This April, roots-rock singer-guitarist Bonnie Raitt released her first album in seven years, Slipstream. It's classic Raitt, mixing bluesy slide-guitar riffs with her soulful voice and a pop-friendly sensibility.
The delivery system, however, is brand-new. After years of working with the majors, Raitt decided to start her own label, Redwing Records. Raitt runs Redwing with the help of a tiny staff; Slipstream is the first release in its catalog.
"A lot of my peers have been doing it for a while," Raitt tells NPR's Jacki Lyden. "John Prine was one of the first to do it years ago — Oh Boy Records. And then Jackson Browne and Beth Nielsen Chapman were two people that I talked to, and Beth said, 'You'll love the math.' "
Raitt says Chapman was right: Advances in recording technology have made extremely small labels sustainable. But she says it's important to remember that there's more to releasing an album than the recording budget.
"The way that manufacturing is now with the digital age, the cost of making a CD is so much less than it was," she says. "Since I always love to tour, we'll be able to let people know there's some new music. But you need to have all your ducks lined up: a great PR company, a great distribution arm and a fantastic team of four women that are just superpowers."