Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Bill Toms joined Pittsburgh’s legendary band, The Houserockers, as lead guitarist in 1987. The band’s meteoric rise into the professional music scene enabled Bill to tour the United States and Europe repeatedly.
While with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers he opened for and played with a long and impressive list of notables, such as The Band, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Little Feat and Stevie Ray Vaughn. During his 20 years of playing guitar, co-writing, and singing back-up vocals for the Houserockers, Toms recorded six studio albums and one live concert album. In 1995, the acclaimed CD, “American Babylon,” was recorded and produced by Bruce Springsteen. In this episode, Bill talked about the release of his latest CD, “Deep in the Shadows.”
Table of Contents
5:38 – Does thinking about the release of a CD go as far back as writing or recording it? Give us an idea of how far back you start thinking about how to release a CD.
9:28 – Your CD is like the old days, when you used to listen to an album, it told a story. That was the whole point.
10:37 – So the path for a new CD comes to you, but what comes next? Is it where you want to record it, or with whom you want to record it?
14:57 – So now that the album is recorded, what goes into the thought about how to get it out to the world? Where do you start, and what are the key components?
18:57 – So how was Kickstarter part of your release strategy?
20:00 – How does a CD release work?
22:53 – In terms of hiring a publicist, how did you guys decide to do it for this album?
30:13 – Two or three things artists need to consider as part of their next CD release.
Does thinking about the release of a CD go as far back as writing or recording it? Give us an idea of how far back you start thinking about how to release a CD.
No. But I’m constantly writing, and as I’m writing, I don’t consciously think about what the final album is going to sound like. I’m just writing for a period of time, and for whatever period of time that may be.
What usually happens with me is that I get a group of songs together and I start to see where my mind is. And then it starts taking shape. It all begins right there, when I start seeing things take shape. And I’m starting to walk down a certain road.
Your CD is like the old days, when you used to listen to an album, it told a story. That was the whole point.
Well, that is like some of the greatest albums. It doesn’t have to tell a story, but it has to take you someplace. And that is one of the things that music has done for me. I can remember being a little kid and listening to the Beatles. There was just a feeling when you listened to them. They took you to another place. It gave you a sense of being someplace else.
So the path for a new CD comes to you, but what comes next? Is it where you want to record it, or with whom you want to record it?
Oh yeah, and the next step it to try and understand how it’s going to be presented. When you have an album like this, the first thing that I knew was that I did not want to be layering parts. I wanted this to be as live as possible. I think that I do my best work that way.
So now that the album is recorded, what goes into the thought about how to get it out to the world? Where do you start, and what are the key components?
There are a lot of decision to make at that point. One of the decisions is funding. You have to pay for all of this. It comes down to the financial aspect of it. And this last record was the first record that I didn’t have to go into debt, because we used a Kickstarter campaign.
And I went into that kicking and screaming, I didn’t put a lot of faith in that. Maybe I’m just old school, I don’t know. But once we got into and people were teaching me how to use it correctly, and how to reach the people connected to our music, I realized that people really liked to do this. They liked to be a part of the end result.
So how was Kickstarter part of your release strategy?
As far as rewards go, you’re really not giving up as much as you are getting. The idea that people can get a CD early if they commit a certain amount of money. Or free tickets to the release show. Whatever it may be, t-shirts…things like that.
It’s just a nice gesture. Those folks that are connecting to the music, they are getting our music anyways. So the music is being passed along. It’s in peoples homes and I care about that.
How does a CD release work?
The first thing that you do is that I try to give myself enough time before I release the record. Once you finish recording it, I try to give myself nine months. And what that does is that it gives you enough time to make decisions about what you want to do as far as promotions and press. Do you want to hire a publicist? Where do you want to send your money?
You have a limited amount of money, and you want to see where it can do the best work for you. I try to keep that ahead of me as a lot of people tend to run out of time. And then I’ll book the release show. And that give me a goal, something to work towards.
In terms of hiring a publicist, how did you guys decide to do it for this album?
Well, I spoke a lot to not only my manager, but also a couple of guys in the band that are a part of this project. And we had to ask ourselves, “Do we want to spend money on hiring a publicist?” Because it it expensive for a radio promoter, or do we try and do as much as we can on our own. And that’s what we decided.
Two or three things artists need to consider as part of their next CD release.
- Make sure the CD is “sellable” for the release. You may laugh about that, but I’ve known people that have had CD release shows and timed it wrong where the CD’s are not available. And that is why I said earlier that you have to leave yourself enough time to get the work done.
- Offer something different in the CD release show, and not just in terms of the new songs. Maybe it’s a twist on an old song, or something different to give to the fans.
The best ways to reach Bill:
On the web:
I’ve Got No Use For What You’re Selling Me
Deep in the Shadows