Impact 50: Coran Capshaw On Doing More Than Concerts - Pollstar News (2024)


– Coran Capshaw

THE BUILDERS

Executives who are out there making impactful decisions that impact markets, artists, shows, tours and companies.

CORAN CAPSHAW

Founder, Red Light Management

The overarching impact of the pandemic on the live business and the decimation of touring has shone a light on the importance of having diversified interests and a robust dedication to philanthropy and willingness to do good. Nowhere is that more true than with Coran Capshaw, the founder of the largest independent management company in the world, which comprises more than 300 touring and recording acts and the more than 70 managers and hundreds of staffers that support them.

See: Pollstar’s IMPACT 50

With offices in Nashville, London, Los Angeles, New York and Capshaw’s home base of Charlottesville, Va., Red Light’s management clients represent a touring industry unto itself. Capshaw has personally overseen the career of Dave Matthews Band almost from its inception, as it developed into one of the most powerful touring acts in history, reporting more than $1 billion in box office and 20 million tickets sold over the past 20 years, according to Pollstar, including more than 524,467 tickets last year. Capshaw has managed Phish since the band returned to touring and recording 11 years ago, a productive period that has generated nearly $400 million in gross and sold more than 6 million tickets over 405 headlining shows reported to Pollstar, including $42.5 million gross and 585,295 tickets in 2019.

One of the more remarkable accomplishments on Capshaw’s resume is how he quietly built a management powerhouse in what was the historically insular music business in Nashville, from which sprang the development of superstar artist Chris Stapleton, who has now grossed more than $118 million and sold 2.4 million tickets from 222 headlining shows reported to Pollstar. With more than 90 employees in Nashville alone, Red Light is now Music City’s largest management firm, with a roster that boasts Luke Bryan (who has generated a whopping $423 million from more than 7.6 million tickets sold since 2007), Lady A, Maren Morris, Jake Owen, Lee Brice, Maddie & Tae, Dierks Bentley, Jon Pardi, Sam Hunt and Martina McBride, among others, all who tour on an annual basis to consistent success.

These artists, along with consistent box office generators across myriad genres like Lionel Richie, Brandi Carlile, ODESZA, Enrique Iglesias, Brittany Howard, My Morning Jacket, Drive-By Truckers, Il Divo and many more, typically gross around $500 million a year in ticket sales, a sizable touring industry in its own right that has been largely sidelined for what would have been a robust year, Capshaw says. In short, a year of no touring for RLM has a massive impact on multiple levels.

While these artists aren’t touring to any significant degree, that doesn’t mean they – and by extension Capshaw and the other RLM managers – aren’t staying busy. Several RLM artists have been doing the live drive-in shows cropping up around the country, and many have been involved in streaming, most notably Phish, which streams a popular webcast every Tuesday night, and Dave Matthews Band, which does the same thing on Wednesday, each show with a different charitable component to which fans can donate.

Beyond the streaming and occasional alternative show, “different artists, to different degrees, have used this as a time for more creativity,” Capshaw said, “which has been a positive thing.”

Also facing RLM and the rest of the industry is the immense challenge of rescheduling, postponing and re-postponing touring schedules in a world of complete uncertainty and shifting economic sands. “We know what the challenges are: the challenges are the virus and what it has done to our economy,” Capshaw said. “We are cautiously optimistic that we can get some touring in next year.”

Beyond the management company, Capshaw’s multi-faceted associations and ownership stakes in venues, festivals, branding and sponsorship firms, real estate ventures, labels and other entities are mostly all at least enhanced and complemented by the business of live. In short, live is Capshaw’s thing but, thankfully, by far not his only thing.

A best-case is that when one sector falls off (or disappears, in the case of touring), Capshaw can look to others. He was a pioneer in the world of direct-to-fan and the advent of music-related e-commerce with the creation of Musictoday some 20 years ago, and he remains firmly entrenched in that business, having reacquired the company he founded three years ago. In line with the overall industry trend of the past three months, Capshaw says e-commerce business has been quite strong during the pandemic, primarily on the merchandising front.

