UMG Pushes Back Against Reports Of Lost Music

Carla Harmon
June 12, 2019

About 500,000 master recordings - many of them historically significant - were destroyed in the fire, The New York Times Magazine reported.

The fire started after overnight maintenance workers used blow torches to fix the roof of a building on one of Universal Studios' many movie sets. But it turns out the biggest loss was of music, and the world didn't learn about it until now.

PEOPLE reported at the time that the King Kong exhibit was "three quarters lost" and that the NY set "has been totally lost".


The original recordings include some of the greatest musicians of the 20th century including Ray Charles, B.B. King, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Sonny and Cher, Joni Mitchell, Al Green, Elton John and Eric Clapton. Even the first appearances on record by Aretha Frankin were lost. Billie Holiday's entire Decca recordings are reportedly thought to be lost, too, as are all of Buddy Holly's masters.

The full report in the New York Times Magazine is worth a look - it's not only an exhaustive report of what happened, but also a musing on the importance of history, and what can happen when it isn't properly safeguarded.

NYT continues, "The fire also claimed numerous hit singles, likely including Bill Haley and His Comets" "Rock Around the Clock, ' Etta James's "At Last" and the Kingsmen's 'Louie Louie'".


"Lost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage", reads one 2009 internal assessment. Instead, the music company highlighted its commitment to music preservation and investments in technology.

According to a report The New York Times published Tuesday (June 11), works from Eminem, 50 Cent and Tupac Shakur were among the master recordings destroyed in the fire.

The vault held an irreplaceable library of recordings, from masters dating back as far as the late 40s.


The music giant did not cite what was inaccurate or misleading, but stated, "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".

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