Last year, in a massive feature, the New York Times reported on a musical-history loss that had been kept largely secret. In 2008, a fire at the Universal Studios Florida lot raged through and devastated a warehouse where Universal Music Group had been keeping decades’ worth of master recordings. Many thousands of those masters — irreplaceable high-quality original recordings of songs, both iconic and forgotten — were reportedly destroyed. Universal kept this quiet for more than a decade, never alerting the artists, who, at least in some cases, were the legal owners of those masters. And now Universal has been forced to admit to some of the damage done in that fire.
According to Rolling Stone, Universal has filed documents admitting that master recordings from 19 artists were destroyed or damaged in the fire. This was part of the discovery process in a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of many of the musicians whose music was reportedly lost. The list includes some truly important artists, like Nirvana, R.E.M., Beck, Slayer, Soundgarden, Elton John, Sheryl Crow, Sonic Youth, White Zombie, the Surfaris, Jimmy Eat World, and …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead.
Universal is arguing that some of those masters had already been copied and preserved, including those from Nirvana, Beck, and Elton John. But at least one of the lawyers for the musicians is arguing that this is merely a sad attempt to downplay the extent of the damage. The lawyer Howard King tells Rolling Stone, “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.”
Here’s the full list of the 19 artists who Universal has admitted had recordings “affected” by the fire:
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Jimmy Eat World
This lawsuit is still in the early stages. We’ll see if Universal admits to more names than that.