Fans phishing for tickets opt to trade

For music that tends to preach good vibes and low stress, itÕs long been a point of irony for fans of jam bands that the process to see their favorite artists can be cutthroat at times.

Such was the case in 2009, when tickets to see Phish on tour skyrocketed, leaving many of its diehards in a ticket-buying bind.

ÒMe and Brando were old school fans,Ó Dusty Rich said. ÒPrices were way up than face value, which was disappointing.Ó

To tackle the problem of scalping in the ticket industry, Dusty and his brother BrandonÑboth web designers and dead heads, launched CashorTrade.org to help music lovers score tickets at face value.

Fast-forward four years, and CashorTrade.org has been on a long, strange trip indeed.

With nearly 22,000 registered users and a following, what began as a hub for jam band ticket buying has expanded to a fair trade marketplace that now includes everything from art to airline miles.

So how does a trade actually work?

ÒItÕs pretty easy,Ó Rich said. ÒYou log in and post to the board whether youÕre buying, selling or trading. You create your profile to manage interactions, commit to a trade, make a payment, and then leave a review.Ó

The review format, which allows members who have obtained positive reviews to make more trades and find some of the hardest-to-score tickets.

A feature like this enables the system to run itself, Rich said.

ÒWeÕre actually launching today a fan point system which offers incentives for fans to take part in the ethical aspect of the website,Ó he said.

Creating an alternative to secondary ticket markets like Live Nation or Stub HubÑ companies that are largely run by brokers and often include exorbitant service chargesÑcomes with its own set of challenges, however.

Building the site out of pocket after founding SimpleNation.com and LiveMusicMatch.com, Rich said CashorTrade.org has not made a profit yet. But then again, monetization was never really the goal.

ÒThe music community within the jam niche happens to be pretty open to the idea of trade and theyÕve been very supportive,Ó he said. ÒWith this market, itÕs been able to really flourish. If you were to take this and throw it into a different genre, maybe it wouldnÕt work as well in the beginning phases.Ó

Dusty said its Vermont roots have also been an asset to the company.

ÒI think Vermont is very open to ethical marketplace,Ó he said. ÒItÕs accepting of it.Ó

Sophomore Emily Saber has used the website about three times now and agreed thereÕs a definite issue with scalping in the ticket industry that often rips off the most diehard fans.

ÒIÕm going to Furthur this weekend in Atlantic City and actually got floor tickets for this show for a few bucks less than what the guy bought them,Ó Saber said. ÒIt [CashorTrade.org] would be the first place I would sell the ticket if I had an extra.Ó

Next up, the website has been selected as one of five finalists in the Launch Vermont business pitch competition that gives the winning entrepreneur $20,000 in cash and $40,000 in services.

In the meantime the Rich brothers are gearing up for this summerÕs festival season.

Rich also said the website is looking to branch further out of the music industry, although he sees that their roots will always be tied to jam bands.

ÒWe started this site to found a non-scalping community that would give true fans access,Ó Rich said, sporting his own Phish New YearÕs Eve 2013 concert T-shirt. ÒThe diehards are the people sustaining the bandÕs life cycle, not the one time buyers.Ó