Sarah McLachlan Restarts Lilith Fair to Fund Yunus, Eco-Firms

Sarah McLachlan
Vocalist and Lilith Fair founder Sarah McLachlan. After folding the music showcase featuring women artists in 1999, McLachlan re-launched it this week and will use $1 from each ticket sold to help fund socially-conscious business ventures. Lilith Fair is also encouraging its ticket buyers to text donations to Muhammad Yunus' Grameen Bank, which provides loans to the poor without requiring collateral. Photographer: Kharen Hill/Sacks & Co. via Bloomberg

The traveling music show of top women artists known as Lilith Fair returns this month after an 11-year hiatus as a festival with new causes.

Started by Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan, the festival will donate $1 from each ticket sold to three socially conscious businesses chosen from a list of nearly 200.

The firms are Alter Eco Fair Trade a San Francisco-based venture that helps distribute farm products to markets worldwide; Better World Books, a for-profit company that collects and sells books to fund literacy programs around the world; and To-Go Ware, a business based in Berkeley, California that promotes innovative food containers to reduce the use of disposable plastic utensils and packaging.

The festival also will encourage ticket buyers to donate funds to Grameen America, a New York-based unit of Grameen Trust. The latter is affiliated with Grameen Bank, the microfinance pioneer founded by Muhammad Yunus, who was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

“The companies we’ve chosen have good people running them with a strong social mandate,” McLachlan, 42, said in a phone interview. “For us, the idea of giving back to the communities we go into is important.”

McLachlan, who released her first studio album in seven years, “Laws of Illusion” (Arista), earlier this month, said her managers turned to the i4c Campaign founded by Boulder, Colorado-based venture capitalist Casey Verbeck to help choose the grant recipients. A music-industry veteran, Verbeck was looking for a new way to attract capital to promising businesses. The three companies chosen will be part of a village-like exhibition outside concert venues to give an overview of their work and products.

“The village is a place to come and learn about the stories of these companies and hopefully be inspired by them,” Verbeck, 36, said in a phone interview.

Ticket Sales

How much will be given to the firms could be affected by the festival’s ticket sales. The opener at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Sunday saw ticket sales surge to about 9,000. Concerts in Nashville and Phoenix have been canceled. Featured artists include McLachlan, Carly Simon, neo-soul singer Erykah Badu, Emmylou Harris and singer-guitarist Corinne Bailey Rae.

“Ticket sales have really picked up strong in the past 10 days,” Lilith Fair co-founder Terry McBride said in an e-mail.

Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, McLachlan started Lilith Fair to protest radio stations that refused to play recordings by two or more women in a row. The policy reflected an old-school attitude that women weren’t sufficiently popular to rate such exposure and it also operated in concert bookings.

Jewish Folklore

In 1997, she booked a tour with vocalist Paula Cole and named it after a mythical character from Jewish folklore known as Adam’s first wife.

In its first three years, Lilith raised more than $10 million for women’s charities. In 1997, the fair grossed $16 million. Its 104 shows between 1997 to 1999 grossed $52.9 million and attracted 1.6 million people, according to Billboard magazine.

The burdens of organizing the festival cut into the time she needed to record her own material and tour, McLachlan said, so she folded it after its third year.

“It was a huge undertaking, and my two partners and my agent had very intensive full-time jobs already,” McLachlan said. “I was quite happy to put it to bed and make records. It was losing its luster.”

Bringing her own long absence from recording to an end this year helped spur the decision to bring back the festival.

“I really wanted to put out a record and tour in the summer, and Lilith was a great way to come out with a bang,” McLachlan said.

The Lilith Fair travels to Vancouver on Thursday; San Francisco (July 5); Las Vegas (July 9); Los Angeles (July 10); and Salt Lake City (July 12). For full lineup and tour schedule see

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