Industry Spotlight: Chad Verwey (The Intersection)

Hello, everyone! Thank you for finding time in your hectic schedule to spend a few minutes with us. The blog you’re about to read is something of a first for our little blog. We’ve interviewed hundreds of industry professionals up this point, but never before today have we spoken with a talent buyer, let alone someone working at one of the best venues in the US.

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Whenever people talk about the Michigan music scene the tend to focus on bands, venues, and events residing in and around the greater Detroit metropolitan area. The truth, however, is that the mitten state has a lot more to offer than a city more known in 2014 for financial troubles than its numerous contributions to US culture. Grand Rapids, otherwise known as the best city on the West side of the state (perhaps second to Traverse City), has played host to numerous influential elements of music history. Al Green called the city home for many years, and many of our younger readers will no doubt associate the city with indie alternative rock favorites La Dispute. What many people fail to recognize however, is that Grand Rapids also serves as the home of one of the greatest venues in the world: The Intersection.

I’m not just making things up, The Intersection has legitimately been labeled one of the greatest venues in North America more than a few times over the last decade. This is due in part to their diverse selection of live entertainment, increasingly strong annual ticket sales, and a flourishing relationship with the local community. I’ve traveled the country more than once in my life, often with no purpose other than supporting live music, and I’ve never been to another venue that receives as much love from fans and artists alike as The Intersection. Today, for the first time ever, assistant talent buyer Chad Verwey tells us about life behind the scenes at one of the country’s greatest live music establishments.

If you would like to learn more about Chad and his efforts with The Intersection, be sure to follow both him and the venue on Twitter. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.

H: Hey there, thank you for joining us. Why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself to our readers:

CV: Hi my name is Chad Verwey and I am a Assistant Talent Buyer and Marketing Director for The Intersection in Grand Rapids, MI

H: It’s great to have you with us, Chad. I’ve been looking forward to this for a bit. We’ve known one another for a while, but we never discuss work all that much. How’s life in the midwest today?

CV: It is very very cold and snowy. Very different from last week when I was on a boat in the Bahamas on the Mad Decent Boat Party.

H: Let’s begin with a little background information on you and your life. What are the earliest memories you have of music? Was it something you always had a strong interest in?

CV: My earliest memory has to be when I was 5 or 6. My Dad was a wedding singer in a band, and I remember watching them practice at the drummers house. I immediately became of a fan of live music, and everything that came along with performing live.

H: Knowing what you do today, I have to imagine live music made a big impact on you at a young age. When did you attend your first concert, and who did you see? Bonus points for sharing an early fanboy story.

CV: I was 14 when I saw Joe Diffie at the Isabella County Fair in Mount Pleasant, MI. My first concert I got to leave Mount Pleasant was Earth Crisis, Snapcase, Damnation AD and Crown of Thornz at Saint Andrews Hall in 96.

H: I’ve found that a lot of people who work at labels and PR firms rarely pay to see live music because they feel as if their position in the industry entitles them to free entry. As someone who works in the live music world, do you buy a lot of music? To take that one step further, do you buy a lot of concert tickets?

CV: Yes, I still enjoy buying CD’s and I download music off of Itunes often. I pay for Spotify and stream new music most of the time while working. Concert tickets are a huge perk for working in the industry. I am fortunate to be guest listed for many shows in my home state, but I also purchase tickets for almost all arena shows.

H: When did you first take in an interest in music beyond purely being a fan who enjoyed concerts? What was the catalyst for this change of thinking?

CV: When I was in high school I was a roadie for my friends local band. I would help set up, run lights, and sell merch. I knew then I really had a passion for live music.

H: This is only slightly related, but did you pursue any education beyond high school? If so, was it at all related to music or music business?

CV: Nope, I am one of the lucky ones. I didn’t attend any college after high school.

H: You’ve made quite a name for yourself over the last few years. Given your own experiences with education, do you think it’s necessary/smart for people interested in pursuing music to first attend college?

