Universal Music Group have confirmed that recordings by the likes of Nirvana and Elton John were among those to be lost or damaged in the 2008 fire at Universal Studios Hollywood, according to newly obtained legal documents.
The June 2008 blaze at the studios destroyed three acres of a backlot, including a vault owned by UMG. A pair of reports by the New York Times in June 2019 alleged that recordings or original master tapes by over 800 artists were affected by the fire.
In new legal documents obtained by Rolling Stone from the ongoing class action lawsuit against UMG which was filed by some of the artists affected by the fire, UMG acknowledged that “original master recordings” by the likes of Elton John and Nirvana “were affected” by the fire.
…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Bryan Adams, David Baerwald, Jimmy Eat World, Les Paul, Michael McDonald, Slayer, Suzanne Vega, Surfaris, White Zombie and Y&T are the other artists who the document names as having recordings that were “affected” by the blaze.
The document does state that some “digital clones” or “replacements” of the damaged material exist, including recordings by the likes of Beck, Nirvana, R.E.M., Soundgarden, and Jimmy Eat World.
Lawyers for the artists involved in the class action lawsuit are seeking to establish a full list of the recordings which were either lost or destroyed in the Universal fire.
Howard King, one of the lawyers for the artists behind the class action suit, said in a statement: “Universal claimed 17,000 artists were affected by the fire when they were suing for damages. Now that they face a lawsuit by their artists, they claim a mere 19 artists were affected. This discrepancy is inexplicable.”
UMG have not responded to these new claims, but Universal did respond to the original NYT reports about the blaze last summer by saying that the fire “never affected the availability of the commercially released music nor impacted artists’ compensation”.
They also claimed the NYT story “contains numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets.”