In June 2019, The New York Times published an extensive report revealing that a 2008 fire at Universal Studios Hollywood destroyed an enormous number of master tapes by artists throughout the decades. In new court documents obtained by Pitchfork, UMG has confirmed that the master recordings of Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Elton John, Beck, Soundgarden, Sheryl Crow, R.E.M., and several other artists were damaged or destroyed in the blaze.
The remaining artists listed in the filing are: …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Bryan Adams, David Baerwald, Jimmy Eat World, Les Paul, Peter Frampton, Michael McDonald, Slayer, Suzanne Vega, Surfaris, White Zombie and Y&T.
Last June, Hole, Soundgarden, and the estates of Tupac and Tom Petty filed a class action lawsuit filed against Universal Music Group over the incident. Hole was later dropped from the suit after Universal informed the band that none of their masters were lost.
Following the Times’ initial investigation, Universal issued a statement playing down the extent of the losses, saying the incident “never affected the availability of the commercially released music nor impacted artists’ compensation.” Universal claimed The Times’ story “contains numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets.” They provided no examples of said inaccuracies.
Pitchfork has reached out to UMG representatives for further comment.