A breaking report from the New York Times attempts to parse through the ashes of a 2008 Universal Studios fire, revealing the extent of the devastation the flames had on Universal Music Group’s archives.
UMG, one of the world’s Big Three labels, made numerous efforts to downplay the results to the press in the time after. However, an internal document the NYT obtained from the label shows that an estimated 500,000 songs were lost in the wreckage. Original recordings and master tapes alike from industry icons like Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Petty, Nirvana, and more will simply never be recovered: a resounding loss for the industry at large and an especially devastating blow for the worldwide physical recording catalog. It’s still unclear how the fire will affect artists and record reissues on an individual basis, if at all.
“Music preservation is of the highest priority for us and we are proud of our track record,” a UMG spokesperson recently told Variety.
The UMG representative went on to assert that the NYT report contains “numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets.” However, UMG has neglected to expound on the purported shortcomings of the report in question, instead emphasizing the label’s own efforts to effectively digitizing the length of its archive.