Cris Williamson: The Changer
popular records, â€œI Know You Knowâ€ and The Changer, Olivia really had to establish itself as a company. They had to find a way to get their records into womenâ€™s hands. At that time, there were no major lesbian publications or venues and no budget for promoting a tour. There were a few local feminist radio programs, a network of womenâ€™s bookstores, and, of course, there was word of mouth.
â€œThe womenâ€™s bookstores were the hub,â€ said Williamson. â€œNow theyâ€™re dying.â€ Women would go there to learn about everything from domestic violence shelters to custody rights to the date and location of the next womenâ€™s music concert. â€œWhen women came out, there were no organizations like the NCLR (National Center for Lesbian Rights),â€ said Williamson, â€œJust clusters of women looking out for each other.â€
â€œIn those days, you didnâ€™t have anybody,â€ she presses. â€œYou were just out. If you came out.â€
The shows were the center of it all. Women were coming together to create spaces for listening to and
celebrating their own music (1975 was also the first year of the Michigan Womynâ€™s Music Festival). Olivia spread the word at Christianâ€™s and Williamsonâ€™s concerts that they needed distribution. A network of over sixty small, local womenâ€™s music distributors was created. WILD (Womenâ€™s Independent Labels Distributors) formed in 1977 to distribute music into different regions of the United States.
â€œPeople were springing up because necessity is the mother of invention. People needed that,â€ said Williamson.
â€œNow we need to raise that.â€
Terry Grant, another radical feminist, founded Goldenrod in 1975, the year The Changer was released, as the distributor for Meg Christian and Olivia records. The company eventually expanded to other artists and grew regionally, buying out other smaller distributors. Today, Goldenrod is the only women-focused music distribution company in existence. (The company also deals in other niche markets such as Gay Dance and Native American music).
The Changer launched Olivia and Goldenrod. â€œI didnâ€™t set out to do that,â€ said Williamson, â€œbut that was what happened.â€
Around the same time, in 1976, another young woman, Laurie Fuchs, started Ladyslipper as a 4-page resource guide devoted to the musical accomplishments of women artists. Her mission was to heighten awareness of womenâ€™s work and make it available. She thought maybe she would uncover one hundred or so works by women through her research, but that was a vast underestimation of how much women had been underrepresented in mainstream music