Coran Capshaw, Founder, Red Light Management - Pollstar News (2024)

A prevailing trait of successful entrepreneurs is to play the hands they’re dealt with creativity and vision, and this has truly been the case with Red Light Management founder Coran Capshaw. As the pandemic unfolded and live music, the driving force of Capshaw’s expansive empire, came to a halt, Capshaw adroitly navigated a complex landscape, expanding when opportunity arose and sitting tight when hunkering down was the savvy move. Throughout, Capshaw has continued to make smart, effective plays in the worlds of philanthropy and sustainable energy.

Red Light is the world’s largest independent management company, with more than 400 acts in the hands of more than 70 managers and hundreds of support staff. Most of these acts rely on live as a primary revenue source, as do Capshaw’s myriad and complex associations and ownership stakes in venues, festivals, branding and sponsorship firms, real estate ventures, labels, merchandising and other entities, most directly or indirectly entrenched in the live business.

With offices in Nashville, London, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and Capshaw’s home base of Charlottesville, Va., a look at the RLM roster is a showcase of Pollstar performers, including Phish (selling more than 6 million tickets since Capshaw began managing them 12 years ago), Dave Matthews Band (one of the most consistent touring acts in history at more than $1 billion in box office), Chris Stapleton, Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie, Brandi Carlile, ODESZA, Enrique Iglesias, Brittany Howard, My Morning Jacket, Drive-By Truckers, Il Divo, The Strokes, Heart, Styx, Outlaws and scores of other hard-touring artists.

RLM is unquestionably the largest management firm in Music City, with a roster that includes, in addition to the previously mentioned artists, Bobby Bones, Lady A, Maren Morris, Jake Owen, Lee Ann Womack, Lee Brice, Maddie & Tae, Dierks Bentley, Sam Hunt, Martina McBride, Elle King and Jon Pardi, along with rising talent Riley Green, Gabby Barrett, and Parker McCollum. RLM had a country artist at the top of the radio charts 22 weeks in 2020.

Overall, RLM-managed acts typically generate some $500 million in ticket sales annually. Capshaw 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, and his investments and partnerships extend into multiple festivals and other live events.

But with touring sidelined, Capshaw’s far-flung interests proved to be a testament to the virtues of diversification. As founder of e-commerce trailblazer Music Today, Capshaw has focused on that side of his business during the pandemic, which “has done well, and continues to do well.” On the digital front, client Trey Anastasio’s The Beacon Jams, an eight-week “virtual residency” at New York’s Beacon Theatre in fall 2020, benefited the Divided Sky Fund, housed within Phish’s WaterWheel Foundation, with proceeds going toward opening a Vermont treatment center for those affected by addiction.

Calling The Beacon Jams “Trey’s vision,” Capshaw pointed out that an increase in overdose deaths during the pandemic “added clarity to the need we already knew was there.” The series was a huge hit with fans. “What you got out of that was great music, very creative in nature, all working towards a good cause,” Capshaw observed. “As a company, we took advantage of streaming, which we’d already been doing pre-pandemic, and we think we’ll see more of it continue on coming out of the pandemic.”

Also during the pandemic, RLM artists have enjoyed many successful NFT (non-fungible tokens) launches, including from electronic music clients like Gramatik and ODESZA. Calling these digital assets “another bridge to the artist/fan relationship,” Capshaw said the NFT world is “certainly frothy out there right now, but ultimately we think it will settle into a marketplace. We’ve seen a major movement in multiple spaces across collectibles, and this is just one more example of that, although a very creative one, using that technology.”

Capshaw also retains a vested interest in renewable energy, specifically in solar through his company Sun Tribe, which recently announced six utility-scale projects in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, whereby solar panels will initially be installed on abandoned coal mines in Virginia and will eventually expand to Kentucky and Tennessee. Commonly, Capshaw’s investments and partnerships are interwoven with philanthropy and the greater good, as in supporting founding client Dave Matthews partnership with the Nature Conservancy in planting 1 million trees in 2020, with another 1 million pledged for 2021. Affordable housing remains a priority for Capshaw, and he and his partners have made great strides toward a goal of creating $150 million worth of new homes. They’ve broken ground on two projects already. “That work started before the pandemic, continued during the pandemic, and is now actually starting to take place,” he said.

Capshaw and his team have been proactively involved in the vaccine distribution in their hometown of Charlottesville since the early stages of the rollout. Through funding and ongoing logistical support, they set up two mass vaccination sites in their community to help get shots in arms. Capshaw sought to help as he watched the vaccine process evolve from “a supply issue to a logistics issue to now we’re dealing with this hesitancy. We’ve got to keep moving.”

From a touring perspective, Capshaw clearly sees light at the end of the tunnel and has a solid number of artists touring domestically starting mid-summer. “As a nation we can see the results of vaccines,” he tells Pollstar. “We just need to build on that and get more people to take them, for the sake of our country and, ultimately, the world.”

When the road does come back in force, Capshaw has faith that live music will return to levels of 2019, and then some. “We’re excited about the pent-up demand out there and are hopeful that people have missed live so much that this will be a multi-year run,” he says.

And Capshaw, a consummate music fan who has been a fixture at live music events year-round forever, will assuredly be immersed in the music again when it returns. “I look forward to seeing all the shows, the bands, the crews, the venues,” he mused. “All these venues out there, especially the ones you go to often, they’re all second homes. I just want to go do that again. I can’t wait to see the music.”


Coran Capshaw, Founder, Red Light Management - Pollstar News (2024)
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