I’ve long been familiar with the corrupt state of the music business, from the stories told by Janis Ian, Robert Fripp, Morrisey and others, but I wasn’t aware of the Bay City Rollers fiasco until a documentary I saw tonight, asking a simple question: where the fcuk did all the money go?
I had dismissed them as a pure pop group, even back then when my age was in single figures, and I’ve heard nothing tonight to change my mind. They would be called a “boy band” today, frankly, and talk of a “critical reappraisal” is falling on deaf ears. Still, that doesn’t explain away the scandal in their finances.
They broke up rather acrimoniously, starting with the departure of since Les McKeown after an on-stage bust-up in Japan. He arrived home at the same time as a £24,000 American Express bill, which meant near-instant bankruptcy and eviction from his home. The other members heard about this, investigated their own positions and found themselves no better off.
The documentary culminates in a meeting between Les and his erstwhile manager, Tam Paton, complete with company statements that Tam could not explain. The current staff at BMG, owners of BCR’s former label Arista, even rope Les in to help promote a new compilation album and video package, unaware that the band will not see any royalties from the deal, only direct promotional payments.
So, what actually happened? Basically, they signed it all away, blindly authorising the creation of offshore trust accounts and publishing companies. The rest will take lawyers and accountants to unravel. My advice for any new band: set the band up as a separate legal entity, with its own accountant and a lawyer on retainer: don’t trust anyone else to look after you and your money. If you have a manager, keep his/her duties clearly defined, and don’t give anyone power of attorney!
Sir Jimmy Saville’s comment: “They should all be rich, living on huge Scottish estates, but I’ll be surprised if they are. In this business, for each person making money, there are four or five to take it off him.”