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News June 27, 2019

Olivia Newton-John & Little River Band masters lost in UMG blaze

Former Assistant Editor
Olivia Newton-John & Little River Band masters lost in UMG blaze

Olivia Newton-John and the Little River Band are reportedly among several hundred artists believed to have lost master recordings in the Universal Music fire of 2008.

The New York Times first reported on a fire that swept through a vault facility at Universal Studios Hollywood, with over 100 artists originally reported to have lost original recordings.

Now a follow-up story by the Times details an additional 700-odd names of artists whose masters were destroyed by the blaze and covered up for over a decade.

Four-time Australian Grammy winner Newton-John has joined the list of those affected, as have recordings by Melbourne rock outfit Little River Band.

It is unclear which recordings were lost.

Newtown-John amassed five #1 Billboard Hot 100 singles, and ten Top 10s during her career.

For their part, Little River Band had ten singles reached the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Both acts have been inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.

They join names including Janet Jackson, The Eagles, Nine Inch Nails, Louis Armstrong, Neil Young, Dolly Parton and hundreds more.

Following the original report, UMG responded with a statement claiming Times article contained “numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets”.

But Randy Aronson who was UMG’s senior director of vault operations at the time of the fire told the Times that “vast numbers” of the titles lost were “irreplaceable primary-source originals.”

Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge also sent a staff memo addressing the matter. In the memo, obtained by Billboard, stated that the label owed its artists “transparency” and that “the loss of even a single piece of archived material is heartbreaking”.

Grainge’s reaction was a vast contrast to that of Havas CEO and Vivendi chairman Yannick Bolloré who labelled the Times investigation as “just noise”.

UMG is now facing a class-action lawsuit over the losses from Soundgarden, Tupac’s estate, Tom Petty’s ex-wife and more.

TMN reached out to representatives for Newton-John and Little River Band for comment.


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