There are moments that not only define careers, but lend great meaning to existence. For an independent manager and entrepreneur like Peter Casperson, they arrive when an album is released and the artist truly gets acknowledged for their talent and hard work, when the artist steps on the stage and the sound is great, the lights are perfect and the music really breaks through to move people. “When you line up all the circumstances that helps someone’s creative vision come to fruition, that is when fantasy becomes reality,” Casperson explains. “That is when I know I’m right where I belong.”
As someone who has navigated the turbulent currents of the music business for more than thirty years, Casperson has known where he belongs for a long time now, since high school, in fact. The son of a psychologist, he grew up in Westport, Connecticut, intoxicated by music from the first time he tuned into the radio. He was part of the generation that came of age between Elvis and the coming of the Beatles.
Casperson went off to Babson in Wellesley, Massachusetts as a finance major but his real love for music soon lured him into Boston, where he put a phone in an apartment and started Castle Music Productions while attending school. By the time he was nineteen, he was producing demos, promoting shows, booking people like Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. “My real introduction to the business came when I booked the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in a hall I had rented at Boston University. Their Agency had sold three shows that day and I had two of them. When they showed up Mike Bloomfield said they were just too tired to do my two shows, but would do one really good set. So there I was, this little punk kid, who had put two shows on sale, and I’m thinking, “Uh, oh. I’m going to get my ass handed to me if they don’t do these two shows!” A case of beer and an ounce of grass later, they did the two shows and we became fast friends.
Boston in the late ’60s was a thriving music town and Casperson positioned himself to take full advantage of regional talent and developed national connections. In addition to Castle Music Productions, he was operating Castle Hill Publishing, North Country Productions (production company), Great Northern Recording Studio, Boston Talent Associates (booking agency), and opened his own club, the Catacombs, where Van Morrison came to perform Astral Weeks just before he recorded it. When he found a band out of Ohio called Sugar Creek and struck a deal with a major label, Casperson found himself in a position to produce his first album though he was scarcely prepared.
There was a standout ballad on the album by a guy named Jonathan Edwards and Casperson decided to take him out of the band and produce an album. “Ahmet Ertegun heard it and flipped, and he and Phil Walden made a deal with me on Capricorn/Atco. Jonathan had a number one album with “Sunshine”. Even though I was still learning how the whole international music industry really worked, I got to see what it was like to make the right album and have all the elements fall into place and how truly rare and special that is.
Despite having a studio and producing four albums a year, Casperson moved to New York in the late 70s. There he published the music and managed the careers of Garland Jeffries, Phoebe Snow, Martin Mull, numerous songwriters and producers, and became the New York publishing rep of Dolly Parton’s Velvet Apple Music. Disco was engulfing the industry and “I just didn’t get it at all. That whole trend really interrupted me creatively, particularly the kind of singer-songwriter roots based music I was interested in. Somebody had to be really saying something, really playing something in order for me to get excited about music.” As Casperson observed the whole industry get hijacked by disco and then watched it tank, he learned a lesson he would never forget. “From that time on I resolved never to be a trend manager or a niche guy and never to be put in a position where I would be completely dependent on the nod of a corporation in order to move forward with something I believed in.”
As he formed Invasion with Steven Saporta in 1983 he says “I was expanding my knowledge and contacts, honing my philosophy, really learning how to deal with international responsibility. My whole perspective was changing from the regional to the internationally aware.
Insight, wisdom, being a good listener, long years of diversified experience, an ability to keep his sights on the long-term rather than short-term goals, all of these are qualities that have allowed Casperson to thrive as an independent in a time of roiling change in the music industry. “Invasion has always been experimental,” he says, which makes it very unusual at a time when the business seems to be full ofnumber crunching corporate types rather than real music people. It is a philosophy that emphasizes the humanity of art as much as business, one that constantly impels Casperson to find new ways of doing things. “The most important thing about what we do here at Invasion is that we are independent self-starters who have the sort of depth of experience that make no problem unsolvable. Entering my fourth decade in this industry, I find myself as excited if not more excited today than when I started. The fact that the playing field has been leveled by the Internet and the effect it has on the old model inspired us to develop the United For Opportunity model which exactly serves the moment. After all, in the end it’s not about how music is delivered or monetized but about creating support and a winning methodology for artists that are pushing their creative boundaries. We continue to be able to provide these talented innovators with a clear economic methodology to support their vision. It is a great time for art in the entertainment business. This business of art and commerce can be very hard. You really have to love it– and I do. I enjoy every second of it.”