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Lou Pearlman

(Legal) Career Killers: Lou Pearlman and His Ponzi Scheme.

At one point, boy band impresario Lou Pearlman was, arguably, the most powerful and influential music industry mogul since Berry Gordy.

In addition to launching several popular boybands and teenybopper acts, including The Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, Pearlman established a template that pop acts continue to follow to this day.

Manufacturing boy and girl bands for maximum commercial effect? Pearlman didn’t originate it (see: Menudo, The Monkees, early K-Pop or even Take That), but he definitely popularized it and turned his label into a factory, mass-producing teeny-bopper acts and watching the money roll in. In the last couple of decades, we’ve seen a ton of manufactured bands from the likes of Simon Fuller (S Club 7, Spice Girls, Now United), Simon Cowell (One Direction, Fifth Harmony, Little Mix), and so many K-Pop bands, including the biggest of them all.

Employing outside songwriters (such as a then-unknown Max Martin) to churn out hit singles? It’s practically the industry standard now. At one point in the 2010s, the Billboard singles charts were dominated by songs written by four songwriters/teams: Martin, Stargate, Ester Dean and Dr. Luke.

Using the power of television to put bands together? His Making the Band show on MTV spawned legions of imitators and demonstrated the potential of reality shows as a vehicle for musicians regardless of whether they were unknowns, established stars, or somewhere in between.

So why is his name mentioned today about as often as Voldemort’s or Chris Benoit’s? Probably because he was exposed as a con man, convicted of running a massive Ponzi scheme and embezzling over $300 million, and sentenced to 25 years in prison. That and some disturbing allegations about sexually abusing and harassing members of his boybands, and you can see why he’s been unpersoned.

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