FOUNDER & CEO
Red Light Management
Founder and CEO of Red Light Management, the world’s largest independent management firm, Coran Capshaw is pleased to be back in the road business following two years of uncertainty at best and total shutdown at worst.
A thriving live business is critical to a management firm that regards touring as a pillar of any artist’s career. “We were fortunate that many domestic tours were able to happen in the latter half of last year,” Capshaw says, “and we had great destination events in Mexico (Luke Bryan, Phish, Dave Matthews/Tim Reynolds, My Morning Jacket, Brandi Carlile).”
Red Light, with its more than 400 artists steered by over 70 managers and hundreds of support staff, has offices in Nashville, London, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and Capshaw’s home base of Charlottesville, Va. The RLM roster is home to many top Pollstar performers, including Phish (selling nearly 6.5 million tickets since Capshaw began managing them 13 years ago); Dave Matthews Band (one of the most consistent touring acts in history at more than $1 billion in box office); country superstars Chris Stapleton and Luke Bryan; Lionel Richie, Brandi Carlile, ODESZA, Enrique Iglesias, Brittany Howard, My Morning Jacket, Drive-By Truckers, Il Divo, The Strokes, Styx, and scores of other hard-touring artists. Overall, RLM-managed acts generate some $500 million in ticket sales annually when live is at full throttle.
Though some challenges still exist internationally, the pipeline is open in America. Some milestone events and tours have already taken place in 2022, notably Stapleton’s Concert For Kentucky benefit on April 25 at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., after a two-year delay. RLM Nashville is now the largest firm in town with, in addition to previously mentioned acts, Bobby Bones, Lady A, Maren Morris, Jake Owen, Lee Ann Womack, Lee Brice, Maddie & Tae, Dierks Bentley, Sam Hunt, Martina McBride, Elle King, Ruston Kelly, and Jon Pardi, along with rising talent Riley Green, Gabby Barrett, Parker McCollum and Lainey Wilson.
Other recent success stories include the welcome return of Phish and DMB to the road, as well as Pollstar’s Latin Tour of the Year in the Ricky Martin/Enrique Iglesias co-bill. This year, ODESZA is exploding, selling out three Climate Pledge Arena dates in Seattle and multiple amphitheater plays with electronic music becoming a growth front for RLM. Another Red Light artist breaking this year is Rainbow Kitten Surprise.
As founder of direct-to-fan pioneer Music Today in 2000 (he has since re-acquired the e-commerce firm), an early investor in Bonnaroo (now owned by Live Nation), and with stakes in multiple festivals over the years, Capshaw has long been bullish on the immersive festival experience for fans and artists, and remains so, citing Pilgrimage in Tennessee and Railbird in Lexington as evidence of an evolving space.
“I’m a big believer in the festival experience,” Capshaw tells Pollstar. “It doesn’t replace touring, but it’s a great opportunity for discovery of new bands and even for established acts, [festivals are] a nice component to blend into hard ticket touring, because the audience can be reminded how great these artists are and then support hard ticket sales.”
With so many associated acts through RLM and his label interests, including ATO Records, Capshaw is enthused about the wealth of new venues opening across the country and beyond. “I’m grateful for these new venues and look forward to seeing the new arena in Austin [Moody Center], along with Savannah, Birmingham, and the new boutique amphitheaters like in Wilmington, N.C.,” he says, adding the new venues bode well for growth in live entertainment. “We used streaming during the peak of the pandemic, and will continue to use streaming as a tool, it will have its place. But nothing can replace the live experience.”
In turn, the venue experience is “improving in a lot of ways,” Capshaw observes. “More attention is being paid to the food and beverage side, people expect more when they go to events, and that attention to detail will lift the industry in general. A festival like Outside Lands [in San Francisco] played a pivotal role in transforming F&B with wine, craft beers and eclectic food offerings, which led to an overall enhancement for festivals.”
An insightful advocate for his artists, Capshaw believes that, by and large, the industry is currently valuing the live experience correctly. “There was a moment during the pandemic where things felt a little too collaborative among the major promoters,” Capshaw muses, “but we’re getting back to normal competitiveness out there, and the respective companies want tours. Enhancing the equation is the abundance of ancillary revenue opportunities the major promoters have been rolling out.”
Commonly, Capshaw’s investments and partnerships are interwoven with philanthropy and the greater good, and affordable housing remains a priority. He and his non-profit partners have made great strides toward a goal of creating $175 million for providing brand new or fully renovated homes and apartments in Charlottesville, a model he hopes to expand into other areas. Capshaw also retains a vested interest in renewable energy, specifically solar, and has active projects ranging from school systems to large-scale utility projects.
“We, as an industry, need to pay attention to the impact that touring has on the climate and work together to reduce that overall footprint,” Capshaw says. “That’s why I personally got into the solar business; I felt I could work to help reduce the impact out there. This is an important conversation we all should be having right now, because we all know what’s coming on that front.”