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Sunday, 31 March 2013 22:00

Q&A: Scott Hammontree, The Intersection

Written by  Lindsay Patton-Carson
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Scott Hammontree Scott Hammontree PHOTO: JOE BOOMGAARD

With a background in accounting, Scott Hammontree traded the life of a bean counter for the rock and roll life.

With a background in accounting, Scott Hammontree traded the life of a bean counter for the rock and roll life. Recently, the general manager and talent buyer at Grand Rapids music venue The Intersection marked his 10-year anniversary with the company. In that decade, he’s seen a number of changing music trends and fought through The Intersection’s 2010 bankruptcy filing. Hammontree’s sat down with MiBiz’s sister publication, Revue West Michigan, to discuss his start in the business, the changes in the music industry and improvements at his venue.

Was music always an interest of yours growing up?

I can’t play an instrument, I don’t know music theory, but I was always the kid at school who had the biggest record collection.

What’s your background? How did you get where you are today?

It’s not a place I ever thought I’d end up. I went to Aquinas College and I was going to be an accountant. I did that for a while and it was extremely boring.

That’s quite the opposite from hanging around with rock stars.

My best friends and housemates at the time were the guys from (local band) Domestic Problems. They basically came to me and asked if I could help. … I was their manager and booking agent. The band toured all over the world, sold 60,000 records, opened up for you-name-it, sold out the (Kalamazoo) State Theatre three times, but could never get a record deal. The guys decided to take a break, so I was out of a job.

The music industry is always changing. What’s going on now that affects how you buy talent?

Kids nowadays, they’re jumping bands fast. It used to be they invest in a band — they’d buy the record and the T-shirt — but now everything’s so single-driven. They like it for a while then they move on to something else. So that’s been a challenge for us, to stay in tune to what’s popular.

The other big challenge you guys have had over the past few years was the bankruptcy filing after a former manager didn’t pay federal taxes and allegedly embezzled money from the venue. How have you moved forward since?

All the bankruptcy stuff is now behind us. … It was not an easy thing to deal with. What I had to do as a venue manager and GM was let our customers — agents, managers, LiveNation — know that we’re going to make it, and we’re going to pay our bills and they have to believe it. And unequivocally, except for one vendor, everyone stood with us. … They saw what we were doing is valuable.

The Intersection’s Front Room — now renamed The Stache and defined as its own club — just went through a renovation. How has that improved the quality of the audience’s listening experience?

What we’ve found is a lot of people want to play The Intersection: period. But they won’t fill that back room, so we started with that really small front stage in the corner. … The production really wasn’t that good. We had the space, so we decided to switch that over, make it a bigger stage and better production.

It’s The Intersection’s 40th anniversary this year. Are you doing anything special to honor it?

You know, everybody asks that question. We didn’t really do much; we gave some tickets away for a couple shows. We had planned on free concerts, but we just couldn’t get them done. There’s no real special plan. For now, it’s like: How do we improve everything?

What are some of those improvements?

Computer systems for our bartenders, a new sound system, new LED lights, three new dressing rooms fully painted (and) stocked — I mean, they’re really nice. They’re some of the nicest dressing rooms I’ve ever seen.

You have your own 10-year milestone coming up, having started at The Intersection in 2003. Planning anything special?

No (laughs). Book a show and get people here.

Interview conducted, edited and condensed by Lindsay Patton-Carson.

Read 3617 times Last modified on Sunday, 31 March 2013 22:33

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