Universal fire destroyed masters of more than 500K titles

2008 Fire at Universal Studios Destroyed Recordings by Nine Inch Nails R.E.M. etc

The list of artists affected includes recordings by Ray Charles, B.B. King, Joan Baez, Duke Ellington, Neil Diamond, Bing Crosby, Joni Mitchell, Judy Garland, Cat Stevens, Al Green, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, Aerosmith, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Barry White, Patti LaBelle, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Police, R.E.M., Janet Jackson, Guns N' Roses, Nirvana, Sheryl Crow, Tupac Shakur and many more. Master music recordings are the original recordings from which all subsequent copies are derived. That means the most sonically rich versions of the songs that went up in flames-not to mention any unreleased music or multitrack recordings containing, say, an isolated drum line or piano melody-are irretrievably gone. Even the first appearances on record by Aretha Frankin were lost. Other songs from lesser-known artists signed to the many labels UMG swept up might be gone entirely if lower-quality copies of their music weren't stored elsewhere. The report, titled "The Day Music Burned", details the possible extent of damage caused by the flames, including the loss of an estimated 500,000 song titles, some dating as far back as the 1940s. At the time, however, the entertainment industry heavy-hitter downplayed the damage. When news of the fire broke in June 2008, the majority of major news outlets focused on the loss from the video vault "that contained only copies of old works".

A fire that ravaged Universal Studios Hollywood in 2008 may have destroyed some of Universal Music Group's "most prized material", including masters by legendary musicians such as Tupac Shakur, Etta James, John Coltrane, Eminem, and many others, according to an in-depth report published by the New York Times on Tuesday. "It's a secret I'm ashamed to have been a part of".

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In reality, decades and hundreds of thousands of original masters and recordings of classic pieces of music were lost.

"Music preservation is of the highest priority for us and we are proud of our track record", the statement reads.

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