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techkenyot.com June 17, 2019


Master recordings of legendary artists lost in 2008 fire

12 June 2019, 09:24 | Elsie Buchanan

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Former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic was asked on Twitter by a fan if the blaze meant that the masters for Nevermind were destroyed, to which he replied: "I think they are gone forever". King, THE FOUR TOPS, Snoop Dogg, Chuck Berry, Tom Petty, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Cat Stevens, GLADYS KNIGHT AND THE PIPS, Eric Clapton, THE EAGLES, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Barry White, Patti LaBelle, THE POLICE, Sting, Steve Earle, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Sheryl Crow, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, 50 Cent, and countless more. At the time, Universal said that the blaze had destroyed the theme park's King Kong attraction and a video vault containing copies of old works.

A master recording, or "master", as it is often called, is the original sound recording of a song. Even the first appearances on record by Aretha Frankin were lost. Other songs from lesser-known artists signed to the many labels UMG swept up might be gone entirely if lower-quality copies of their music weren't stored elsewhere.

Universal Music Group produced a confidential report about what was lost in the fire in 2009, the Times said, and may have kept the true extent of the damage a secret to avoid embarrassment and stave off possible repercussions from angry artists and their estates. At the time, however, the entertainment industry heavy-hitter downplayed the damage.

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A 2008 fire at Universal Studios in Hollywood destroyed scores and master tapes of approximately 500,000 albums and singles that shaped music history, a New York Times investigation has revealed.

Read the full piece from New York Times here.

Randy Aronson, the senior director of vault operations at the time, told The New York Times that the company priced the actual combined total of lost tape and "loss of artistry" at $150 million. "While there are constraints preventing us from publicly addressing some of the details of the fire that occurred at NBCUniversal Studios facility more than a decade ago, the incident - while deeply unfortunate - never affected the availability of the commercially released music nor impacted artists' compensation".

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After the fire, UMG started a two-year project to try to replicate its library, which resulted in about a fifth of the lost music being "recovered" by obtaining sonically inferior copies, according to Aronson's estimate.

In any case, the disaster is now being termed as the day the music burned!

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