Female singers have been popular since ancient times. Earlier this year a tomb was discovered in Egypt housing the earthy remains of Nehmes Bastet, a singer who lived and died some 2,900 years ago and is to date the only female buried in the Valley of Kings not related to the royal families.
Nearly 3,000 years after her death, female singers were still popular. As far as female musicians, at least in the western world, they mostly played piano or harp and few did so professionally. All-female bands didn't begin to appear until the 1920s AD. An important development in all-female bands was Lee De Forest's invention of Phonofilms in 1919. Before then, a few early attempts at marrying music to short films with Kinetoscopes, which were hampered by their length of 22 seconds. Many Phonofilms were essentially music videos and some of De Forest's first subjects were female musicians. Soon, Ko-Ko Song Car-Tunes, Visual Music and Photophones followed. (Read about early music videos here).
Predictably, a large part of the appeal of the all-female bands that formed afterward were chosen as much for their looks as their musical talent and even though many included capable musicians and in some cases talented performers, they've never really been the subjects of serious academic attention and information, when available, is usually scant. As Sherry Tucker's book Swing Shift (one of the few books on the subject) put it, the public "looks first and listens later."