UMG confirms Elton John, Nirvana, Soundgarden recordings were lost or damaged in 2008 vault fire

Recordings belonging to a total of 19 artists are said to be affected.

UMG Fire

Image: David McNew / Getty Images

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Universal Music Group (UMG) has revealed that recordings belonging to 19 artists, including Elton John, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Sonic Youth were lost, damaged or destroyed in the 2008 vault fire.

This is the first instance of UMG publicly confirming the loss or damage of master recordings belonging to specific artists. The revelation was made as part of a new filing in the ongoing $100 million lawsuit against UMG, filed by Soundgarden, Tom Petty’s ex-wife, Steve Earle, Hole and the estate of Tupac Shakur in 2019.

While the fire was widely covered back in 2008, little was known about the extent of the damage until a 2019 report by New York Times which listed artists like Beck, Jimmy Eat World, Peter Frampton, Les Paul, Slayer and White Zombie.

According to a new Rolling Stone report published 13 February, the new filing itself deals with “disputes over discovery” in the lawsuit. Lawyers representing the affected artists are seeking to obtain a complete list of damaged recordings, citing a document UMG filed when it was pursuing insurance claims following the fire. The document included “17,000 unique artist names on the list of purportedly lost original music recordings”, but UMG has reportedly said the list only “identified myriad potentially lost assets”, and also included assets that were not original master recordings.

Howard King, one of the lawyers representing the artists behind the suit, said: “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.”

In the same Rolling Stone report, a representative for UMG did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Neither did the representatives for the 19 artists mentioned.

Stay tuned for updates on this developing story. More industry news here.


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