John Gourley chats with Absolutepunk.net about dealing with leaks
Portugal. The Man has had a rough time trying to release their albums according to plan. Three of their five full-lengths have leaked ahead of schedule, and they avoided another one with the most recent album, American Ghetto, only by keeping the album under tight wraps.
So who better to talk to about dealing with leaks than Portugal. The Man?
In the past, the band has focused on the upsides of leaks instead of getting dragged down by the disappointment and frustration that comes with them, going as far as to encourage fans to download. But while their perspective hasn’t necessarily changed, front man John Gourley had some fresh thoughts at their Los Angeles stop last Saturday.
“When you’re a new band first starting out, you want people to download the album, to share it, and just get your name out there,” said Gourley. “But ultimately, leaks hurt the artist.”
Gourley sympathizes in part with the temptation to download. “It’s really annoying when bands like Metallica bitch about downloading, and then go out and play a show for 800,000 people. They’re already a [well established band] and have that support from [so many fans] – it just makes you want to rebel and download their stuff.”
But for a band like Portugal. The Man, it’s a different story. Having been on indie labels for the majority of career, they don’t always enjoy the luxury of wealth. “If I wanted money I would have stayed in Alaska and worked construction rather than starve for this,” wrote Gourley following the leak of The Satanic Satanist.
And when an album leaks, it leaks. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Nevertheless, Gourley does have some ideas on how fans can help curb the detrimental effects of leaks. “You hear kids say all the time nowadays that they can’t afford an album – but they can,” he said. “[The reason behind that] is that if you ask people what their favorite bands are, they’ll give you a long list of so many bands. [My advice is to] like fewer bands, or make a commitment to support the ones you really love.”
He also finds comfort in the renewed interest in vinyl: “It’s great that vinyl’s coming back again, because they last forever; [with an album], you want to be able to look back at the artwork.” Since they can’t be downloaded digitally, vinyl represents a flicker of hope for hard-working bands.
But for the most part, it seems like Gourley feels that change must start with himself, and that he must lead by example.
“[Portugal. The Man] is on Atlantic [Records] now, and Atlantic has been great to us. I can go in and ask for the new Cee-Lo album, but I’d rather just buy the Cee-Lo album, because I want to support the label,” he said.
Often, bands that tour with each other will exchange merchandise at the beginning of the tour. These days, Gourley prefers to buy the merchandise instead, even when it’s available to him for free.
If anyone is in a good position to encourage a change in consumer mindset, it’s Portugal. The Man. Before the show Saturday night, an elderly mother, standing in line with her husband and two kids, commented on the band with reverence: “No music has touched me as powerfully since 1969.”
And during the show, the band flowed through highlight numbers like “The Sun” and “Guns and Dogs” with the skill of savvy veterans, creating a transcendent atmosphere with the help of their psychedelic laser lights. Every eye in the audience was fixed on them, ready to absorb whatever message they delivered. That’s the level of influence the band enjoys over their audience.
“If you really like an artist, just buy their album,” said Gourley matter-of-factly.
And who better to bring that message to fans than these guys?