Case Study: Portugal. The Man

by Nick Susi & Roger Brown 

“This is not rocket science. You can’t overplay. You can’t record too much music. You can’t connect with your fans too much. Rest assured, most bands will not do it enough. Most of them all have the same problem. They are lazy. Most adults wake up 5 days a week and go to work. They work somewhere between 40 and 70 hours a week at their job. Very few bands work this hard.”

These are the words of Rich Holtzman, manager of the psychedelic rock band Portugal. The Man. Formed in 2004, the band has been reinventing the sounds of progressive rock and hard rock from the 1970’s. Comprised of singer/guitarist John Gourley, bassist Zach Carothers, keyboardist Ryan Neighbors, and drummer Jason Sechrist, the band believes their music will span a legendary legacy. Their name is derived from an effort to invent a larger-than-life character; similar to how David Bowie is Ziggy Stardust and The Beatles are Sgt. Peppers. It seemed only fitting to create such a paradox through imagining an entire nation as a single person. So how does a band like Portugal. The Man even begin to strive to achieve a legendary status? What are their secret strategies and tools to their current success?

This case study provides a candid look into the band’s career from the bottom up, including:

  • Their growth from earning $50 per gig and living out of a van, to playing over 100 shows each year grossing several thousand dollars per show
  • Their process for choosing the right manager, and how that decision impacted their entire career
  • Their unique record deals that allowed the band to retain creative control and master recording rights, as well as the right to independent releases
  • Their philosophy on treating fans as friends with similar interests in pop culture
  • Their experience with the theft of their trailer that contained almost $100,000 worth of equipment
  • The patience and work ethic that it truly takes to build a successful career in music