Last spring, veteran Texas music agent Chad Kudelka joined CAA as an Agent in the company’s Music Touring department.
Kudelka came to CAA from Red 11 Music, the Nashville and Austin-based agency he co-founded. Now, with a roster that includes Cody Johnson, Koe Wetzel, Wade Bowen, Kolby Cooper, Pecos & The Rooftops, Randall King, Roger Creager and Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kudelka is a leader in both markets.
Growing up in Texas, Kudelka was born for the role. His career inadvertently started with his relationship with his childhood best friend, now prominent singer-songwriter Wade Bowen.
“We grew up together. We went to school together from our first day of school to high school. He’s like family to me,” Kudelka tells MusicRow.
When Bowen started college at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Kudelka found himself in Austin and the University of Texas. When Bowen’s music career started taking off his sophomore year of college, he called his best friend for advice.
“He said, ‘Hey, I need some help getting off the ground. I know you love music. I need someone to help me get organized for a few months while I figure this out.'”
Kudelka agreed and the rest is history. “Here I am still doing this,” he says. “He’s one of my best friends. We lean on each other. I blame and thank him every day for asking that question and bringing me into the music business.”
When they were starting out, Kudelka and Bowen learned the music business as they went, all while they were completing their college educations.
“We just started trying to pick up shows where we could and follow the tracks of some other [artists] that were doing it in clubs. We were begging for opportunities and trying to do the best job we could,” Kudelka says. “Every day, every week and every month we were learning, connecting and networking from the ground up.”
Eventually, Kudelka started independently representing several other artists.
“When I graduated, I was booking around half-dozen artists, along with Wade,” Kudelka says. “After two years of doing it, I settled on the fact that I had a roster, I was enjoying it and it was working. I knew I was going to give it a shot.”
He eventually went to work at regional/boutique agency Austin Universal Entertainment in 2002. He was intrigued by the company’s history, as its founder Greg Henry had a similar path to the music business that he grew from beginning his career working with Texas maverick Pat Green.
“They had a pretty extensive roster at the time and were doing well regionally,” Kudelka says. “Mutual friends got us connected and it allowed me to take what I was doing by myself and expand with an agency that had a staff to learn from.”
After some time with AUE, Kudelka co-founded Red 11 Music in 2009 with Jon Folk. Serving as a Co-Owner/Partner, he helped to develop the agency over a 13-year span.
“It just made sense at the time to start [Red 11] together and see where it went. I stayed in Austin and ran the office, he ran the Nashville branch and off we went,” Kudelka says.
When asked what he is most proud of from his time at Red 11, Kudelka says it’s developing artists.
“Building acts from the ground up,” he says. “That’s a lot of what we did [at Red 11] and what I’ve done for years. That’s still what I have the desire to do. I love taking someone that is in the beginning of the career where there’s a spark and building that artist to a high level—and growing with them.”
Kudelka joined CAA in 2022. Now he splits his time between Austin and CAA’s Nashville office.
“It’s been exciting. I’ve been thrilled with the transition and I’m really excited about what’s to come,” Kudelka says. “It’s been a big change for me, coming from a very small agency to something this large, but it’s been great.”
Kudelka has been instrumental in Johnson’s rise to success. He worked to strategize, book, negotiate and coordinate Johnson’s recent headline run, resulting in him selling around 500,000 tickets in 2022 and being named one of the top Country Touring Acts of the year. Johnson ranked No. 70 among Pollstar’s Top North American Tours for 2022 and No. 88 for Worldwide Tours in 2022, while being ranked No. 8 among the country artists in these charts.
“It’s been incredible. It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of,” he says of working with Johnson. “When I committed to working with Cody and his manager, I had just seen him in Austin. There may have been 40 people in the crowd. To see that thing through from that point—growing him through clubs and larger rooms to now playing all the major arenas and some stadiums—it’s been incredible.
“Cody, like a lot of my artists, has built his fanbase through hard tickets on the road. That was always a focus of his and his team,” Kudelka says.
Wetzel, another one of Kudelka’s clients, also had a big year in touring, selling more than 380,000 tickets on his recent run. Wetzel was ranked No. 121 on Pollstar’s Top North American Tours list for 2022 and No. 157 on the 2022 Worldwide Tours list.
Additionally, Kudelka also works with Kolby Cooper, Pecos & The Rooftops and Randall King to center their careers around connecting with fans through touring, dedicating a massive amount of time and energy to being on the road. Through this strategy, they have all consistently been listed on the Pollstar Live 75 chart and Global Concert Pulse charts.
Though Kudelka spends a lot of time in Music City now, he is still very passionate about contributing to the thriving music business scene in Austin. He has been involved with organizations such as the Texas Chapter of the Recording Academy within their Grammy U Program and the Texas Heritage Songwriters Association within The Texas Songwriter U Program, as well as being a member of the Inaugural Class for ATX Leadership in 2018.
“Austin is still home,” Kudelka says. “The Nashville office is my home team.”
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