Decades Of Important Music Revealed Lost In Universal Studios Fire Of 2008

Angelo Anderson
June 12, 2019

"Fortunately, nothing irreplaceable was lost", Ron Meyer, then the chief operating officer of Universal Studios, told CNN in 2008.

The magazine has obtained a 2009 confidential report estimating that about 500,000 song titles were lost, including: masters of recordings by Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland.

At the time, media outlets reported on the damage to the King Kong theme park attraction and warehouse's "video vault", but not to the sound-recordings library, a real treasure trove that was nearly entirely destroyed.

The music company also said the Times' story ignored "tens of thousands of back catalog recordings" that it had issued over the past few years, including versions of songs that Universal Music Group claims were created from master recordings that the Times said were destroyed in the fire.

An explosive New York Times article has lifted the lid on what we could now call one of the biggest incidents in the history of recorded music, eleven years after it actually happened.


Some of the artists involved include Guns N' Roses, Nine Inch Nails, No Doubt, Beck, Sheryl Crow, The Eagles, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, The Police and Aerosmith.

Internally, UMG acknowledged how catastrophic the fire had been: "Lost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage", reads a company document cited in Rosen's article.

Former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic was asked on Twitter by a fan if the blaze meant that the masters for Nevermind were destroyed, to which he replied: "I think they are gone forever".

"While there are constraints preventing us from publicly addressing some of the details of the fire that occurred at NBCUniversal Studios facility more than a decade ago, the incident-while deeply unfortunate-never affected the availability of the commercially released music nor impacted artists' compensation", the statement continues. The company also cited its recent history of releasing high-quality reissues of numerous albums claimed to have been destroyed, adding, "Music preservation is of the highest priority for us and we are proud of our track record".

Universal Music Group would not confirm the number of actual losses due to the fire, nor would it confirm the status of masters for specific artists.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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