Springboard West Music Festival is returning to the West Coast this January with its third annual conference for emerging artists. From Jan. 10-12 in Ocean Beach, California, up-and-coming acts will meet with industry professionals to learn more about advancing their careers and showing off their skills.
The first Springboard Music Festival was kicked off seven years ago by former musician and industry professional Barry Coffing in Houston. In 2012, Coffing launched the event with the idea of creating a South by Southwest style event that was refocused on growing talent.
“I grew up in Houston and I was around when South by Southwest started,” Coffing tells Billboard. “I watched it grow into this really cool amazing thing and then I watched it jump the shark and no longer be of service to the industry.”
Coffing felt the industry giant had gone on to be more about selling ad space for brands and less about helping artists break into the music business.
“I always said I could do a better one and in 2012 somebody said, ‘We’ve got this stage and everything and we’ll give it to you for very little money.’ So we did the first Springboard with 54 bands and we put it together in less than three weeks,” says Coffing.
The first Springboard Music Festival was cobbled together with those 54 bands and panels situated in local coffee shops.
“It was thrown together, but with the right spirit,” Coffing adds.
The original event and those that have followed drew from the wealth of artists in and around Houston as well as the rest of Texas. Since its inception, the Springboard festivals have seen musicians travel from as far as Australia, Israel, Vietnam and Singapore in order to sit down with panelists who can provide advice to make a name for themselves in the industry.
“There is all this incredible talent around, but it is really hard to find it. I do music supervision, so I get 100 emails a day and most of them are not very good,” says Coffing. “It is not just enough to be talented. You have to be talented but you also have to be driven. You have to work hard and you have to understand the business. We look for a mixture of all those things.”
Out of hundreds of bands that apply for each festival, around 50 acts get chosen for each conference. Artists attend a two-day Band Bootcamp where they attend panels, workshops, one-on-one networking and direct pitch sessions. Panelists and speakers donate their time to the festival in order to mentor artists and even help fill slots for placements in television and film.
The third day of the festival features a day-long showcase of all 50 bands across five stages in Ocean Beach. The Band & Brew event is a showcase open to the panelists and the public to take in as many bands as possible and give the artists a chance to show off what they’ve learned over the past two days of the conference.
“If you’re crazy, you can see all 50 bands in one day,” says Coffing. “It is kind of like a wine tasting for bands.”
This year’s panelists includes Grammy nominees, singer-songwriters, live music producers, managers, music lawyers, promoters and more. Industry professionals from Viacom, ABC and radio executives will also be present. The San Diego event alone has gotten 15 songs placed in film and television in the last year.
Following the success of Springboard West, the group is planning to expand into other regions with possibly Springboard North and Springboard East in the coming years. Instead of adding more artists to each event and eliminating the intimate experience, Springboard intends to develop festivals more frequently.
“The industry is changing so rapidly. The advice I give now is not the advice I gave six months ago. We felt the need to come together more often,” says Coffing. “Our goal is to do one every three to four months.”