Bands Had No Idea That Their Music Was Destroyed in 2008 Fire

Elton John Aretha Franklin Kurt Cobain

Elton John Aretha Franklin Kurt Cobain

The magazine has obtained a 2009 confidential report estimating that about 500,000 song titles were lost, including: masters of recordings by Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland.

A master recording, or "master", as it is often called, is the original sound recording of a song.

A fire that ravaged Universal Studios Hollywood in 2008 may have destroyed some of Universal Music Group's "most prized material", including masters by legendary musicians such as Tupac Shakur, Etta James, John Coltrane, Eminem, and many others, according to an in-depth report published by the New York Times on Tuesday. Other master recordings reportedly lost in the flames include offerings from Bobby (Blue) Bland, B.B. King, Ike Turner, the Four Tops, Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, the Police, Sting, George Strait, Steve Earle, R.E.M., Janet Jackson, Eric B. and Rakim, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Guns N' Roses, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Sonic Youth, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Dogg, Nirvana and many more.

Universal Music Group disputed the accuracy of Times report in a statement to EW.

Internally, UMG acknowledged how catastrophic the fire had been: "Lost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage", reads a company document cited in Rosen's article.

The Times report claims that an internal memo reported that 500,000 master recordings were lost in the fire. But the exact nuances of the high notes, the bass riffs, the vibrato and cymbals preserved on the master recordings that did burn that June day-those have gone quiet.

Universal Music Group would not confirm the number of actual losses due to the fire, nor would it confirm the status of masters for specific artists. When news of the fire broke in June 2008, the majority of major news outlets focused on the loss from the video vault "that contained only copies of old works".

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