By LUCIA VITI | Downtown News
Springboard West 2020 – a music festival, band bootcamp and beer crawl – returns to Ocean Beach to celebrate some of the world’s finest musical talent Jan. 9-11.
Founder and Director Barry Coffing will showcase some of the most talented – and undiscovered – musicians in front of the industry’s top executives as a way to discover, give back and celebrate the future of music.
Crossing all music genres, this nonprofit, sustainable arts venture isn’t about “making money.” Mentors devote their time as advisors while searching for musical phenoms as 40 musical ensembles – including seven San Diego bands – perform through the event’s “springboard effect” to launch careers that otherwise may never materialize.
Coffing, a music industry phenomenon, remains determined to help other bands “break through,” while sidestepping the “mistakes” he made.
“Earlier in my career, I thought having talent was enough,” he said. “I could sing, write and produce songs. I made an incredible record with my own money. I knew it was a hit, but I didn’t play the game so I didn’t go very far.
“I couldn’t let what happened to me happen to anyone else,” he continued. “Don’t get me wrong, I love the music business. But, the game’s rigged. Music’s a team sport. It’s not just about talent. It’s about having a good manager, a great producer, and excellent co-writers. Even The Beatles didn’t make it alone.”
Coffing added that “no matter how talented, no band ever hits a No. 1 single out of the gate.”
“Music professionals will help budding artists get halfway across the street, but after that, there isn’t much help,” he said. “These bands have the talent, the perseverance, and the strength, but they’ve never had the opportunity to prove themselves or learn what’s needed to progress within the industry. And that’s what we do, along with giving fans a front row seat to the action.”
Coffing described Springboard West as a “junk filter” for industry professionals. Applicants are capped at 3,000 and whittled down to 300 before 40 are chosen.
“We go through 3,000 bands to say hey, here’s 40 we think you should take a look at,” he said. “We find talent before and after they’ve been featured on ‘American Idol’ or ‘The Voice.’ But while ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Voice’ focus on making a television show, I focus on making a rock star.”
Coffing mathematically defined a band’s profile in “quarters.” Twenty-five percent are “good to go”; 25% have “pure talent” but lack a business acumen; 25% have “lots happening” with some that needs to be pulled back; and 25% have an “Achilles heel,” a missing element that’s hindering their progression.
Talent arrives to the festival from all over the globe including Australia, Canada, the Republic of Georgia, and even Vietnam.
“We extend invitations on the off chance that they can make it, as travel’s often a hurdle for everyone in this business,” he said. “The smaller markets can’t find a team to complete them while the industry needs to find new blood and fresh talent that’s not just from three cities. Springboard removes that barrier.”
The event kicks off with a two-day Band Bootcamp replete with panels, workshops, one-on-one interviews, and “moment of truth pitch sessions” with industry notables. The truth panels are noted to be current within an ever-evolving industry.
“Our industry professionals aren’t just talking supervisors here because of what they did 10 years ago,” said Coffing. “We’re current and active within an industry that’s constantly changing.”
Coffing moderates to learn “along with everyone else.”
“The more I learn, the more I can help,” he said. “These bands are our clients.”
Bands are guided with brutal honesty.
“The talent isn’t here to be showered with compliments or given a pep talk,” explained Coffing. “Every band’s wonderful and talented. But we’re here to ask truthful questions. We’re here to get these bands to break through.”
The Texan native modeled Springboard music festivals after South by Southwest, a musical platform that stages independent artists in front of industry professionals. Coffing knew that he could present a “better show,” so he started his first festival in 2012.
To date, Springboard music festivals across the U.S. have assisted more than 500 artists with career-changing management and publishing contracts; placed more than 15 songs in movies; and fronted bands as openers to commercially successful bands.
“Playing in front of 50,000 people is huge,” said Coffing.
Coffing touts an impressive list of musical accolades brimming with hundreds of movie and television tracks; BMI songwriting awards; No. 1 hits; and even an Emmy nomination. The musical entrepreneur currently represents more than 12,000 record labels and publishers for film and TV licensing.
The event ends with bands “playing their hearts out” during the Band and Brew Crawl through Ocean Beach venues and breweries, including the OB Brewery, Winton’s, The Holding Company and The Harp.
Venues are strategically chosen to be within “50 yards from each other.”
“Forty bands take what they’ve learned and deliver the performance of their careers,” said Coffing. “Bands are staggered so fans aren’t forced to choose what band they want to see, they can see them all.”
According to Coffing, Springboard West adds “tremendous economic impact” to the Ocean Beach community.
“We struck gold by partnering with Ocean Beach,” said Coffing. “This hip, beach community understands our goal of creating independent artists. Ocean Beach and Springboard West is a perfect marriage that gets bigger every year.
“January’s a great time to look for new talent and Ocean Beach is a great place to find it,” concluded Coffing.
— Lucia Viti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.