Wednesday, 13 November, 2019

Master recordings of legendary artists lost in 2008 fire

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Lora Ball | 12 June, 2019, 21:23

The New York Times Magazine published an article Tuesday revealing the fire tore through Building 6197, which housed a library of master sound recordings owned by Universal Music Group.

Though the fire was widely reported at the time, the head of Universal Studios, Ron Meyer, said there had been no major losses.

The website report that an estimated 500,000 songs were lost, including work by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, B.B. King and most of Chuck Berry's Chess masters and multitrack masters.

The full report in the New York Times Magazine is worth a look - it's not only an exhaustive report of what happened, but also a musing on the importance of history, and what can happen when it isn't properly safeguarded.

At the time, media outlets reported on the damage to the King Kong theme park attraction and warehouse's "video vault", but not to the sound-recordings library, a real treasure trove that was nearly entirely destroyed.

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"Almost all" of Buddy Holly's masters were lost, as were most of John Coltrane's.

But the Times reports original master recordings of hundreds of thousands of songs - a half-century of music and history - was destroyed in the blaze. More contemporary names such as Janet Jackson, Guns N' Roses, Mary J. Blige, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Dogg, Nirvana, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, 50 Cent and the Roots are also cited in the report.

The loss has been described as "a huge musical heritage" in one internal UMG correspondence, and "historic" by Rosen.

Universal has disputed The New York Times story, saying it contains "numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets". Asked by a fan on Twitter if that means that the "Nevermind" masters were destroyed, Novoselic replied: "I think they are gone forever".

"The incident. never affected the availability of the commercially released music nor impacted artists' compensation", it said. "In fact, it conveniently ignores the tens of thousands of back catalog recordings that we have already issued in recent years - including master-quality, high-resolution, audiophile versions of many recordings that the story claims were 'destroyed.' And it even goes so far as to praise some of our initiatives but does not attribute them to us".

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