This post presents the results of 6festhotweek campaign initiated by me two weeks ago in support of the crowdfunding campaign by Momchil Tsonev, the organizer of 6fest Street Art Festival. I travelled over 700 km around Bulgaria, did interviews with all the participants of 6fest and surveyed online the spectators. People from 15 countries have engaged with the 6festhotweek posts on Cultural Insights, and over 1000 user more were reached with Facebook and Twitter posts. The campaign hasn’t had significant financial achievements, but it has offered some useful insights for improving mundane communication between the artists and their publics.

The social side of the fire traditions

6fest Street Art Festival
Together with Firestep, Plovdiv 2020

The idea of 6festhotweek was to raise awareness of social activities of the fire art-groups and encourage their social networks to support the artists in the 6fest Street Art Festival crowdfunding campaign. 6fest specialized exclusively in fire art, the old and authentic part of the Bulgarian culture. At the end of October in Plovdiv, the five fire formations represented their interpretation of modern fire art.

FIRE THEATRE Mime Company, Sofia

My role in this project was multidimensional. I supported the campaign financially, informationally and emotionally. I wanted more people to follow my example because all the fire formations represent the qualitative Bulgarian culture, and play an important role in their communities. I highlighted this in all my texts.

And I’m glad that many people have experienced this unknown side of the Bulgarian culture through my blog.

According to Google Analytics, over 480 users from 15 countries have read the seven posts on Cultural Insights devoted to 6festhotweeks. The considerable interest was expressed by audiences in Bulgaria (77 % of the readers), the USA (16 %), England, Germany and Russia (about 2 % per each country).

Firestep, Plovdiv

Interestingly, from the very first days, the engagement of audiences with daily messages regarding 6fest crowdfunding campaign on Facebook was relatively low. The same is true for the financial outcome. The 6fest crowdfunding campaign was supported by only 16 people who donated 267.18 euro (just 9 % of the needed sum of 3115 euro). This data is in sharp contrast with the daily number of visitors at certain shows (up to 200) from 28 to 31 October.

The voice of the public

To understand when Bulgarian art lovers are ready to support creative projects in crowdfunding campaigns, I surveyed those Facebook users who in 6fest Street Art Festival groups had the status Going to the event. There were over 200 such people. I sent off 15 questionnaires immediately after the festival, and at the moment I’ve got 11 replies.

The 8 of them didn’t hear about the crowdfunding campaign, but most of them expressed readiness to support artists but on different conditions. The five respondents can donate to art projects that reflect their interests (theatre, street art, music). The two people are ready to support any projects where independent artists participate. One person may donate some money if the events involve volunteers. Another person wants to put some money for the artists directly in a hat and not to deal with intermediaries represented by the government.

Travelling Theatre Skrin, Pernik

Of course, 11 people are not a representative sample, and the result cannot be generalized, but their opinions are useful anyway. Because they show that people have different expectations of arts and their logic vary significantly. So, every art group should regularly explore public opinion to stay in touch with the audience.

There’s an apparent misunderstanding of social networks as well as the needs of their audience. The artists continued posting their content without adjusting the messages to the needs and interests of their followers.

The main sources of information of 6fest crowdfunding campaign were two Facebook groups devoted to the festival 6Fest Street Art Festival (about 2000 followers) and 6Fest Street Art Festival Plovdiv 2020 (over 2000 followers). And the artists actively shared the messages posted there. Each of the fire formations has on average over 1000 followers.

Black Fire, Gabrovo

Since the beginning of October, over 30 posts were about the 6fest crowdfunding campaign. Users shared them about 240 times. Most of them had fewer than ten likes. The majority of those who reacted were artists themselves or their supporters.

But most people that joined the Facebook groups never came back and expressed further interest in their content. In marketing, this type of users is called cold networks. There is a lot of technique to tackle this problem, and each is quite a time consuming and requires a systematic approach.

How to warm up cold networks?

There are two discoveries though that may help improve the communication between fire formations and their publics.

Fireter, Sofia

First, Bulgarian fire formations include people from different generations. The age of the 6fest Street Art Festival participants ranged from 13 to 50+.

Second, society knows very little about their achievements. I carried out a content analysis of about 100 internet publications by the Bulgarian media about fire groups for the last year. It revealed that photo or video reportages with scarce comments are the most frequent forms of event coverage (over 80 % of the analyzed content).

This genre emphasizes only the spectacular side of the shows and makes it difficult for the audience to distinguish between artists because they have scarce information.

Additionally, there is a great abundance of free shows in Bulgaria which provide people with different types of entertainment. And this form doesn’t require any responsibility to support artists.

In my opinion, fire art formations can survive and save the tradition of fire art only by uniting their efforts. As a minimum, to form an online community and keep different audiences (that interested in art shows in general) informed about their achievements.

None of the group has enough resources to warm up quickly cold networks, and grow public engagement. But together, thanks to their diversity, the artists can unite a lot of social groups, provide them with interesting information and learn better their publics.

This will allow them to summon up public support at times of crises. The reluctance to understand the needs of audiences and connect to them digitally every day deepens the gap of disengagement.