“In March, two of the biggest musical stars in the world, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé Knowles, released the much-anticipated music video for Gaga’s song “Telephone.” The video, which debuted on the E! Channel and online on a Thursday at 11:30 P.M., had 500,000 views in its first 12 hours. (It also pushed Lady Gaga to the fore of Internet video viewing—“Telephone,” coupled with her two previous hits, “Bad Romance” and “Poker Face,” made her the first musical artist to reach 1 billion video views online.) The buzz around the video was a reminder of how much times have changed for women artists. The “Telephone” hype focused on the budget, the fashion, the cameos, and the sets. That the song and video featured two women artists was the least remarkable part.
Thirteen years ago, things were different. Few concert lineups featured two women back-to-back, and radio stations were reluctant to play two female-led songs in a row—even as the Spice Girls’ first album, Spice, went seven times platinum. So, in 1997, singer Sarah McLachlan launched Lilith Fair, a summer concert festival featuring dozens of female performers, most of whom fell into the “adult contemporary” genre. The headliners included Lisa Loeb, Jewel, Fiona Apple, and Tracy Chapman (who was one of very few women of color on any of the stages). In the popular media, Lilith Fair was mocked as “Breast Fest” and “Girlapalooza.” Still, according to organizers, more than 1.5 million people attended the festival over the course of its three-year run.”