Original Masters Belonging to Nirvana, Soundgarden, Elton John, Peter Frampton Destroyed In Universal Studios Fire, Universal Music Confirms

2008 Universal Studios fire

In a recent court filing from the ongoing lawsuit against Universal Music Group (UMG), additional light was shed on the extent of the damage caused by the 2008 Universal Studios fire.

Many masters, including those of Slayer, Soundgarden, Michael McDonald, Elton John, Les Paul, Peter Frampton, and Sonic Youth, were “affected” — i.e. lost — in the fire, according to the filing. Additionally, these masters were apparently not backed up and/or duplicated, to UMG’s knowledge. 

Other artists’ master tracks, including those of Beck, Bryan Adams, Jimmy Eat World, Nirvana, R.E.M., Suzanne Vega, and Sheryl Crow, to name most, were also destroyed in the fire. However, Universal Music indicated that physical and/or digital copies of these works were preserved. 

Also worth noting is that nearly 12 years after the fact, Universal Music seems to be unaware of — or unwilling to acknowledge — the destruction’s reach. For instance, Surfaris’s masters “may have been affected by the fire,” and Suzanne Vega’s aforementioned works “may have been original flat masters,” according to the filing. 

Universal’s reluctance to be upfront about the fire’s impact could be attributable to both damage control and a genuine lack of understanding — with an emphasis on the former. The industry giant originally claimed that just 22 masters had been lost in the blaze, which took over 500 firefighters more than half a day to extinguish. A New York Times exposé placed the actual figure somewhere in the ballpark of 500,000 master recordings. 

Between Universal President Ron Meyer’s (apparently false) claim that nothing irreplaceable was lost in the fire, to Universal’s unwillingness to share insurance money with artists, the tragic episode has been rendered more troubling and more frustrating by a series of seemingly inconsiderate statements and actions. 

Last June, Soundgarden, Tom Petty’s estate, Tupac’s estate, and several other artists, filed a $100 million lawsuit against UMG. And in December, a federal judge ordered Universal Music to turn over important evidence relating to the masters damaged in the Universal Studios fire. 

6 Responses

    • Avatar
      Aussie Jack

      Yeah A Billion Dollar Industry
      I surmise they under report earnings to hide THEFT
      Tell Lyor hi from me

      Reply
  1. Avatar
    Tom+Hendricks

    Why would they apologize? The Big 3 Labels control the industry, will sue anyone in their way, and have forced the music media to block the music revolution and all opposition against them.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Aussie Jack

      Yep BUT the market is imploding the genres are dead and the age of celebrity over
      All we have to do is sit back create and dance as it ALL BURNS DOWN UNDER THEIR FEET
      They are OVER
      Their acts are OVER
      Eat UP SNAKES!!!!

      Reply

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