Springboard Festival – The Music Industry Gives Back and Benefits

There are various examples of folks in the music biz giving back, and one of the most impressive I have heard about lately is called Springboard. I had a chance to chat with Barry Coffing, the creator of Springboard Festivals.

Put simply, it is a place for industry professionals to share insights and glimpse rising talent, in two way exchange.

Coffing grew up in Texas, and his band was supposed to play the second South By Southwest. Over the years, Coffing and others watched SXSW jump the shark. “At its origin SXSW was to draw attention to a local music scene, but is no longer that. It has a different focus now,” states Coffing.

Barry Coffing

In 2012 Coffing launched the first Springboard Festival with 54 bands in a mall location. Much has been learned along the way, and now Coffing schedules Springboard Festivals twice a year. He hopes to expand to four times a year, in various locations.

Coffing explains, “Three thousand bands sign up, 50 are invited. Unlike the one badge per band policy at SXSW, everyone in the band attends Sprinboard for free, and it’s all done as a non-profit.”

Springboard West Music Festival is happening in San Diego January 10-12, 2019.

Coffing is a former artist, publisher and songwriter, he’s done a lot and has a good overview of the music business. His day job is handling song placements in various productions, and Coffing says that he is trying to balance the bands’ needs and industry needs by organizing Springboard Festivals.

Of all the bands he sees,

“25% are all good to go, 25% have an Achilles Heel that needs fixing and 25% have a lot happening but need work. The last 25% have pure talent, but really need to get their business stuff together.”

Coffing has a policy of bringing bands back to multiple Springboards, which is no doubt effective for industry participants and bands.

The panels at Springboard are not typical, “It’s not just music supervisors talking,” affirms Coffing. “Instead, we have moment of truth panels, and we have 15 bands placed in movies. The job is to get the band to the next level. The band has done all it can where they are, but they need to add quality team members, it might be a manager, producer, or new members.”

Coffing builds the panels with industry professionals holding diametrically opposing views, which is great to spark meaningful discussions. While much of the industry today is asking for proof via metrics (“how many Facebook followers do you have”), Coffing asserts that there is no substitute for the gut reaction of assessing a band.

“There remains a magical voodoo thing.”

Coffing reiterates that “giving back and hoping to discover are the two motivations for industry professionals to participate. The non-profit status means no honoraria paid. The panelists are invited to also participate in workshops and speed meetings. A mentor-only brunch is scheduled on the last day, that further acts as a catalyst.”

Springboard Festival features thoughtfully scheduled evenings like a radio show: each artist has seven minutes to set up, plays one song unplugged, which is followed by interviews. It gives the industry folks who were onstage during the day an efficient use of time to gauge the viability of bands.

Springboard admittedly struggles with funding. The larger events have national sponsors, but smaller events like Coffing’s are not attractive for big sponsors.

“Travel is often a hurdle for bands from afar,” Coffing continues. “We’d like to remove that barrier. We have great bands from Scotland and Miami and elsewhere, and we want them to be able to attend.”

Springboard is a grassroots cross pollination of American Idol and SXSW.

But when it comes to a band getting advice, Coffing concludes “if you can read it in a book, don’t do it.”


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.