The conventional artist-driven fan club needed reinvention. Finally, after years of looking, we found a way to do that.
Fans clubs have existed since the advent of popular music: The Grateful Dead pioneered and perfected it, then others monetized it. The Dead firmly believed fans should be in control and gave the community the reins — enabling Shakedown Street, setting up taper sections, mail-order tickets, and ticket exchanges. They even created the virtual community “The Well” as technology evolved.
But since then, fan clubs have shifted away from having fans as the centerpiece. Despite attempts by bands like Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, and Phish to keep fans at the forefront, the modern fan club devolved from a community heartbeat to a revenue generator focused on membership fees. While not necessarily formed under altruistic ideals, these clubs have morphed into something that is rarely for the fans. They offer first access to tickets, promise “community,” exclusive content or goods for purchase. It is all a movement purely driven by profit. While numerous artists provide true value for memberships, there are many more who do not.
“[Fans are] not here to be our ATM.”
Portugal. The Man have been adamant about avoiding a fan club for fear of taking advantage of our fanbase. The thought of “monetizing” (not our word) one’s fans just seemed gross to us. Some years ago, we saw a post on Myspace from a young fan who had bought one of our albums in five different colorways. The kid did not have a ton of money, and we felt terrible knowing that he was a huge fan and felt the need to collect them all just because we had made them. We provided him no real additional value — just another color. It was this moment that forever changed our perspective. These people were not here to be our ATM and that was not the type of relationship we wanted with them.
We were at a crossroads. How do you serve the core of your existence and well-being but not take advantage of them? Ultimately, we took inspiration from the path that The Dead forged: We focused deeply on projects that could be fan-generated.
A few of our more meticulous supporters have been working on an archive of Portugal. The Man’s live shows. Portugal have performed over 1,600 shows as a live band with no click, no tracks, no computers, so each show has its own unique vibe. It is something that creates a special bond between artist and concertgoer. Two of our fans, Chris Haats and Josh Grant, asked permission to launch an audio archive, and it led to a conversation about how we could release this to our community.
We had our eye on blockchain and cryptocurrency for a while — we love the decentralized nature of crypto and the general punk vibe — but the timing never quite felt right. In the last year, crypto awareness has grown and the technology improved, making it accessible and understandable to the masses. We saw a unique opportunity to build a community that provides for the fanbase, is controlled by the fanbase, and is supported by the band.The cherry on top was that, by using our own currency, we could share ownership with the fanbase and allow them to hold the investment and value alongside the band.
No more milking your fans for that monthly payment. We would create the value together and we would all benefit.
So last month we launched our own cryptocurrency, PTM Coin, in partnership with our fans and unknowingly became the first rock band to launch our own social token. There’s no fees or dues. As a fan, you are part owner of the community and even earn rewards for participating. You don’t have to know anything about crypto to participate, it takes less than a minute to buy PTM Coin. Those who hold at least 10 PTM Coin gain access to the audio archive and a rolling list of benefits and experiences including text and video chats, co-viewing experiences, access to new merch and more.
Just last week, the band showed up in our Discord channel and answered fan questions for more than 90 minutes. The best part is if someone decides they no longer like PTM, they just cash in their coin and get their money back. PTM wanted the relationship to their supporters to be more synergistic and PTM Coin has allowed for that to happen.
We did not do this on our own. We have been talking with Josh Katz at Yellowheart for a few years about the possibilities of blockchain, and he was able to connect us with Mahesh Vellanki and Kevin Chou at Rally. Community-driven itself, Rally is pioneering a next-generation virtual economy that empowered us to engage with our fans through cryptocurrency. Our combined experiences were ultimately able to build the bones of what we believe is the future of fan clubs.
With PTM Coin, we started by reaching out to a small handful of our closest supporters and gifting them the currency. We also encouraged them to share it with friends — the people they see at our shows or even just chat with on the fan forums or on Reddit. We wanted the community to support, engage with each other and become excited about this launch and the experience they can receive with PTM Coin. That is a positive feeling we want in our community and hope people will continue to embrace.
We have big plans for PTM Coin and our Discord server. We will eventually add opportunities for people to transact with the coin and eventually NFTs, but the core of what it will always be is the community and the archive which will always be controlled by the fans. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and our fans know we are forging a new path to engage with them. We know there is a learning curve with cryptocurrency, but we are confident that others will follow and it will shortly become second nature. We hope to see other bands take the same steps as us and put the focus back on the fans.
Written by John Gourley, lead singer and rhythm guitarist of Portugal. The Man, and Rich Holtzman, Portugal. The Man(ager).