William Munoz

(Missoula Current) In 1989 at the age of 19, Ani DiFranco did something no woman singer/songwriter had ever done, let alone one so young. She started her own record company, calling it Righteous Babe Records.

This move created an outlet for her creative musical energy, one that couldn't be stiffed by the corporate machine that, to this day, suppresses musical innovation.

Her move paved the way for others to follow as well. She brought other musicians into Righteous Babe Records including Pieta Brown, who opened DiFranco's recent tour.

It's possible that the stars of today – names like Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Rihanna – would still be as successful as they are, but the business road map that DiFranco wrote is one that they are following.

The industry was changed by this detour. Her other contribution to popular culture has been her consistent activism on issues like politics, war, the death penalty and gay rights.

Ani DiFranco at the Wilma. (William Munoz/Missoula Current)
Ani DiFranco at the Wilma. (William Munoz/Missoula Current)

More than 20 albums later, the nearly sold-out concert at the Wilma Theatre last week was a testimony to DiFranco's continued appeal. The crowd was made up of many who grew up listening to her music in the 90's, as well a much younger group currently in high school.

It's clear she's still relevant and connecting with a new demographic 35years later. Perhaps this is the greatest legacy of her move with Righteous Babe Records.