12 years after the warehouse fire at Universal Music Group in Florida, and the company has finally stepped forward to confirm which masters exactly were permanently destroyed, and which were perfectly fine.
A massive fire burned down a Universal Music Group warehouse in Florida back in 2008, but reports about what was inside — 500,000 high-quality master recordings, many of which were for iconic records — didn’t surface until last year.
Finally, Universal has stepped up to the hard task of acknowledging which master recordings to which albums were in fact destroyed or damaged in the blaze. The most notable of the destroyed masters belong to albums by Nirvana, Soundgarden, Slayer, R.E.M. and Elton John.
These are now iconic albums lost to time, which we will never be able to get back. Sure the projects still exist in the digital world, but their physical presence is no longer.
The reason this is news 12 years later is because Universal never told the artists impacted by the fire in the first place, even those who were the legal owners of those masters. Instead, it was The New York Times who broke the story, which prompted artists like Hole, Soundgarden, and Tom Petty’s estate to file lawsuits against Universal.
According to Rolling Stone, as part of the legal proceedings, these artists asked for “a complete list of damaged records.” Universal has now responded by confirming (via filed documents) that the master recordings of 19 artists were “either damaged or destroyed” in the fire.
In addition to Nirvana, Soundgarden, Slayer, R.E.M., and Elton John, victims include …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Bryan Adams, David Baerwald, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Jimmy Eat World, Les Paul, Peter Frampton, Michael McDonald, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, Suzanne Vega, The Surfaris, White Zombie, and Y&T.
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12 years late is still quite some time to sit in silence. The artists whose work is destroyed have yet to comment.