“We’re not trying to make it big like South by Southwest. We want to keep the quality level up,” Barry Coffing, founder and creator of the SpringBoard Music Festival, told me over the phone on Friday afternoon.
Unlike SpringBoard, South by Southwest (SxSW) is one of the most recognizable music festivals and conferences in the nation -- perhaps the world. As such, the Austin, Texas, festival has, in the eyes of some, become corporatized, straying from its initial incarnation as a grassroots marketplace for new ideas and independent artists.
Barry Coffing doesn’t want that to happen to his festival. Growing up in Houston, Texas, Coffing watched SxSW develop and deteriorate over the years -- in fact, his band was supposed to play the festival at one point. But, according to him, the festival wasn’t representing the artists -- it was representing Doritos and other corporate sponsors.
So, he thought, wouldn’t it be great if someone started something that actually got independent artists noticed by the industry? And that’s exactly what he did.
Houston has been home to SpringBoard for the past five years, which has given Coffing the time he’s needed to work out all of the kinks and ensure that the festival is running as smoothly as possible before exporting it to national markets. This year, he’s bringing the conference to San Diego.
As opposed to SxSW, where there are hundreds of bands playing at any number of Austin venues and tons of ambitious artists jockeying for the slightest bit of attention from some way-too-busy industry professional, SpringBoard West will be localized to the Music Box in Little Italy.
The festival and conference will run Jan. 4-7, which means four days of intimate interaction with the West Coast’s musical higher ups and performances by over 30 national and international bands -- including hip-hop legend Warren G and English electronic rockers, the Big Pink.
While anyone can buy tickets to the performances, there are only 100 conference slots available -- many of which will be what Coffing calls “moment of truth” panels. This means that musicians will be able to show their music directly to a panelist -- the manager of Gun N’ Roses, for example -- and get input or, who knows, maybe even a record deal.
“All of this is being done under a nonprofit, so everyone is doing it for free. It’s not designed to make money. It’s designed to help people,” Coffing said.
What’s the cherry on top? Well, it’s really affordable. The Wednesday and Thursday showcases, for instance, are only $10 -- Coffing described it as a wine tasting, but for music. While Friday and Saturday’s general admission tickets are going for $25 online and $30 at the door each day, it turns out to be well worth it considering doors open at 1 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday and performances run until 1 a.m.
But don’t take my word for it. Go to the website, check out the schedule and see everything else that SpringBoard West has to offer.
Rutger Rosenborg was almost a Stanford neuroscientist before he formed Ed Ghost Tucker. He now plays in the Lulls and makes music on his own when he's not writing. Follow his updates on Facebook or contact him directly.