Earlier this year, Lester Chambers posted a photo on his Facebook page that went viral. It showed the septuagenarian singer holding up a statement that explained how the record business had ripped him off for 5 decades:
I AM the former Lead Singer of a 60’s BAND. I performed before thousands at Atlanta Pop 2, Miami Pop, Newport Pop, Atlantic Pop. 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.
I have NEVER seen a penny in Royalties from my other 10 Albums I recorded. Our Hit Song was licensed to over 100 Films, T.V. & Commercials WITHOUT our permission. One Major TV Network used our song for a national Commercial and my payment was $625. dollars. I am now 72, trying to live on $1200 a month. Sweet Relief, a music charity is taking donations for me.
Only the 1% of Artist can afford to sue.
I AM THE 99%
Like nearly everyone else I was moved by Lester’s plight and posted his picture on Dangerous Minds. Co-founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian was also moved by Lester’s photo, but he was inspired to do something even more positive about it - to help Lester record a new album.
Alexis contacted Dangerous Minds and explained how he ‘wanted to reach out to tell you about a new project we’ve been working on together.’ I wrote back, asking for more information, and Alexis kindly obliged.
Paul Gallagher: When and how did you first hear about Lester Chambers’ problems?
Alexis Ohanian: I heard about it when that photo he posted made the #1 spot of r/Music.
Paul Gallagher: What did this inspire you to do? Why?
Alexis Ohanian: At the time, not much. We were planning and running other campaigns for breadpig like this one for the novel Trial of the Clone as well as keeping up the heat on DC to fight for internet freedom, which included an awesome bus tour across the heartland. Things calmed down a bit this fall and we reassessed our ‘wishlist’ and tried reaching out to Lester. I want to make the world suck less and I’ve tried to help promote all the awesome people (like Lester) who are doing the inspirational work the internet is so perfect for sharing. It’s one thing to talk about how important internet freedom is to all Americans, it’s another thing to actually show it. He’d been robbed and I thought there was a chance the internet public could make it right.
Paul Gallagher: What happened?
Alexis Ohanian: Kat (who works with me) and I reached out and we were on a conference call with Lester and his son within a day or two. They were incredibly hospitable and opened their home and lives to me and my video crew for a day of shooting with only the promise that we’d do our best to help them make a successful kickstarter.
Paul Gallagher: How important has the internet been in all of this? Why?
Alexis Ohanian: Extremely. The internet is an incredible network that cuts out the middle man by connecting supply with demand—in this case, artists with their fans. In the worst cases, these middlemen, the record labels, have abused artists like Lester, but this new technology is forcing labels (and there are good ones!) to work for their artists and settle for a much smaller (more reasonable) percentage since artists have more and more options every day to find an audience. Look at the hundreds of musicians on kickstarter alone who get funded for rather esoteric albums that never would’ve gotten in the door of a traditional record label. For instance, I love living in a world where a Daft Punk tribute via New Orleans brass band gets $20,000 to make their art. That only happens in a world with the open internet.
Paul Gallagher: What’s happening with Lester now? What’s your involvement?
Alexis Ohanian: We just released his two Christmas tracks (early!) to all of his backers and he and his son are getting things in order to go into the studio to record this album! I’m just helping drive awareness while the kickstarter campaign is still running. This is all Lester—at last, he’ll have an album that’s all his.
Paul Gallagher: What can we do?
Alexis Ohanian: If you can afford to, contributing to his campaign is the best thing you can do for Lester, but even if you can’t, you have power in your network—please spread the word! Every upvote, tweet, and like counts.
For more information on ‘Lester’s Time Has Come Today by Lester Chambers and Alexis Ohanian’ check here.
Previously on Dangerous Minds: