Former Gillan guitarist Bernie Tormé had pretty much turned his back on the costly business of making albums prior to the making of Flowers and Dirt in 2014 and Blackheart in 2015. Both of these were released as a result of successful pledge-funding initiatives, whereby fans rather than record label bosses stump up the cash to finance the making of an album through placing advance orders.
In October 2016 Bernie unveiled plans for an ambitious new triple-album that would similarly be financed through pledge-funding. On the day the pledge campaign was announced Bernie engaged with fans directly on social media and through the special pledge-fund page that had been set up here.
Meanwhile, I worked to secure external coverage with the aim of letting as many people as possible know about the album plans and directing them to the pledge-fund page. In this we were helped by positive coverage from the likes of Blabbermouth, Metal Shock Finland, Vive Le Rock!, Rockchickenz, Rock Guitar Daily, Pure Rock US, Heavy Metal IT, Empire Extreme and many others who all helpfully provided links to Bernie’s pledge-fund page as well as news about the project.
Phenomenally, the pledge target was reached in less than nine hours. Thanking fans Bernie said:
“I’m absolutely blown away by this, can’t believe it, 100% of what I needed in 8 hours 45 minutes! Man, I’ve truly got the best fans in the whole damn universe! This is going to be a great album.”
MetalTalk captured the moment nicely here. However, it was not just the rock and metal sites that were showing an interest. Roots Music Journal No Depression made it one of their pledge-fund campaigns of the week:
“On its surface, Bernie Torme might seem an odd choice for a column about roots music campaigns. This is, after all, the guitarist who is best known for his work in the hard rock realm with acts like Gillan, Ozzy Osbourne, and Desperado with Dee Snider. But Torme’s recent works have melded his hard rock roots with a love of psychedelic and blues rock and he plans to up the ante even further with his new triple-album Dublin Cowboy. The triple album will consist of a harder edged electric album, a live album, and the part of most interest to a roots fan, Torme’s first acoustic album.”
Throughout the process of making the album Bernie kept fans up to date via social media and the pledge-fund page. Explaining the approach on his pledge page Bernie told them:
“When I made the last two albums, Flowers & Dirt and Blackheart, I really loved the fact that I was able to be hands on and communicate directly to fans, as an independent musician that was a really positive experience, so much better than the past when the cold, dead, (and also pretty judgemental) hand of the corporate music industry (in the shape of a record company) laid over everything you tried to do.”
Not only is it a great way of keeping in touch with current fans, the pledge-funding process can actually be a great way of re-connecting with old ones, too. This quote from a long-term Gillan fan is a classic example:
“Thanks for this. I’m a big fan of Gillan with Tormé but never heard Bernie’s solo stuff so I’ve bought this one now!”
Pledgers got early access to the album via download at the beginning of March ahead of the official CD release date in April. Fan reaction was immediately and overwhelmingly positive:
“This acoustic one cuts me to the core. Can’t stop listenin’…Love it!!” DP
“What I’ve heard is sounding great, and Janus is just awesome!” PW
“Beyond the obligatory 5 stars!” OBN
“My favourite is the live one where it can be seen if an artist still has the “beans”. U certainly do dude, u absolutely rocked it.” RS
I worked to secure a further round of publicity ahead of the official album release on April 7 as well as the accompanying UK tour. Anti Music, Blabbermouth, Empire Extreme. Vive Le Rock, Totally Driven Entertainment. Ultimate Guitar, Heavy Metal Overload , The Rocktologist and many others were all extremely helpful in providing preview features on the album and the UK tour.
Meanwhile, Bernie carried out a series of interviews for the likes of Music Legends, Rockgig and Just For The Record as well as for a number of radio stations and magazines. MetalTalk made Bernie’s London Borderline gig on 7th April their recommended Gig of the Week with an exclusive pre-tour interview, while Ultimate Classic Rock would publish an emotional and brutally honest interview with Bernie that marked 35 years since he stepped in to help out Ozzy Osbourne following the tragic death of Randy Rhoads. You can read the full interview here.
As well as preview pieces and interviews the reviews were also starting to come in and again these have been very favourable:
Get Ready To Rock: “The word essential can often be overused in reviews, however this album really is that and then some. Two albums to rock out to and then one to wind down and chill out with, perfect.”
Eternal Terror: “Dublin Cowboy is a stunning and fascinating release that perfectly encapsulates everything that I love about Bernie Tormé.”
Sea of Tranquility: “Fans sure as hell get plenty of music with Dublin Cowboy, a varied and enjoyable collection of material that shows off every aspect of the talented Bernie Tormé. Don’t miss out!”
Equally, fan reaction to the gigs has been fantastic and I can certainly vouch for a superb show with fantastic new bass player, Sy Morton, joining Bernie and drummer, Ian Harris, at London’s newly-refurbished Borderline venue on 7th April.
So, what conclusions can we draw from all this? Certainly, Dublin Cowboy is an incredible album from an incredible artist.The music industry has changed beyond recognition and crowd-funding in the form of pledge campaigns can provide a way financing an album. The biggest artists are never going to need it, of course. Whatever changes the music industry goes through next the likes of Ozzy Osbourne or Ed Sheeran are never going to struggle to find companies willing to finance their albums. But for smaller artists with a dedicated fan-base pledge-funding can be hugely effective. You do need to have built your fan-base first, though. It’s not much use trying to crowd-fund without a crowd. There are still hurdles then for artists just starting out their career. However, Bernie Tormé has shown that if you have the talent and you have the fans, then a pledge-fund campaign can be a phenomenally effective way of getting a superb new album into their hands.
And for me? Doing the album and tour publicity for a guitarist I’ve been following since I was at school has been a pretty amazing experience as well!
Bernie with drummer Ian Harris and new bass player Sy Morton on stage in Brighton
Photo credit: Jaideep S Jadav
A version of this article also appeared in Totally Driven Entertainment magazine