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Amy Martin’s “virtual” release

If you’ve lived in Missoula for any amount of time and paid even the slightest attention, you know about Amy Martin. The folk musician has appeared in numerous and memorable concerts; she has showered crowds at rallies and marches with songs that call for social justice and respect for the natural world. She’s a prolific songwriter, releasing five albums in five years, and has been awarded prizes for her musical talents and activist work. The Jeannette Rankin Peace Center recently recognized her accomplishments by presenting her with the 2004 Peacemaker of the Year Award.

For the release of her fifth and latest album, Deliverance, the Missoula-based musician is trying something a little different: She’s scheduled a CD-less CD release concert to celebrate the release of the album on her own label, Raven’s Wing Records. Don’t expect to see flashy and carefully packaged CDs laying on tables available for purchase. Instead, the release is going to be “virtual.”

How’s that going to work, you ask? Good question. Before the concert, Martin explains, there will be several laptop kiosks set up so that people can check out Martin’s new website and online store—www.ravenswingrecords.com—and listen to 30-second song previews. Interested buyers can write down exactly which songs they want on an order form, and while the concert is in progress Martin’s assistants will burn each custom order on a blank CD that can be picked up afterward. Every single song Martin has ever recorded is posted on the website, so buyers will have the chance to buy not only the new album, but anything or everything else in her discography. Martin credits Raven’s Wing marketing director Allison Fromm with the idea and a Missoula web design company, Tri-Local, with the design of her website. Fromm says that though Deliverance is initially being released in virtual, binary form, a hard copy with cover art in a traditional album format is also in the works. The re-democratization of music, Martin says, is at the heart of her virtual-release strategy, which was inspired by Apple’s popular music distribution website, iTunes.

“Downloading off of the Internet is the way of the future in general,” Martin says, adding that the big record companies have been kind of “slipping” in trying to figure out ways to control the exchange of music online. The lack of corporate control is largely what prompted her decision to use the Internet as a channel for distribution: less money slipping into the pocket of corporate middlemen and more power to the listener, who can choose exactly which songs to buy from an album.

“It felt like a really smart thing for me to do because it just seems like another step on the path I’ve already taken,” she says. “My whole career, to this point, has been built on direct relationship with the audience, and this was another way of doing that, but on a bigger scale.”

Martin says she enjoyed the process of recording Deliverance more than her previous four albums. She was not “stressed out about perfection and money,” she says, and the result is that the album sounds more relaxed. “I feel like I gave it more care, I didn’t hurry through it and I allowed it to evolve more and that was really fun.” The new album is also different in that the music has more of a traditional country feel—the arrangements are fuller and more complex, incorporating multiple instruments on every song, she says. You can check out her website at www.ravenswingrecords.com.

Amy Martin will perform at The Crystal Theatre on Friday, Oct. 15, at 8 PM. The event will coincide with the release of her new album, Deliverance, and the launch of her new website.

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