With tickets for “Fare Thee Well” Grateful Dead reunion concert going on sale this Saturday, many of us are fearing exorbitant StubHub scalper prices. We spoke to the man who’s doing everything he can to fight the scalpers, CashorTrade co-founder Brando Rich, who shared his thoughts on the Grateful Dead tickets and fair trading ticket policies in general.

The philosophy of CashorTrade is simple: Embrace the Face. If you’re selling your tickets, sell them for what you paid or for a fair trade. Along with his brother Dusty Rich who has taken this honest outlook and grown the CashorTrade endeavor over the past six years. We’re thrilled to see CashorTrade continue to grow!

L4LM: Tell us a bit about the history of CashorTrade. When did you launch, and how were you inspired to do so?

It all started in Feb of 2009 when Dust and I were shut out of getting tickets to Phish’s return from hiatus in Hampton, VA. At the time we had been attending live music for over 15 years and had watched first hand what was happening to the ticketing industry. The ability to obtain a ticket to a popular event had become nearly impossible. As the industry shifted from conventional practices to primarily online sales scoring tickets became a rat race. Due to fraudulent activity and hacking programs called scalper bots, and the rise of the secondary reseller market like StubHub and TicketsNow, unseen amounts of tickets are being scooped up the second they go on sale before fans have a chance and are resold for exuberant prices, in some cases with more than a 500% mark-up. This infuriated us and we knew we had the knowledge, resources and community to make a change.

L4LM: Your general philosophy seems to be “Embrace the Face.” Can you expand on what that means to you, and how that is engrained in the development of CashorTrade.org?

Embrace the face is the phrase we use when asking fans to trade tickets at face value and support one another while building creditability in the community. Face Value is the cost of the original ticket on the primary market plus any associated fees and shipping. Once posting to CashorTrade members share the link to their social networks using the hashtags #embracetheface and #facevaluetickets. This is our zone. We are #1 in all search engines and in the iTunes App Store for phrase “Face Value Tickets”.

L4LM: Is your logo inspired by the “I need a miracle” ticket hand signal?

Yes. When we first started the site it was actually CashforYourExtra.org, cloning the very statement thousands of fans echoed on lot when looking for tickets. However that didn’t include the trade aspect that no other reseller offered. Finally CashorTrade.org became the perfect name for the site. Short and sweet while maintaining the .ORG as we are a community of people coming together for the greater good.

L4LM: Your company seems to be in direct competition with groups like StubHub that allow people to post tickets for any price. How do you find those people who truly want to embrace the face?

Today the vast majority of face value tickets are posted to social networks NOT to the secondary reseller websites. Fans are jaded from high fees and scalped tickets. When you are looking for tickets to a popular event, it is upsetting to see them scalped on Stubhub for $1000 or more. True fans who value the experience would rather sell or trade with a friend or fellow fan then anonymously rip someone off. With CashorTrade they gain credibility and build their profile helping to score tickets in the future. Hell, to just make your money back on StubHub, you have to sell a ticket for a good chunk above face just to cover the fees. 

So…where do we find these fans? At shows and online. Mostly in fan groups on social media. We have over 75,000 members posting about tickets in our groups alone, and there are many more in the groups that we are not part of yet.

L4LM: You seem to embrace the social media communities, generally founding and monitoring a number of band-related Facebook groups. Has that integration enabled you to expand nationwide?

Yes, it has been really great to connect with people from all over the country… all over the world really, who share in the same interests. Helping people attend the experiences of a lifetime at no additional cost, is quite gratifying.  We have members from every state in the country and Canada…and some others scattered around the globe. It is fun to watch our analytics react based on popular events that are happening each year. The states with the highest activity obviously includes New York and Massachusetts, but also Georgia, Florida, California and Colorado. There is also a lot of Canadian activity… like Toronto.

L4LM: While all sorts of bands and venues are available through CoT, it seems that Phish and the jam scene is your real bread and butter. I think L4LM is analogous in that regard, as Phish tends to be the unifier of all the music that we cover. Was that a conscious decision, or simply the general trends of the market?

Yeah, that’s true.  Phish is our favorite band, and the jam genre has an extremely devoted fanbase.  From going on tour and attending every show, to vending in the parking lots, to creating art, to building groups in the social networks, fans go great lengths to experience every aspect.

