What Is the Springboard South Music Festival Anyway?

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The 2012 Springboard South Music Festival makes its debut this weekend, starting today and running through Sunday at CityCentre Houston. The event, boasting three days of music from 45 bands on two stages, is being touted by organizers as an opportunity for independent artists and musicians and educators and music industry professionals to connect and share ideas.

SSMF is the brainchild of Barry Coffing of WeGet Music and WeGet Networking. He attended HSPVA and went on to become a music- and film-industry vet, doing some work locally and in Los Angeles in the '80s. He's also the director of the Houston wing of The National Association of Recording Industry Professionals.

"I moved to Los Angeles after reading every music book known to man, and man, were those books wrong," Coffing says. "It was the '80s, and nothing was being done like it said in the books. It's much worse now, so my goal is to get together a group of industry professionals and pass on current knowledge to the next generation."

The lineup started out very small but grew to include locals like Chase Hamblin, Runaway Sun, Another Run, Sheila Marshall, Pale and Rainchild. A host of artists from around the country are also booked for the free-admission, three-day event. The bands will be playing on stages inside CityCentre Plaza and Flora & Muse Bistro.

There is also a charitable element to the festival. Singing for Their Supper, a limited-edition two-CD set, will be sold and proceeds donated to the Houston Food Bank. The double disc features a song from each showcasing artist, and proceeds from SSMF merchandise (shirts, posters) will also go to the charity.

A lot of people in Houston have heard about the SSMF, but have no clue about the aim of the event or what differentiates it from something like SXSW in Austin, which also showcases musicians and puts them near industry folk.

"I was inspired by SXSW, but more the version of my youth when the labels all came down to find new talent. Now it's grown so big that it's about the city of Austin and the bars," Coffing says, adding that he's grown tired of the game in Austin that he sees as a cheat to up-and-coming artists.

"They now have over 2,000 bands at SXSW," he says. "I'm sorry, but there aren't 2,000 bands on Earth I want to see. We are featuring the best bands [at SSMF], with over half being local. Our goal moving forward is not to ever try to compete with our neighbors to the north, but to do something different. Our goal is to create a music festival for musicians."

The stages at the SSMF are staggered in a way that an attendee can conceivably see every band, instead of having to choose between them. In lieu of panels -- like at SXSW -- artists get half-hour, one-on-one private panels with buyers at Best Buy, plus consultations with music supervisors from film and television. Coffing is also adamant about pushing the social media side of things on Facebook and Twitter. Their canvassing campaign began in March.

All in all, Coffing says he is trying to give back to an industry that can be an unforgiving and scary place for newbies.

"It's sort of a giving-back and lift-up thing," he says. "Sounds more like a gymnastic move than a festival, but it made sense to us."

It doesn't hurt that the CityCentre is also hosting an art festival this weekend, and hell, it's Cinco de Mayo, too.

For more information see www.springboardsouth.com. Free.

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