But perhaps most critical in our current environment is the art of giving back and contributing to society when it needs it most. Capshaw has long been a driving force in the world of philanthropy, quietly spearheading efforts, often with artists, that generate millions of dollars for those in need, and he was recognized with the Spirit of Life Award at City of Hope’s annual gala in 2017.

With his primary focus on that front of late, Capshaw has taken on the issue of affordable housing, which he tackles with the same intensity, passion and creativity he has put into building and sustaining artist careers and festivals. The catalyst for these efforts began in the wake of the conflict surrounding the removal of Confederate statues in Charlottesville that led to unrest and protests and ultimately the death of a counter-protester, all of which brought national attention to Charlottesville and unfairly cast this peaceful, progressive city as a symbol of social turbulence and racial unrest. Capshaw and his allies responded with the Concert For Charlottesville, featuring DMB, Pharrell, Justin Timberlake, The Roots and Ariana Grande, which raised $1.4 million for the Heal Charlottesville Fund.

“When that concert was over, we felt we needed to do more than a concert, and when we thought about what to do, affordable housing was a big issue,” Capshaw said. “Digging into some of the areas of inequality, you see housing, education and healthcare, among others. The negative was a white supremacist attack and someone losing their life, and it was a catalyst to do something positive, which is what we’re doing.”

Capshaw and his group have raised over $20 million so far (including $5 million from Dave Matthews Band and Red Light Management) to tackle the affordable housing issue through the renovation or replacement of existing public housing and building additional affordable housing in Charlottesville, toward a total goal of $150 million in housing. Working with a coalition of public housing residents, along with municipal authorities, the project will provide brand new or fully renovated homes, along with creating additional affordable housing to address the broader issue. Thinking from the ground up and the broader issues in play, the project takes into account other issues that will be addressed in these developments, including early childhood education, financial literacy, and health care. While initially focused on Charlottesville – home – Capshaw has other markets in mind as the world returns to normalcy.

While the music industry is overwhelmingly philanthropic and quick to step up when there is need, Capshaw wanted to do more than just “do the concert” and move on. “We’ve done plenty of the benefit concerts, we’ve done a lot of good with these events, and that one [in Charlottesville] in particular did good,” Capshaw noted. “But I felt like we wanted to do more than that.”

Capshaw has also doubled down on his focus and investment in renewable energy, with particular emphasis on solar, where he is a stakeholder in several businesses. Charlottesville itself has become a hub for the renewable energy industry.

Back on the music front, outside of his management company, Capshaw is deeply invested in the overall live entertainment ecosystem, with stakes in multiple festivals and venues. He was one of the initial proponents of Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater and retains a stake with Live Nation, and is involved with Brooklyn Bowl, which recently expanded to Nashville. In Charlottesville, Capshaw’s real estate holdings include equity positions in the historic Jefferson Theater, The Southern, and Sprint Pavilion. As such, Capshaw is keenly aware of the struggle venues are facing during the pandemic, particularly independent venues.

“The whole venue world out there is suffering,” Capshaw said. “I don’t think it gets the same attention that the hotel industry or the airline industry gets; those are easily translatable, and they’re very public and present. Let’s hope the government steps up and helps here in some fashion.”

Capshaw, who entered the music business as a club owner, says the struggles of the venues hit close to home. “It’s hard for me to think of artists that we work with that didn’t start in clubs,” Capshaw pointed out. “The artists, the fans and our business are best served when all the promoters, both the independent venues and the big companies, are healthy and flourishing.”

This breakout feature is part of Pollstar’s 2020 Impact 50 honoring the executives most impacting the live entertainment industry today.

Impact 50: Coran Capshaw On Doing More Than Concerts - Pollstar News (2024)

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