So yeah, starting CashorTrade in this jam scene has been a great place to begin. Dave Matthews Band fans are also quite involved. We have had many tickets for other genres including One Direction, Justin Timberlake and Beyonce. Despite being primarily a music site we have even seen tickets sell for Disney on Ice, Wicked on Broadway, and Wrestlemania, and many sporting events too. Very soon we will be opening up to sports.

The past couple years we have been getting more and more festival ticket posts. From Lollapalooza to Bonnaroo and Coachella to Burning Man. Summer Camp and Lockn’ Festival too. We are getting many EDM posts as well & are big supporters of the TheUntz.com. These are genres that scalpers are involved in and we are glad to be a part of these communities to help the fans the best we can.

Last year we created new categories. You can now search by festival, by city, or by venue. We plan on expanding these areas and offering more options, especially for the venues.

L4LM: Obviously there has been a lot of hype surrounding the “Fare Thee Well” reunion shows. A lot of fans are outraged at the exorbitant prices appearing on Stubhub. What’s your plan of action for these shows, as far as beating the scalpers?

We have been preparing. We have a group on Facebook to help pull community together who didn’t already know about CashorTrade. We have been encouraging folks to sign up, download the app and build their profile. Some have also been signing up for our premium features.  For less than the cost of a cup of coffee a month, we offer a gold membership where members can see posts 10 mins before others and receive text/email alerts the second tickets are posted. Much like Facebook, we have groups on CashorTrade too. We created the ‘Grateful Dead 50’ group for members to join. When they make a post they can choose for it show in this group or not.  Any member can create a group and add friends. It is just another way to easily filter out posts and trade with those you know and love. CashorTrade groups and the gold membership features are all featured on the website.

L4LM: What can fans do to rally against ticket brokers – for the Grateful Dead shows and otherwise?

Band together! Do your best to take part in all the alternative options when buying tickets, such as mail order, artist groups, Citibank presales, etc. Then if you score any extras, post them on CashorTrade for face to trade with friends and fans and gain great reviews. More people = More Tickets. Tell your friends, spread the word.

On a different level too of course… work with your legislatures to ban scalping bots and provide laws against those who use them. WA has a bill in the house right now to ban bots. There have been many lawsuits in the past and 13 states have restrictions against scalping, but somehow are still allowed online. We are working on more ‘take action’ initiatives that we will be rolling out for members to take part in.

L4LM: Do you think the mail order system was an effective means to distribute tickets?

Yes.  I suppose they became a bit overwhelmed by the response. First the pre-sale was cancelled, and most who are getting tickets only just found out via email. However, this type of ‘paper’ mail order makes it very difficult for scalpers to obtain large amounts of tickets. It eliminates bots all together. It is money out of pocket, rather than credit that you can leverage. Mail order systems in general are a good idea as they are basically pre-sales and more fans than scalpers are involved in them. Performers should take even larger steps to increase their mail order options in an effort to supply dedicated fans with more tickets and better seats.

L4LM: What kinds of shows can someone find you at on any given Friday night?

Well, I live in Burlington, VT, so you can find me catching Seth Yacovone playing at Nectars on Friday around dinner time for a tasty Lost Nation brew and the best soul filled music you’ve ever heard. If I am up at Higher Ground for any number of great events (which they have a ton of…seriously, I am always amazed at how much great music comes through VT)… then I am probably catching Dead Sessions or Blues for Breakfast late night at Nectars as well.  VT has some really nice small theatre shows too. I recently hit up St. Johnsbury to see Zap Mama and Antibalas. Amazing show.

L4LM: How often do you personally use CashorTrade?

Ha. Not a second goes by that I’m not using it. 🙂 If I am not using it to score tickets for myself, I am helping someone else. Mostly though, if a member creates a good profile and becomes a gold member, their chances of scoring tickets on it are the same as mine.

L4LM: What plans do you have for the future of the website?

We have a ton of things in the works. For starters, we have started the search for investors and have been refining our pitch. It is time to bring CashorTrade into the tech spotlight and give it the exposure it deserves. This is a global idea and in order for us to expand on it the way it should, it needs the proper funding. We would like to have 24/7 customer service and to hire more developers and publicists to grow the movement.

Aside from that… we are planning to launch an Android app this summer as well as a new checkout system as well. We have been watching members transact very closely and have a new structure that should make things more streamlined and effective. We would like to increase our partner blogs from 37 to 100 and give them more promotion. We will be also launching an integrated ad program for bands and venues who want to advertise their events as well as members to better promote their posts.