Universal Music Group has been home to the biggest names in music for the last century. It also lost thousands of their master recordings in a devastating fire in 2008, and barely anyone knows about it.
When a "massive fire erupted" at a Universal Studios Hollywood video vault, the studio's officials said "in no case was the destroyed material the only copy of a work, The New York Times reported at the time. But in an article published Tuesday, The New York Times Magazinehas reported a little-known revelation: That the video vault also contained the music group's "main West Coast storehouse of masters," and "nearly all" of them "were wiped out in the fire."
In the days after the June 2008 fire, Deadline suggested that "1,000’s of original ... recording masters" might have been lost in the fire alongside the videos. Universal Music Group denied that, definitively saying "we had no loss." Yet a confidential and internal UMG report published in 2009 tells a different story. The vault contained analog tape masters — "the irreplaceable primary source of a piece of recorded music" — as well as more recent digital recordings of dozens of artists including Buddy Holly, Etta James, and Chuck Berry, the Times Magazine reports.
The report listed the number of "assets destroyed" at 118,230, though Randy Aronson, UMG's senior director of vault operations at the time of the fire,told the Times Magazine it's more like 175,000. Another confidential 2009 report suggested "an estimated 500K song titles" were actually ruined. All numbers aside, it all amounts to a "profound" loss of "a sweeping cross-section of popular music history," the Times Magazine writes.
People around the church have also begun livestreaming the flames, which only seem to be getting worse.
Police say the fire was "started by accident and is related to ongoing work," France 2 reports. The fire comes as the historic church undergoes an intense restoration process, with sixteen bronze statues of saints removed from the Cathedral's heights for cleaning just a few days ago. Its spire, which seems to be at the center of the flames, was in the midst of a $12.4-million revitalization. Kathryn Krawczyk