Universal Music Group estimates 22 masters were lost in 2008 fire

After it was discovered a 2008 warehouse fire at Universal Music Group‘s Hollywood Studios destroyed hundreds of master tapes, the company has finally admitted some of the total damages. 

To backtrack, a New York Times report revealed that masters by Universal artists throughout the decades were lost, which limits the possibilities for high-quality reproductions in the future.

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At the time of the fire, most of the coverage focused on the burned King Kong theme park attraction and video content, dismissing the lost music.

The initial report suggests that the company did not disclose the damages out of  fear that artists and estates whose masters were destroyed would sue. Then, many of the artists affected came forward to do exactly that.

Hole, Soundgarden, the estates of Tupac and Tom Petty and other artists are suing UMG for losses.

The suit is reportedly seeking class-action status and marks the first legal case brought against UMG following the report. The plaintiffs allege that Universal breached their contractual obligations to protect artist’s masters. The suit further asserts UMG should’ve shared settlement funds including an insurance payout and legal settlement from NBCUniversal.

The Times are claiming the artists are seeking over $100 million in damages.

Alt-rock band Hole revealed to Pitchfork that they were never told by Universal that their tapes were destroyed. A rep told the outlet at the time they were “not aware until this morning.”

UMG initially disputed the claims and put out a statement via Variety about the fire.

Also, the report includes a quote from Universal chairman and chief executive Lucian Grange. He reportedly said that “we owe our artists transparency” about the 2008 fire.

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Now, Universal admitted that the fire probably destroyed at least 22 “original masters”. The company did so while preparing legal maneuvers for the lawsuit at hand. 

The news comes from an internal meme obtained by Variety. The memo states that “our team has been working around the clock, fielding requests from approximately 275 artists and representatives.  To date we’ve reviewed 26,663 individual assets covering 30 artists.”

The company then states how many original masters were actually lost using their data system. 

“Of those assets, we believe we’ve identified 424 that could be missing or lost due to the fire, with audio assets accounting for 349 of them.  Our data suggests that 22 of those could be ‘original masters’ which are associated with 5 artists. For each of those lost masters, we have located high-quality alternate sources in the form of safety copies or duplicate masters.”

The company states in the memo that they do not plan to publicize which masters were actually lost. 

“Our current priority is to communicate directly with our artists and their representatives. Each artist can determine if they wish to publicly release the information we convey to them,” it continues. 

What do you think of Universal Music Group acknowledging the lost masters? Sound off in the comments down below!

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