The 18 Most Shocking Revelations from the 'The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story'
The rivalry between The Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC was darker than we ever realized.
Before One Direction, the Jonas Brothers, and BTS, two separate all-male groups appeared out of thin air in the mid-'90s, launching the golden era of boy bands. The Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC were basically the founding fathers of synchronized dancing and catchy bops. They brought us hits like "Bye Bye Bye" and "I Want It That Way," while taking over teenagers bedroom walls with their album posters, merch, and blinding bleach-blond hair (we’re lookin at u, JT). More than a decade later, their influence is still felt with constantly emerging pop groups and annual “it’s gonna be May” memes.
One man played a crucial role in the rise of these two bands and their Beatles-esque fandom. Lou Pearlman brought the groups together and became their manager, helping them reach levels of fame they didn’t know possible—all before he was convicted on charges of conspiracy, money laundering, and making false statements during a bankruptcy proceeding. He died after experiencing cardiac arrest in 2016.
The YouTube Original doc and SXSW hit, The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story, explores the rise and fall of the infamous boy-band manager. While it does give us a few fun facts (like that Lance Bass’ adorable AF mom still keeps all his fan mail and that Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson used to play Aladdin at Disney World), it’s mainly filled with horrifying anecdotes about the seemingly immoral Pearlman, who went from being the guys’ greatest mentor to their worst nightmare. But it wasn't just those two bands. Countless musicians were swindled by the notorious grifter. Here are the most shocking revelations from the documentary:
1. Lou created “boy band bootcamps.”
He would force the guys to practice six to eight hours a day in a warehouse. “I’m surprised none of us ever got heatstroke," Chris Kirkpatrick of *NSYNC says. "You’re talking Orlando, Florida, in August. When we played anywhere, it seemed more inviting than that warehouse did.”
2. HE created *NSYNC without telling the Backstreet Boys.
*NSYNC wasn’t even allowed to go into the record label offices, and no one there knew who they were.
3. *NSYNC got their big break from a performance the Backstreet Boys turned down.
Nick Carter and Co. were *not* happy. They felt burnt out and turned down a Disney performance, which *NSYNC then picked up. And the rest was history. (Bye Bye Bye.)
4. The boy-band rivalry was bigger than we even realized.
The Backstreet Boys were upset that Lou would create a group to rival them. And, according to *NSYNC's Lance Bass, Lou seemed to enjoy the drama. “[Lou] pitted us against each other, and we stayed against each other for our whole entire careers," Lance says. "If I saw them in a room, I wouldn’t even want to talk to them.”
5. *NSYNC had sold over 10 million records before they realized Lou was screwing them over:
After their surge in album sales, the boys only made $10K each. “The reaction was just astonishment,” Lance’s mom said.
6. Lance ripped up his first *NSYNC paycheck.
“It was so insulting,” he says. “It was the first time I thought to myself, something’s wrong. He’s lying to us. I went back to the hotel, and I immediately ripped up the check. This is not right. We didn’t know where it was going. We were like, who is making this?”
7. The Backstreet Boys had a similar realization.
“We started selling out stadiums, and we started looking in our bank accounts and were like, something isn’t adding up,” A.J. said.
8. JC Chasez had his uncle look over the band’s contracts because he couldn’t afford a lawyer.
Experts said the contract was one of the worst they had seen “in music history,” according to Bass.
9. Lou had written himself in as the 6th member of both the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC.
“Anything we made, Lou made exactly,” Backstreet Boy member AJ McLean says.
10. He was charging the band for unnecessary luxuries they thought the record label was covering.
Lou Pearlman had been “treating” them to fancy and expensive dinners but secretly taking the money out of their paychecks.
11. The Backstreet Boys ended up paying Lou to end their contract.
They had to file a suit against Pearlman to exit their deal.
12. No Strings Attached was written about Lou.
The guys were in a cab in London when they came up with the idea to write about what they had gone through. They called the album No Strings Attached because that's the first time they felt free of his influence.
13. There are stories of sexual misconduct surrounding Lou.
Ashley Parker Angel of O-Town said Lou used to instruct the guys to take their shirts off. Both Angel and Bass talked about Lou giving them strange and uncomfortable massages.
14. Rich Cronin, a member of LFO, shared an extremely disturbing story about Lou on Howard Stern's show.
Allegedly, Lou told him there was a record company in Europe interested in LFO, and it could be a “make it or break it moment” for the band. “All he wants to do is touch your penis and play with it," Lou said, according to Rich. "That’s how they do business over there. I don’t want you to get freaked out. We gotta do what’s right for the band, so I’m gonna let you practice on me so we don’t go over there and blow this.”
15. Aaron Carter is still a passionate defender of the conman.
Carter gets very emotional in the doc, and even says none of the people featured would have had a career if it hadn’t been for Lou. He breaks down when asked about Lou’s alleged pedophilia, claiming the rumors are completely false.
16. Lou had cameras all over his house.
And the controller was in his bedroom.
17. He used to record the girls from Innosense while they undressed to use his tanning bed.
“I didn’t know this at the time, but he was recording in that room. So he would show all the boys the video of us girls getting naked and getting in to the tanning bed,” said Nikki Deloach, a member of the girl group.
He also threatened her after Nikki refused to sign the band’s release agreement due to the confidentiality clause. He allegedly reminded her that he had “taken insurance” out on her.
18. Our fave pop stars weren’t the only ones he defrauded.
Pearlman ran one of the largest Ponzi schemes of all time and stole more than $300 million from innocent investors. Everyday people were tricked into investing in his company, Trans Continental Airlines Inc., which didn’t actually exist.
Watch the full documentary on YouTube Premium.