Universal Admits Only 22 Master Recordings Lost in 2008 Fire, Court Dismisses Lawsuit [Update]
Following the shock for music fans last month that upwards of 60 rock and metal master recordings were lost in the 2008 Universal fire, the media company is coming somewhat clean about the actual amount of recordings it believes missing after the blaze. On Wednesday (July 18), while preparing legal maneuvers seeking to dismiss a class action lawsuit brought by several artists and their estates, Universal Music Group admitted at least 22 "original masters" were probably wiped out in the fire.
An internal memo obtained by Variety this week brought some focus to the matter. After publicly downplaying the fire's scope following The New York Times' June revelation that an estimated 500,000 recordings were lost — including supposed master tapes for popular rock and metal artists such as Aerosmith, Guns N' Roses, Nirvana, The Who — UMG relayed internally that its "team has been working around the clock, fielding requests from approximately 275 artists and representatives. To date we’ve reviewed 26,663 individual assets covering 30 artists."
The memo continued, "Of those assets, we believe we've identified 424 that could be missing or lost due to the fire, with audio assets accounting for 349 of them. Our data suggests that 22 of those could be 'original masters' which are associated with 5 artists. For each of those lost masters, we have located high-quality alternate sources in the form of safety copies or duplicate masters."
Exactly which of the five artists or 22 recordings were involved remain undisclosed.
The message came from Pat Kraus, UMG's senior vice president of recording studios and archive management. Back in 2008, the headlines surrounding the fire focused more on the damage to the Universal Studios backlot where the recordings were being stored. At the time, news on the damage to the storage facility for the audio recordings was mostly overlooked. But after the New York Times report, a number of artists revealed that they were just learning of the potential loss of their recordings.
As reported by Billboard, UMG are currently working to avoid lawsuits regarding recordings purportedly lost in the fire, claiming the recent class action from artists and heirs isn't based on "any valid legal theory."
Originally, the Times reported a list of over 700 artists' recordings thought lost.
Update: Universal Music Group has won out in a legal battle over masters lost in a 2008 fire. In the decision, filed on Monday (April 6), Judge John A. Kronstadt, dismissed five of the six causes of action from the initial lawsuit filing, including allegations of breach of contract, negligence and reckless conduct.
“Judge Kronstadt’s decision fully dismisses the Soundgarden litigation and entirely rejects the only remaining plaintiff’s arguments,” a representative for UMG said, as reported by Rolling Stone. “As we have said all along, the New York Times Magazine articles at the root of this litigation were stunning in their overstatement and inaccuracy. As always, we remain focused on partnering with artists to release the world’s greatest music.”
The decision came after four of the five original plaintiffs dropped out of the suit prior to the ruling.
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