News June 12, 2019

A fire at Universal Studios destroyed 500,000 master recordings in 2008 [report]

A fire at Universal Studios destroyed 500,000 master recordings in 2008 [report]
Master recordings by Eric Clapton & dozens of others were destroyed

A fire that ripped through Universal Studios California on June 1, 2008, destroyed the theme park’s King Kong and Back To The Future attractions and a video vault that contained the only copies of several old films.

Media reports this week now claim that the blaze also destroyed a vault storing priceless master recordings of classic audio recordings.

These included tracks by Guns N’ Roses, Eminem, REM, Elton John, John Coltrane, Buddy Holly, Nirvana, Janet Jackson, Ray Charles, BB King, Beck, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Cat Stevens, Tom Petty, The Police, Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Dogg, Tupac, 50 Cent and The Eagles.

In a recent New York Times Magazine piece, it was labelled “the biggest disaster in the history of the music business.”

The report claims that tried to minimise the damage at the time, fearing a backlash from artists and their lawyers and that in a confidential report in 2009 had estimated that 500,000 song titles had been destroyed.

Universal Music Group has this week responded that “constraints” had prevented it from discussing aspects of the fire in public, but insists it had since invested in measures “to best preserve and protect these musical assets and to accelerate the digitization and subsequent public availability of catalogue recordings.”

In a statement to Variety, UMG disputes several of the imputations in the Times story, claiming that the original article has “numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets.”

The fire, “while deeply unfortunate – never affected the availability of the commercially released music nor impacted artists’ compensation.”

It doesn’t, however, dispute the actual damage to the archives themselves.

The California vault was just one place where Universal Music Group stored its tapes.

The others are in Los Angeles, in Pennsylvania, near Nashville and in upstate New York.

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