Universal Confirms Soundgarden, Beck, R.E.M. Masters Lost in 2008 Fire
Elton John, Sheryl Crow, Nirvana and more have also suffered sizable losses
Published Feb 14, 2020Following last year's discovery of the 2008 Universal Studios Hollywood fire that destroyed thousands of irreplaceable master recordings, a number of artists filed a class-action lawsuit against Universal Music Group claiming negligence. Now that the case is well underway, the defendant has officially acknowledged the loss of master recordings from a number of high-profile artists, including Elton John, Nirvana, Sheryl Crow, Soundgarden, Beck, R.E.M. and more.
In a court document titled "Joint Stipulation Regarding Plaintiffs' Third Motion to Compel Discovery from Defendant" obtained by Pitchfork from the class action filed by Soundgarden, UMG has admitted to a list of 19 artists whose work accounts for the 2008 "destroyed assets," but defend that the company shouldn't be required to report on the actual extent of the loss because the request would amount to "undue labour and expense" on their part.
The defendant claims that identifying all of the lost recordings would require UMG to "conduct anew a thorough, worldwide investigation of all its musical assets and associated recordkeeping related to thousands of artists across multiple secure locations in the United States and United Kingdom at the extraordinary and unprecedented burden and expense."
Additionally, the document reports that of the 19 artists affected by the fire, assets from …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Bryan Adams, David Baerwald, Jimmy Eat World, Les Paul, Peter Frampton, Michael McDonald, Slayer, Sonic Youth, Suzanne Vega, Surfaris, White Zombie and Y&T were also impacted in some way.
Initially, UMG claimed that 17,000 artists were affected by the fire. Howard King — a lawyer for one of the artists involved in the class-action suit — called the discrepancy between the company's initial findings and its now-reported 19 artists "inexplicable." The ongoing class-action accuses UMG of concealing the true extent of the loss.
In a statement issued to Rolling Stone, a representative of UMG told the publication, "Over the last eight months, UMG's archive team has diligently and transparently responded to artist inquiries, and we will not be distracted from completing our work, even as the plaintiffs' attorneys pursue these baseless claims."
Back when the New York Times broke the story last summer, the publication called the incident "the biggest disaster in the history of the music business." At the time, UMG hit back, saying that the piece contained "numerous inaccuracies."
Read the full court document below.