Lee Ryan, who as a member of boyband Blue scored three UK No 1s in both the singles and albums charts, has said loss of income during the Covid-19 pandemic means he cannot afford to pay a £1,501 driving fine.
The singer had been charged with driving over the speed limit in a 60mph area in Peterborough on two occasions in August 2020. These charges were dismissed as it could not be proved who was driving – Ryan said his girlfriend was using his car – but Ryan was found guilty of failing to provide information relating to the driver’s identification, after he failed to update his address with the DVLA. He had denied the charge, claiming he had sent the necessary information.
The court accepted the music industry had been “severely hit” by the pandemic, and fined him for a single offence. Speaking via a remote link from Spain, Ryan told Peterborough magistrates court that he was unable to pay the fine, saying: “I just don’t have the money … I haven’t got anything … I’m not working. I mean, they’ve stopped the gigs. I don’t have any gigs.” He said he had spent all his savings during the pandemic because of the loss of work.
He was also banned from driving for a year. He was warned he could face prison time if he did not pay the fine.
Ryan was a member of Blue from their formation in 2000 until 2005, when the group split and he pursued a solo career. They reformed in 2011 to represent the UK at the Eurovision song contest, finishing 11th. The band stayed together, releasing two further albums and continuing to tour.
Ryan has also starred in reality TV series and talent shows, including Strictly Come Dancing, Celebrity Big Brother and Celebs Go Dating, and also acted in EastEnders.
His pleas during his magistrates trial highlight the difficulties faced by pop singers following fame. In 2018, one of Blue’s pop peers from the early 00s, Paul Cattermole – who had nine Top 3 hits as part of S Club 7 – sold his Brit award on eBay for £60,000 citing “bills to pay”.
The pandemic also continues to seriously affect musicians’ earnings. A report by industry trade body UK Music in November 2020 predicted that musicians would lose two-thirds of their income during the pandemic.
A survey this month of 573 professional musicians by the Incorporated Society of Musicians found that a third of them had had work cancelled, or had to cancel work themselves, even after the easing of pandemic restrictions in July. Nearly two-thirds of musicians said they had less work booked between July and September compared with the same period in 2019, showing that recovery in the sector is slow despite the return of live concerts and festivals.