Bands Had No Idea That Their Music Was Destroyed in 2008 Fire

Esequiel Farfan
Junio 12, 2019

Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, Etta James, Neil Diamond, Loretta Lynn, Eric Clapton, Yoko Ono, Elton John, Janet Jackson, No Doubt and Tupac Shakur are among the long list of artists whose master recordings may have gone up in flames.

Almost all of Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly's masters may have been lost in the 24 hours it took the fire department to control the fire, according to the Times report, which cites litigation and company documents that contrast UMG's public statements about the extent of the damage. At the time, however, the entertainment industry heavy-hitter downplayed the damage.

But according to a new investigation by The New York Times Magazine, Universal Music Group's sound-recordings library, which held thousands of master copies of various songs, was also largely destroyed by the fire. The story revealed that around 500,000 song titles were lost amidst the blaze, including master recordings from artists such as Guns N' Roses, Nirvana, Soundgarden and more. When news of the fire broke in June 2008, the majority of major news outlets focused on the loss from the video vault "that contained only copies of old works". "It's a secret I'm ashamed to have been a part of".

While reporters for The Times appear to have gone through great lengths to research this matter, one rep for UMG told Variety that the publication's reports include "numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets".

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As Adam Block, former president of Legacy Recordings, explained to the Times, a master is the "truest capture of a piece of recorded music", and is used as the original source for all future recordings and copies.

Over a decade ago, there was a devastating fire at Universal Studios in Hollywood.

"Music preservation is of the highest priority for us and we are proud of our track record", the statement reads.

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