Ani DiFranco founded her own record label, Righteous Records (later called Righteous Babe Records), at the tender age of 19. She released her self-titled debut album a year later, in 1990. Following the album’s release, DiFranco quickly became popular among college students and gained a reputation through word of mouth. She released new albums about once a year and toured aggressively, building a large and loyal fan base.
Throughout her career, DiFranco has turned down recording deals from major record labels, and, along with artists like Prince, has spoken out about what she perceives to be flaws in the music industry. A 1997 letter that she published in Ms. Magazine asserts that, although people often think owning her own label is about retaining maximum profits, it is really her way of maintaining her artistic freedom and control over her music.
Although DiFranco refers to herself as a folk singer, she’s also frequently categorized as belonging to the alternative-rock genre. Her influences are broad, and her songs often incorporate elements from other musical styles, including punk, funk, classical and electronic. Many of DiFranco’s songs are drawn from her personal life and experiences, but equally as often, her lyrics are feminist and political. Her music has tackled topics like war, corporate greed, sexual assault and gun control.