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Want Coveted Grateful Dead tickets? Open Up Your Home

USA Today, May 29, 2015

By William Spain

CHICAGO – With tickets for the final Grateful Dead shows long gone — or selling at a sky-high scalper's premium — some folks willing to open up their home to strangers will get a last chance to walk through the golden door.

On Friday, home rental service Airbnb says it will announce a contest to bring two winners to all three of the band's "Fare Thee Well" performances, provide them accommodations and give them back-stage face-time with drummer Bill Kreutzmann.

In order to get a chance at what is likely the most-coveted rock concert ticket in American history, contestants need to sign up with Airbnb as hosts. Then, they have to visit the "Win a Chance to Be Our Grateful Guest at Chicago's Fare Thee Well Show" page on Airbnb no later than June 18, 2015 and answer the question, "Why do you deserve to hang backstage with Bill during Fare Thee Well in Chicago?"

"We know that Fare Thee Well will be one of the most popular weekends to travel to Chicago for this summer, and there's no better time to host on Airbnb" said Andrea La Mesa, Airbnb regional director for North America. "Partnering with Grateful Dead original members for this once in a lifetime experience will allow us to honor our host community – whether they're local and hosting fans or traveling to the shows themselves."

Unlike many other bands who actively seek sponsorship to help underwrite their tours, the Dead have long eschewed such entanglements. The one with Airbnb involves only Kreutzmann.

"The Dead have a long history of not working with corporate partners," said William Chipps, senior content editor at IEG, a sponsorship research firm. "And to [do so] now would only detract from the significance of the event."

They will lose out on some cash, he noted. Chipps estimated the music sponsorship business was worth about $1.34 billion in 2014, bigger even than the NFL — at just under $1.1 billion.

Even face-value tickets are not cheap – at $60 to $200 a pop for the shows at Soldier Field on July 3-5. In the secondary market, they are being hawked for hundreds — even thousands — of dollars more.

To deal with demand – and keep the registers ringing — the Dead will be streaming pay-per-view online and running live video of the event in theaters across the country.

But there will be no official corporate involvement, stressed promoter Peter Shapiro.

"You will not see 'Fare Thee Well' brought to you by…" he said. "This is not U2 or the Rolling Stones."

Soldier Field was the site of the last Grateful Dead show on their 1995 tour; lead guitarist and singer Jerry Garcia died about a month afterward. Following a couple warm-up gigs in Santa Clara, Calif. in late June, they have promised that the Chicago concerts will mark both their 50th Anniversary and their final public performance.