Universal Music Group (UMG) has finally confirmed a list of 19 artists whose masters were either lost or damaged by the 2008 vault fire at Universal Studio Hollywood.
Per Rolling Stone, the artists were listed in new documents from the current class action lawsuit against UMG, and the affected artists are the following: Elton John, Nirvana, Sheryl Crow, Soundgarden, R.E.M., Beck, Bryan Adams, Slayer, Peter Frampton, Michael McDonald, Les Paul, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Sonic Youth, White Zombie, Y&T, David Baerwald, Jimmy Eat World, Surfaris and Suzanne Vega.
These new documents do not specify which recordings by these 19 artists were lost or damaged, but Rolling Stone notes “…there is a section in the filing that quotes an alleged UMG response to a discovery query, in which the label seems to confirm that ‘certain original master recordings’ belonging to Beck, Adams, John, Y&T and Nirvana were ‘affected’ by the fire. In the case of Adams, Nirvana, Y&T and Beck, UMG stated that it had replacements and/or safety copies for all the affected recordings. As for back-ups of recordings belonging to John, the filing stated that ‘UMG is still working with the artist to determine the extent of such impact.'”
Thousands of other artists have been reportedly affected by the fire. Attorney Howard King, who’s representing a number of artists in the class action lawsuit against UMG 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.”
News of the potential damage of the 2008 fire first came to light in June 2018 via a feature from The New York Times Magazine. The extensive piece indicated that nearly 500,000 master song recordings spanning the 20th and 21st century were destroyed in the UMG archive vault. The fire happened on June 1, 2008 in Universal Studio Hollywood on a set that eventually spread to Building 6197, which was the Universal vault that contained a number of film taps and reels, but it also contained the Universal Music Group’s library of master recordings.