No manager is more deeply immersed in the live entertainment industry than Coran Capshaw, founder of Red Light Management. Historically, currently and, certainly, in the future, Capshaw impacts live not only as the founder and fearless leader of the largest independent management company in the world, comprised of more than 300 (hard-touring) acts and the more than 70 managers and hundreds of staffers that support them, but also through Capshaw’s myriad and complex associations and ownership stakes in venues, festivals, branding and sponsorship firms, real estate ventures, labels and other entities entrenched in the business of live. In addition to productive businesses in and out of the public eye, Capshaw is a powerful force in the world of philanthropy also in, but mostly out of, the public eye.
Live music drives Capshaw, and always has, but his real competitive edge is his uncanny ability to see how live intersects with fans and the rest of the business in ways others don’t, making him capable of alternating seamlessly from a 30,000-foot view of prevailing winds in fan engagement trends and 360-degree festival finances to the nitty-gritty of ticket counts for individual acts or best protocol for operations on a specific day at a festival. Capshaw founded direct-to-fan trailblazer Music Today and was the primary initial investor in Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., foreseeing (and cracking the profitability code for) both the explosion in digitally driven fan engagement and a burgeoning U.S. festival business years before either took hold. He’s now firmly back in the e-commerce business, having reacquired Music Today from Live Nation two years ago, and in festival startups, including cannabis fests. Red Light also invested in Satisfi Labs, an AI-driven fan engagement platform, earlier this year.
With offices in Nashville, London, Los Angeles, New York and Charlottesville, Va., Red Light’s management clients alone would be enough to make Capshaw and the company a dominant force in the touring industry. Capshaw has personally overseen the career of Dave Matthews Band almost from its inception, strategically developing DMB into one of the most powerful touring acts in history, reporting a staggering $1 billion in boxoffice and nearly 20 million tickets sold over the past 20 years, according to Pollstar. True to his improv-band roots, Capshaw, a former Deadhead, has managed Phish since the band returned to touring and recording 10 years ago, nurturing a productive period that has generated $321 million in gross and sold 5.6 million tickets over 369 headlining shows reported to Pollstar, averaging a remarkable 28,222 tickets sold and $1.6 million grossed per report.
Capshaw has become a dominant force in Nashville’s historically insular music business, leading the development of Chris Stapleton into a headlining star who has grossed more than $87 million and sold 1.8 million tickets from 189 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 $386 million from more than 7 million tickets sold since 2007), Lady Antebellum, Maren Morris, Jake Owen, Lee Ann Womack, Lee Brice, Maddie & Tae, Dierks Bentley, Sam Hunt and Martina McBride, among others.
These artists, along with consistent box office generators across myriad genres like Lionel Richie, Brandi Carlile, ODESZA, Enrique Iglesias, Alabama Shakes, My Morning Jacket, Drive-By Truckers, Il Divo and many more, typically gross around $500 million a year in ticket sales. But beyond management, Capshaw is deeply invested in live entertainment, with stakes in festivals including Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, Emerald Cup and SXSW. On the venue side, 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 will soon be in expansion mode. Capshaw remains based in Charlottesville, where his real estate holdings include equity positions in the historic Jefferson Theater and Sprint Pavilion.
Capshaw remains hugely active on the philanthropy front, 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. This year, his primary philanthropic initiative is in his home market, where he is spearheading a project to revitalize Charlottesville’s public housing. First with the Concert For Charlottesville, featuring DMB, Pharrell, Justin Timberlake, The Roots and Ariana Grande, which raised $1.4 million, and then by donating $5 million through Matthews’ Bama Works foundation, Capshaw’s efforts in this arena have raised millions toward renovation or replacement of existing public housing and building additional affordable housing in Charlottesville, toward a total goal of $150 million in housing.
Capshaw dodges the media and rarely does interviews, preferring to keep the spotlight on his artists rather than himself and his business ventures. An hour-long interview may produce one or two quotes for print, in this case, “These are exciting times to be in the music business, both from the recorded music and the live sides.”
Work is fun for Capshaw, who typically ignores weekends, holidays and traditional business hours and is most in his element on a tour bus, at a festival, in a production office or catering at an arena, or in one of his offices or a restaurant clinching some high-stakes deal.
But, when pinned down for a casual conversation at a festival, for instance, Capshaw reveals a wry sense of humor, leads with kindness, and displays the unique insight that comes from that rare combination of keen business sense and a deep passion for artists, music, the music business and music fans.
He is a fan, and remains deeply captivated by live performance. “My entry to the business was as a live music fan, and I still am one to this day,” Capshaw says. He calls himself a “behind the scenes guy,” but adds, “I see shows from out front.”