CV: Being that I didn’t attend any college, but had a very strong passion for this industry, I feel that others can do it. I also think going to college is an added bonus in this industry.

H: An aging profile on LinkedIn tells me you worked at Hot Topic prior to joining The Intersection team. Was this your last ‘real world’ job?

CV: Yes it sure was. I was an assistant manager at Hot Topic at the Great Lakes Crossing Mall.

H: Okay, let’s talk about your role at The Intersection. When did you first learn they had an opening, and what can you tell us about the application/interview/hiring process?

CV: I was running the street team at Live Nation Detroit and got an email from Scott Hammontree at The Intersection. He asked me if I knew anyone who would be interested in this position, and I replied I think in caps lock ME. haha. I was then called in for an interview a week later, was told what I would be responsible for and if I was interested. I remember getting a call back a week or two later and was offered the job.

H: What was the first show you worked on? Anything special about that experience stand out in your memory?

CV: Paper Diamond Oct. 6th 2011 was my first show. I remember not knowing who he was, but becoming a huge fan. Seeing the crowd dance and enjoy themselves made my night.

H: Without going too in-depth, can you walk us through your responsibilities and what a typical day at work looks like for you?

CV: I am responsible for The Intersection and The Stache’s Fb, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, & Vine pages. As well as operating and doing photoshop for all shows. I also send out press releases, research new artists, and assist in offers on possible upcoming shows. This isnt a 9-5 job at all. Most of the time I work at the office from 10-7, then come home and work 9-12:30am.

H: The Intersection has received international praise for being one of the best venues. What do you think it is about the efforts of you and your team that elevates the Intersection to such heights?

CV: I think each person that works at this venue cares about the artists and the fans. We get so many compliments from touring artists and crew saying our staff was by far the best they have worked with. From the beggining to the end of the show process we make sure that each artist will remember The Intersection.

H: It’s worth mentioning that The Intersection is technically two rooms, and if I’m not mistake you also help book shows in other parts of Grand Rapids from time to time. What’s the biggest room you book/promote for?

CV: The owners of The Intersection also own the DeltaPlex Arena and we help book shows there. We sold out Bassnectar at 6500 and that has been my largest room to book/promote for.

H: If someone is reading this now and thinking that they would love to lead your life, what advice would you offer them on the topic of getting started in live music?

CV: Join a street team! I went to 7-8 shows a week when I worked for Live Nation Detroit. This helps a ton with getting your foot in the door at the venues, or even working for the artists. I was a runner from time to time and built great relationships with artists and crew.

H: You’ve recently become a father. Congrats! Has raising a child changed the way you approach your work? If so, how?

CV: Thank you James! Its such an amazing feeling, and it has changed my approach a little. I try to schedule a ton of stuff in advance on social networks so I dont have to be bogged down with that when I am home. I don’t stay until the end of all of my shows now. I usually stay for the 1st 30-40 mins then split so I can spend some time with the family before everyone goes to bed.

H: You have held your role at The Intersection for several years at this point. Would you consider yourself a music business lifer?

CV:Yes, definitely. I have done the retail thing and hope to never ever return to that.

H: What is the hottest genre of music in your area right now? What types of shows pack the house?

CV:For us its Country Music. It doesn’t matter what artist it is, they will come here and sell about a 1000+ every time. We just put Sam Hunt on sale last week and it sold out in 90 mins! Also our EDM and Hippie/Jam shows always draw that great Electric Forest type crowd.

H: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? How about The Intersection?

CV: I hope to be a possible part owner someday. I love this venue, I love this city. In my dream world I would love to see some improvements to our venue such as adding another level so we can fit bigger production on stage. I would like to see our Pollstar number to be consistently in the teens as well.

H: I think that is all I have for now, Chad. Before you go, are there any final thoughts or observations that you would like to share with our readers?

CV: When you go to a show, take a picture or video in the 1st 15 seconds of a show, then put it away and enjoy yourself.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.