well known and nobody has ever heard of some of them,” he added. 

He noted that after 12 years of development of this festival, the results are already visible on the Bulgarian jazz scene. "Bulgaria's role at European level in terms of jazz improvisational music is getting more and more visible and significant. This, on the other hand, reflects on the whole region as a source of new music and new content for European markets and scenes, which is actually key," Dimitrov explained.

According to him, the Bulgaria’s main problem is that it produces quality music, but it is almost impossible to reach the international market. "I am sorry to talk about art and market, but this is actually the reality. The stage is our market where our art, what we have been learning all our lives and now working on, is realized," he pointed out.

EXPORT OF MUSIC

Dimitrov added that one of the goals of A to JazZ is to contribute to the development of the Bulgarian music scene on an international level. "If we do not start exporting our production, there is no point in producing it and playing it among ourselves in our small domestic market. Like everything produced in Bulgaria, it has to seek out a market and we are trying our best to help its realization," he noted.

The results after the first international showcase within A to JazZ are at least five or six engagements for some of the eight artists present, said Peter Dimitrov. However, he said this is just the beginning. "Program directors don't work on such an emotional level. They listen, they take notes, they evaluate, they think, they put it on the table with their colleagues. So we expect that score to at least double, if not triple," he stated.

Dimitrov also commented that the sector needs foreign investments and know-how, which should be adapted to the Bulgarian reality.

/DT/

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By 16:26 on 02.03.2024 Today`s news

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