An Independent Spirit
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 you’d expect to address a
Yet she’s 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 I’m
back in town at a bigger bar, then a small theatre," she said. "It’s
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
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 I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s a
She’s bemused by people uncomfortable with her musical bluntness, who
consider her some sort of freak of nature.
"Because I’m talking about certain issues, or use certain words, it’s
like ‘keep me away from their daughter,’" she said. "When their
daughter is out there living the exact same kind of life – she just
doesn’t 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
"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. "She’s making $4 a record and the superstars are making $2,
so who’s got the better deal?"
~*reprinted from the Ottawa Sun; SHOWCASE section without permission*~
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