Judy Dlugacz laughs when she thinks about the reaction 15 years ago when she and some friends formed a record company devoted to feminist artists.
"People said we were crazy . . . that we didn't know what we were doing . . . and they were right," she said in a telephone interview from the Olivia Records headquarters in San Francisco.
"In the beginning, we would just get up after one of our artist's concerts and ask if anyone was interested in distributing our records. We didn't have any idea" about record distribution.
Dlugacz, 36, can smile about those days because Olivia--while certainly not posing a threat to the industry giants--has evolved into what she describes as a "healthy" company with more than 32 albums in circulation and total sales to date of more than 1 million.
Olivia celebrates its 15th anniversary by presenting all six of the label's current artists--including Cris Williamson, Tret Fure and Dianne Davidson--in concert tonight at UCLA's Royce Hall.
While the label tends to play down any suggestion that its music is designed only for women, the roster and staff is all female.
"Initially Olivia was a very clear offshoot of the growing feminist movement," Dlugacz said. "It was a chance to create opportunities for women artists within an industry which at that time had few."
With that in mind, Williamson, fellow musician Meg Christian, Dlugacz and seven other women formed Olivia. The company's first album--Christian's "I Know You Know"--sold 60,000 copies, largely in feminist bookstores and at concerts. While its basic goals remain the same, Olivia is not the same creature it was in the early '70s.
Dlugacz is now the company's sole owner and the label no longer relies on volunteers to distribute its product. The label's releases are now in most record stores and the biggest seller--Williamson's "The Changer and the Changed"--is past the 250,000 sales mark.
Dlugacz still sees the label as a job bank for women. "We stand out like a thorn in the side of the industry, saying: 'You're still not doing your jobs, guys.' "
Yet the label is also hoping to entice more men with a subsidiary label, Second Wave, which has released three LPs.
The "women only" stereotype was frustrating, Dlugacz said. "Some of our early recordings were of jazz and salsa music, but it didn't matter. Because we had two artists who were very successful in the singer/songwriter genre, we were always seen as 'that feminist folk label.' "
Dlugacz also hopes to lure more men to Olivia concerts. The audience in recent years has been running about 80% female, she said. "When we started," she said, "our shows were usually sponsored by the women's groups. The performances were sometimes in hallways of women's dormitories at colleges--or in churches.
"But now we do our shows in major concert halls with 2,000 people attending. We are interested in making our audience as diverse as possible. In the beginning the company was more directed to reaching and taking care of a community that was just beginning to evolve. Now we want to reach a more diverse group of people."
LIVE ACTION: Tickets go on sale Sunday for the reunited Daryl Hall and John Oates at Universal Amphitheatre on July 16, 17 and 19, and for Rick Springfield at the Universal Aug. 5-7. . . . Stephanie Mills, L.L. Cool J. and Keith Sweat are among performers lined up for the Black Radio Exclusive Music Awards show May 27 at the Universal. . . . Coming to the Roxy: Sugarcubes on June 3, Underworld on June 6 and Rodney Crowell on June 8. . . . Tickets on sale Monday for Megadeth at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on July 2.