Make your own free website on

Justin Hayward interview
September 26, 2008
from the Financial Times

A revealing interview with Justin about money and the Moodies.



by Natalie Graham
September 26, 2008

Justin Hayward, 61, is the vocalist, lead guitarist and songwriter for the Moody Blues, whose career has now spanned 40 years with album sales of 55 million. Hayward joined the Moody Blues in 1966 at the age of 19, when he wrote his most famous song, 'Nights In White Satin,' for the group's first album, 'Days of Future Past.'

The Moody Blues have since gone on to produce a further 16 hit albums. Hayward has had some success outside the group, too - in particular with the song 'Forever Autumn' (1978), released as a track on Jeff Wayne's 'The War Of The Worlds' album.

This August saw the release of a Moody Blues live album: 'Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970.' It has been followed by the group's latest UK live performances, which began on September 22 and run until October 13 as part of their world tour. These UK dates include three nights at the Royal Albert Hall on October 6, 7 and 8.

Hayward is married with one daughter, and one grandson. He lives in the South of France, from where he commutes to his recording studio in Genoa.

Did you think you would get to where you are?
No. I never think more than two weeks ahead. It's always been like that. Most musicians stumble across work. You cannot plan anything because people just offer you a project or a tour, and you take it or leave it. That's the way this business works.

What is the secret of your success?
I think it was developing, as a group, a unique style and sound. It is a combination of the song, our vocal style of harmonies, and the mellotron that we bought for 20 from the Dunlop Social Club in Birmingham in 1967. This keyboard instrument has sound effects with some orchestral sounds. We threw away the sound effects and duplicated the orchestral sounds. The mellotron complemented our songs.

When you realised that you had made your first million were you tempted to slow down?
I honestly don't know whether I am worth 1 million. And I hope never to have an empty diary, which would force me to find out.

These days, the money in the music business is in touring. In the 1960s and 1970s, it would have been to do with selling records. Every group on the road tries to keep 50 percent of gross takings and restrict expenses to 50 percent. It is feasible if you are on the road for more than two months, working six nights a week, as we do.

As a songwriter, I signed a bad deal when I was 17 and I don't own my own copyrights. Nowadays, people do. We were on a lousy recording royalty rate of two percent because some previous manager had run off with an advance. It should have been 12 percent. Today, the norm would be about 20 percent.

Do you want to carry on till you drop?
I want to carry on and not drop. I could not imagine myself retiring. You cannot retire from music. Music is my refuge and my only hobby. And songwriting is like having another room at home that only I can go into. I am addicted to my work because it makes me who I am and I feel secure. I'm not sure that I could even afford to retire.

What was your most prudent investment?
Changing the look and feel of the group in the 1980s, because it meant that we would have a solid career for as long as we wanted it.

Have you had time for personal financial planning?
When we sold millions of records for the first ten years, we did not make any money, but we did come out of it owning a house each. We were lucky to have longevity as a group and a resurgence in the 1980s, when we had two top ten singles in the US.

In the late 1960s, an insurance guy made us take out some endowment policies. I actually paid off my mortgage - and got some money back, almost 5,000 - in the early 1990s.

I juggle domestic finances myself but I'm not terribly good at it. The secret is to have a good relationship with the bank. The thing about the music business is to fund the future.

Have you made any pension provision?
We had a lawyer acting for the band in the late 1970s and he suggested each of us start a pension. It was the best piece of advice anyone ever gave us. We had not invested in our future because the UK tax rate at the time of our success was so high, around 83 percent at the top rate.

My first pension payment was 2,500, but I was able to contribute more as it went along. I drew on it only quite recently, in my 50s. I think my pension fund just hit 1 million after running for nearly 25 years.

Today, it is not quite as much as you think. To live like a millionaire, you probably need a 10 million pension fund!

What steps have you taken in terms of planning to pass on your wealth?
I have made a will. When my mother died seven years ago and hardly left any loose ends, she was a great example as to how to leave your life - right down to the hymns at the funeral and a concise will. She made it easy for me and my sister.

I decided that I would do the same. Until then, I had not thought about sorting things out and what I should leave behind.

I will give 50 percent to charity and 50 percent to the family.

Do you allow yourself the odd indulgence?
I'm impulsive about buying guitars, but if I don't play them I don't keep them. I love nice clothes and I really enjoy shopping in Milan. My favourite designer is Lora Piana. Away from the group, I dress rather formally.

My biggest indulgence - and dream - was to own a farm. I borrowed the money to buy a beautiful arable farm in Wiltshire, that I turned into a private stud between the late 1970s and late 1980s.

It must have cost 700,000 or 800,000 to own and I borrowed pretty much all of it. In the end, we had more than 500 acres. I had to sell up when interest rates got really high.

Picasso or Art Deco as an investment?
I did have a period where I was buying some Newlyn artists who painted scenes of Cornwall around the 1880s. I collected them in a small way, but I chose carefully. It would now be my dream to own a Ben Nicholson abstract.

What is the most you have ever paid for a bottle of fine wine or champagne?
I never judge wine by its price. In the South of France and Italy, you can get a beautiful bottle of wine for 8.

I prefer to go out with the Italian boys from the studio in Genoa to a local family restaurant and take the house wine every time.

<<< return to Articles & Interviews