Lester Chambers, a 72-year-old singer, recorded 10 albums (one of which is gold) after working with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Cash in his career, but today he is struggling, trying to live off $1200 a month after being cheated out of royalties.
In a telling photo message on his Facebook page, he writes: “I did not squander my money on drugs or a fancy home. I went from 1967-1994 before I saw my first royalty check. The music giants I recorded with only paid me for 7 of my albums.” Chambers further claims that a hit song (from his band The Chambers Brothers) was used in a national commercial campaign, but he only received $625.
Chambers’ story serves as a reminder that the music industry is indeed a business and one that without proper money management can lead to exploitation.
“The record companies are the worst sharecroppers in the world,” he told Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian. But fortunately for Chambers, Ohanian is helping him raise money for a comeback album.
“We have the opportunity to do right by artists and cut out those who’d mistreat them. We have the opportunity to create solutions that will support artists in the digital world,” says Ohanian.
Through the Kickstarter site, the singer has already raised $36,777 but has until January 9 to raise $39,000. To make a donation to Chambers’ campaign or other artists, who Chambers says are in the 99 percent and can’t afford to sue music companies, visit Kickerstarter.com.