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An Independent Spirit

ani live; the Ottawa Sun

Singer Ani DiFranco shuns the large record companies

NEW YORK (AP) With her blue hair, tattoos and disdain for corporate America, Ani DiFranco is the last person youd expect to address a business convention. Yet shes been invited this spring to deliver the keynote address at a New Orleans convention of the National Association of Independent Record Distributors and Manufacturers. This 26-year-old Buffalo native has a lot to tell them about building a promising career by taking matters into her own hands. When no one was interested in her music as a precocious teenager, DiFranco former her own company, Righteous Babe Records, to manufacture and help distribute it. She has since sold more than 750 000 albums, a stunning number for a do-it-yourself organization that will surely increase with the imminent release of Living in Clip, her ninth record since 1990. Major record companies have long wooed her with promises of making her a star, but DiFranco has turned down all of them. She shudders at stars created by hit-hungry companies, young musicians pushed onto magazine covers and before big audiences with a relationship based on one or two songs. DiFranco has slowly built an audience, through friends telling friends and a relentless performing schedule. "They come out to see a show in a little bar, and six months later Im back in town at a bigger bar, then a small theatre," she said. "Its a much more long-term relationship. "If you have 10 years to build an audience, I highly recommend it." DiFranco started hanging out in bars and coffeehouses as a youngster, and was writing her own songs when peers were worrying about learning to drive. It took time to develop her songwriting style to the point where Dilate, her 1996 album, dissected a relationship in terms that must have singed the ears of her ex-boyfriend. "I started out thinking there were only certain things that you were supposed to address in mixed company, let alone on a stage in public," she said. "Over the years Ive come to the conclusion that thats a cop-out." Shes bemused by people uncomfortable with her musical bluntness, who consider her some sort of freak of nature. "Because Im talking about certain issues, or use certain words, its like keep me away from their daughter," she said. "When their daughter is out there living the exact same kind of life she just doesnt happen to have my job." DiFranco has moved back to Buffalo from New York City to keep an eye on her expanding company. Righteous Babe now has 12 employees, and has signed another artist, Utah Phillips, whose record DiFranco is producing. "She is the true representation of the independent spirit," said Pat Martin Bradley, executive director of the record distributors group. DiFranco has drawn the admiration, even envy, of some fellow artists, particularly those who have had their own frustrations about how their music is distributed and where the money goes from record sales. "I love Ani DiFranco," the artist formerly known as Prince told Forbes last year. "Shes making $4 a record and the superstars are making $2, so whos got the better deal?" ~*reprinted from the Ottawa Sun; SHOWCASE section without permission*~

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