Red Light Management, Starr Hill Presents; Partner, ATO Records, TBD Records
POWER MOVE: Quietly has taken stakes in monster festivals, including Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits; 60 managers in seven cities oversee wide range of careers, from DMB, Tim McGraw and Phish to Luke Bryan and Tiësto.
THE RUNDOWN: Coran Capshaw, the enigmatic dealmaker who runs the world’s largest indie management company, hates interviews. When he does chat, however, rather than discussing his own landscape-changing industry moves, he usually limits his comments to supporting a given act: “Our wins come through the wins of the artists we work with,” he says.
A former nightclub owner based in Charlottesville, Va., Capshaw launched Red Light Management with his sole client Dave Matthews Band, taking the lessons about fan community that he learned as a longtime Deadhead and applying them to the Internet age. The result helped steer DMB to superstardom. The act earned more than $41 million on the road from just 41 shows in 2012, according to Billboard Boxscore, and its latest RCA release became the group’s sixth consecutive studio album to debut at No. 1.
Along the way, Capshaw pioneered direct-to-fan marketing with MusicToday, bankrolled the initial Bonnaroo in 2002, launched labels ATO and TBD, and quietly invested in an array of music biz properties that includes promoter C3 Presents (No. 26). Red Light sister company Starr Hill Presents operates the nTelos Wireless Pavilion in Charlottesville and stages festivals with equity positions in Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, Wanderlust and Houston’s Free Press. Through the C3 relationship, he has stakes in Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits Music Festival, with more properties of varying sizes pending.
Capshaw now employs about 60 managers overseeing the careers of nearly 200 artists, with offices in seven cities and a roster that includes Faith Hill, Phish, R. Kelly, Miley Cyrus, Drive-By Truckers, Alabama, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Franz Ferdinand and Victoria Justice, as well as the estates of John Denver and Jerry Garcia. He personally oversees DMB, Tim McGraw and Phish. This year, Red Light has already signed Kool & the Gang, Tiësto and Lionel Richie.
More growth for Red Light and other Capshaw businesses seems inevitable, but the expansion won’t happen just for its own sake. “Growth needs to be natural, and for the common good,” Capshaw says. Red Light has accumulated both management and executive talent through internal development and key people coming onboard from existing firms, with the equity of acumen rapidly expanding.
“Our artists benefit from our collective overall experience and knowledge in the marketplace, in every area,” he says, and there have been few obstacles to hold them back. Since Capshaw doesn’t answer to an owner, board of directors or investors, the buck stops at his own desk. And there are plenty of bucks to be had.
Coran Capshaw photo by Matt Furman