Nirvana, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Aretha Franklin and scores of other music luminaries’ master tapes were destroyed during a fire at Universal Studios in 2008, New York Times Magazine reports.
The fire was widely reported in 2008, but according to the Times, Universal Music Group (UMG) downplayed the amount of damage to the label’s archive to the press, instead emphasizing its digitizing efforts and deflecting to the loss of video and television images as well as damage to the studio’s King Kong tour attraction.
Described as “the biggest disaster in the history of the music business,” the Times referenced a UMG internal document from 2009, which estimated 500,000 songs were lost to the fire.
Following the findings published in the Times, UMG disputed the extent of the damage the fire caused to its archives, telling Variety in a statement that the report contains “numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets.”
“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.”