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Artists scammed out of thousands by rogue ‘management firm’, says BBC

By | Published on Tuesday 3 April 2018

Live Music

The BBC reckons that at least 20 early-career artists may have lost thousands of pounds each after engaging the services of an artist management company that called itself Band Management Universal.

The BBC report says that artists were charged up to £4000 each by the management firm, which seemingly promised recording, marketing and gig booking services, as well as putting acts in front of labels and fixing up collaborations with known artists.

One singer, Sarah Kaloczi, says she saw nothing for the £2000 she handed over, except a “hate campaign” against her once she started speaking out about the company online. Of her tie-up with Band Management Universal, she added: “They took everything I had put my heart and soul into and just shattered it into pieces”.

Of the more than 20 artists the BBC spoke to who had paid money to Band Management Universal, some had received some services – such as photo sessions or studio time – while others received nothing, saying that it became harder and harder to get in touch with the agency as time went on. It has now shut down its website.

The BBC report continues: “Artists said the apparent head of BMU, known to them as Matthias, would spend hours on the phone talking to them about his plans for their careers, but they never met him in person and suspected he used a false name”.

It’s by no means unknown for early-career artists to be scammed out of money by individuals and small companies who promise to connect acts with the industry. Some of those individuals are outright fraudsters, while others are just over-confident of their actual abilities and connections, or over-promise on the possible return when selling their services.

At the same time early-career artists do often need the support of those who genuinely understand the music business. However, said artists should always check out any potential business partner’s credentials, especially if said partner proposes charging fees rather than taking a commission of revenues generated. With artist managers and booking agents in particular, the commission model is much more common for new acts.

Checking credentials might mean contacting artists the business partner claims to have worked with, or joining organisations like the Featured Artists Coalition or Musicians’ Union and asking fellow members about their experiences. Artists should also seek legal advice before signing any contracts.

Told about Band Management Universal, Musicians’ Union boss Horace Trubridge told the BBC: “Oh, it is a scam, definitely. There’s no doubt about it. As soon as we hear that an artist has been asked to put their hand in their own pocket by a management company, big alarm bells start to ring”.

Meanwhile the CEO of the UK’s Music Managers Forum, Annabella Coldrick, told CMU: “Artists can check if managers are MMF members and are signed up to our professional code of practice. Needless to say, this guy isn’t. Artists should also ask around the industry for references before signing any contract, and should definitely take independent legal advice. Ensuring an artist has that independent legal advice also protects the manager”.

As for how management deals usually work, Coldrick adds: “Some established artists do have managers on retainer rather than commission, and this can work well for the artist and the manager if structured right. But that set-up tends to be for very defined service delivery and we would caution artists not to pay through money on a wing and a prayer, as seems to have happened in this case according to the BBC’s report”.