In its 44-year history, City of Hope’s Music, Film and Entertainment Industry Group has raised more than $113 million for Duarte, Calif.-based City of Hope. Recent past Spirit of Life honorees include Joel A. Katz, chair, Global Entertainment and Media Practice of Greenberg Traurig; and Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO, Universal Music Group.
The notoriously press-shy Capshaw, who received the Humanitarian Award at Billboard's Touring Awards in 2011, broke his silence to bring awareness to City of Hope and its mission in advance of this week’s dinner.
What was your impression when you toured City of Hope’s campus earlier this year?
We had a unique day that we visited there. They had a big reunion of bone marrow transplant patients and their donors. There were thousands of people there for that. Some of them were meeting their donors for the first time and that added a special touch to what was already a pretty moving experience when you see just the whole set up there.
There are so many organizations that the music industry supports. What made you want to align yourself with City of Hope?
I'm a behind-the-scenes guy and I’m not ever really looking to be front and center on anything. [After they asked], I thought for about two weeks, I’m like hemming and hawing a little bit -- I live in Virginia, this is an L.A.-centric charity -- they help people all over the world and obviously it’s a worldwide mission, but I was thinking about it for a while. I lost a friend to cancer, [Paradigm Talent Agency worldwide head of music] Chip Hooper. He came to me in this thought process in my head and the words I was hearing from him were, “Hey, we’re doing this. We’re gonna raise a lot of money.” I didn’t really have a choice. I just said, “I gotta do this."
The other thing that hit me, too, is different people would reach out that were being served by City of Hope, or their family members were, and that had an additional impact. A guy in the music business reached out to me and said he saw my name already up on a wall there, and he thanked me. I’m grateful for what anybody and everybody is doing this year. This is the year of the tragedy -- all the hurricanes, the fires, the earthquakes in Mexico -- but it’s so important that in the midst of [helping with those] that we take care of these organizations like City of Hope, who day-in and day-out are doing what they have to do.
Was there any breakthrough that City of Hope brought up to you that you found particularly exciting?
There’s some pretty ambitious goals that they have about making a real impact in diabetes over the next few years. So, if that all comes to play, then great. It’s just like everything we do -- we set goals, and if we get closer to that goal, someday we’ll get all the way there. We’ve got really crazy times in our country and in the world. It makes you even more appreciative for these people that no matter else is going on, they’re doing that same good work every day.
We all want to put points on the board for our artists and help move careers forward, but this is like the bonus award -- that we get to help do these sort of things, help when there’s a need and be in a position where we can help pull people together, that’s so fortunate.
You have a long history of philanthropy and recently helped coordinate A Concert for Charlottesville, following the racial-related violence there, which featured Dave Matthews Band, Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, Pharrell Williams and many more. Plus you have a hand in Country Rising Nov. 12 in Nashville. How important is it to give back?
Pharrell came to me. His team reached out a day after it happened [and said] “If you’re doing anything, we want in.” What we’re working on [beyond] that concert -- it’s a big ambitious initiative -- but we want to create an educational curriculum that can live somewhere online in schools about racism and tolerance. We want something to come out of this beyond just a concert. Country Rising is for hurricane relief and the tragedy in Vegas. Obviously these artists have been given -- whether it’s though God, whether it’s a higher power -- these talents. I think we on the business side have our own skill sets. We all have to give back. I want to help the artists that I work with find paths where they can give back. You can’t buy the feeling you get out of doing good.
Building on that, how do you encourage artists on your roster to give back? It sounds like it is an ongoing conversation.
Yeah, it is, and especially with the ones that I’m working directly with. But I’m so inspired by the willingness of a lot of these great artists to do things. We work a lot with community foundations. We use donor-advised funds. [Donate] 50 cents when it starts, one dollar a ticket, two dollars a ticket -- It’s the easiest thing to do. Nobody’s gonna notice it. And, look, your fans will ultimately appreciate that some part of what they’re paying for that night is going to do some good. Just start creating good vehicles to raise a lot of money on every tour date. Artists should start small and then go bigger. I’m pretty passionate about it. I don’t have a lot of hobbies: I like to work and I like to do good. It’s that simple.