As large-scale concerts and festivals begin to creep out of the enveloping darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire ecosystem that surrounds live music is once again coming into bloom. From the artists themselves all the way down to the lot vendors, the economy supported by the concert industry is kicking back into gear. One of the most vital pieces of that concert economy is CashorTrade and, whether you’ve noticed or not, it has been with us throughout the entire pandemic.
CashorTrade CEO Brando Rich launched the ticketing marketplace back in 2009 when Phish returned from a five-year breakup. As Rich—who spent much of the mid-to-late 90s through early 2000s following the Grateful Dead and Phish—pointed out during a recent interview with Live For Live Music, the internet was in its infancy when Phish went away. When the Vermont quartet returned to the stage, however, the digital landscape had changed almost as much as the musical one.
“In 2004, when Phish stopped playing, the internet was really just beginning in a lot of ways,” Rich recalled. “Facebook just started, StubHub just was built. And then for five years of hiatus for Phish there wasn’t a lot of ticket sales in our scene. And then when tickets returned or when Phish returned, the industry had changed and scalpers were super sophisticated and had software, broker programs, and it was a whole new thing.”
With that, Brando and his brother, Dusty Rich, developed a new platform that would revolutionize the ticket exchange market. CashorTrade became then—and remains now—the only ticketing platform that allows users to trade tickets. It also stands alone in its social media element, helping to foster trust between buyers, sellers, and traders after years of being out of touch.
“When we built CashorTrade, we looked at the three largest sites at the time—Facebook, Craigslist, and eBay—and the focus was to bring on the chronological listings of Craigslist, the social network side of an actual profile and photos and friends from Facebook, and the review system and checkout of eBay, and that’s sort of how it meshed together,” Rich said. “The ticket industry has lacked so much trust for so long and no ticket company offers a face, so you never know who or where your tickets were coming from and whether it’s going to be valid or not.”
Just like CashorTrade originally came into existence in response to a need for transparency in the ticket community, the company’s latest developments and initiatives similarly came into being out to fill and unmet need for concert-goers.
Along with the rest of the live event industry, CashorTrade was thrown into a tailspin by the complete shutdown of concerts that began in March 2020. “It was a hard moment, pretty emotional, having spent a decade of my life on this, and there was a point where we considered closing the doors or wondered if we were going to have to,” Rich recalled. “We had raised some investment capital prior to that and built out our team. So it wasn’t just a small team of a few of us anymore. I had the weight of keeping ten employees employed and what was going to happen with them, as well. So while all that was setting in, when we realized that we had to keep people employed, we had thousands and thousands of refunds to process.”
After spending months digging out of the avalanche of concert cancellations, postponements, and reschedulings, the CashorTrade team was tasked with the same quandary as all artists, fans, promoters, and everyone else who even brushes up against the live music industry: what do we do now? Like many, the answer for CashorTrade was streaming. Just like with the rest of the music industry, however, the move to streaming was only a stop-gap in service of a larger goal.
“We leveraged the streaming component at the moment because everybody was live streaming. We had no other choice,” Rich said. “And we built out a few hundred channels of different artists, venues, festivals, media companies, but largely the focus was the coding behind it. We really wanted to build out the place for there to be a business page where the industry could involve themselves in CashorTrade and streaming was the first side of that.”
This led to the latest major development at CashorTrade, the new Marketplace feature. As artists and artisans alike scrambled to figure out new streams of income, CashorTrade propped itself up as that missing link between creators needing to share their work and a general public more than eager to support them during an especially difficult moment.
“The next part that we worked on after that was the fact that a lot of people wanted the e-commerce option and we figured it would be nice to involve a marketplace component into the platform. So alongside streams, we sort of took that product and modified it into involving a checkout,” Rich said. “So now there’s a full e-commerce solution, similar to that of Etsy, but available to people in our community. And in a moment of COVID and trying to support each other and everyone being gracious to do so, we thought it would be best to offer a platform that’s actually free for people to sell their goods.”
The advent of CashorTrade Marketplace comes as just the latest in the platform’s 12-year evolution. What began as a response to the immediate need of transparency in the concert industry has continued to blossom on a similar timeline to that of social media itself. Much the same way Facebook began life with a singular purpose as somewhere to post content for immediate reaction, CoT began with simple ticket postings. Over time, it developed into a community while the app itself provides more services to an increasingly engaged audience.
“We tried to sort of embody a little bit more of a personality behind the ticket trade and help people make friends. And I’ve had people come up to me who told me they got married using CashorTrade,” Rich said. “They found each other in a trade and then ended up dating and then down the road got married and came up to me at Madison Club at Madison Square Garden a couple of New Year’s ago. And there’s been a few of those instances, actually.”
With concerts getting back into full swing and friends both old and new finally able to reconnect again in person, CashorTrade is once again here to make those magical music moments happen. Though the company has big plans coming down the pipe to further develop the patented social media aspects of the site, according to Rich, the success of the entire CashorTrade network ultimately comes down to its devoted users.
“We’re a team of developers, marketing people now, business development, social media, but really it’s the fans,” Rich said. “Everybody’s embodying the same ethics, they believe in the Face Value movement. And if it wasn’t for them to be participating in the way that they are, it wouldn’t be what it is. And it’s just really amazing. We build the tools, but they make it happen.”
[CashorTrade on-site at Phish’s canceled Curveball festival in 2018]
Check out the newly launched CashorTrade Marketplace and keep an eye on the site for new developments coming this fall. Look for the CashorTrade booth during Phish’s Atlantic City run this summer at the PhanArt event on Saturday 8/14 and the Phish Lot Style Bazaar on Sunday 8/15.