Musicians hit by 'management scam'
A music company "scam" has left artists thousands of pounds out of pocket, with one singer saying she now faces being made homeless because of her losses.
In an apparent fraud, management firm Band Management Universal (BMU) charged up to £4,000 for services and continued to sign clients despite having numerous complaints about not meeting promises.
Head of the Musicians' Union Horace Trubridge called it the worst scam he had seen in the past 20 years.
BMU could not be reached for comment.
The company, registered in Farringdon, London, has shut its website and email accounts and cancelled its phones.
Singer Sarah Kaloczi said she paid £2,000 to BMU for a contract that was supposed to include music production, marketing, gigs and tours, as well as help to secure a recording contract.
The company failed to deliver these services or refund her money and she now faces being evicted from her flat.
"They took everything I had put my heart and soul into and just shattered it into pieces," she said.
She claims she suffered a "hate campaign" after she spoke out.
She received abusive messages attacking her looks and mental health, and received a number of targeted negative reviews after complaining about the company online.
Ms Kaloczi has been signed off work for 18 months with anxiety, depression and panic attacks, lost her job and could not bring herself to perform for a year afterwards.
"At 27, I don't want to have to keep falling on my dad. I just want to make him proud, look after him for a change," she said.
The BBC spoke to more than 20 artists telling a similar story, but the true number affected could be much higher.
Some said they got limited services from BMU, such as photography or studio sessions, while others received nothing.
Over time the company became harder and harder for artists to reach. BMU also failed to pay some contractors.
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.
They said they did meet some BMU representatives, but claimed the people seemed to have been hired in for the meetings.
Dutch singer Jasper Roelofsen said Matthias pressured him to pay, bombarding him and his band at the time, Counting Wolves, with messages promising them the chance to work with well-known artists.
Mr Roelofsen said Matthias told him "the quicker you get the money to me, the quicker we can get started".
The band never received the promised services and lost £3,840.
"We could have used that money to do something useful for our careers, but instead we burned it."
Mr Trubridge described BMU as the worst example of music fraud he had seen in the past 20 years.
"Oh, it is a scam, definitely. There's no doubt about it," he said.
"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."
He said paying management companies for services was widely seen as unethical in the industry, though was not uncommon.
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