Universal Music Group (UMG) has been exposed by The New York Times over claims that a fire in a warehouse that stored music and masters of prominent artists and groups in 2008.
UMG has dismissed the article as inaccurate and stated that a lot of music had been digitalised prior to the fire, so the masters have been destroyed but not the legacy.
The quantity of musical material ranges from artists such as Elton John, Neil Young, Dolly Parton and Cher.
Also, influential groups from Nirvana who broke from the underground to give the world ‘grunge’ alternative rock, to the ’60s rock legends The Who.
More interesting recordings by Americas leading civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr’s 1969 album – Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.
Comedian Bob Hope and Groucho Marx’s from the comedy act The Marx’s Brothers and actress and singer from the Hollywood Golden Age era Mae West have all lost recordings.
Even the birth of 1950s Rock ‘n’ Roll biggest stars Bill Haley and His Comets – Rock Around the Clock went up in smoke.
The Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll Chuck Berry didn’t escape the fumes as well as Etta James’ album – At Last and works by Aretha Franklin were lost.
At the time of the fire it was played down by UMG, and the extent of the legendary music and recording works lost was reported at a minimum, due to most of the materials had been moved to a nearby suitable storage facility.
More prominent artists like Steve Earle and groups Soundgarden and Hole, plus Estates of deceased artists Tupac and Tom Petty have filed a lawsuit against UMG in Los Angeles courts.
Successful entertainment industry lawyer Howard E. King is representing a lot of artists and groups who have filed for $100 million in damages of lost masters and unreleased music, which were in the ‘vaults’ at the UMG warehouse.
Universal Music Group’s response
UMG has certainly been rattled by this exposé and has been quick to dismiss this story by The New York Times.
What is at stake is not only the bad publicity, but a lack of confidence amongst artists and group members who see this as a way of leaving UMG and asking for their ‘masters’ back; if they still exist.
Furthermore, the legal aspect could hit UMG financially as each case could reach billions if they lost in court.
The UMG CEO Lucian Grainge has backtracked over earlier denials and issued a statement of ‘heart-breaking losses’ of musical works.
Interesting Facts about the Universal Music Group
Originally set-up by British record company Decca in 1934 and later on in 1939 was renamed American Decca.
In 1969 American Decca and MCA Inc. merged.
Japanese multinational conglomerate Matsushita Electric bought MCA Inc. in November 1990 for $6.59 billion.
Seagram the Canadian multinational conglomerate, whose wealth was built on alcoholic products purchased an 80% stake in MCA Inc. including Universal Studios and its theme parks.
Seagram sold Universal Studios to General Electric, who owned NBC.
General Electric separated the music division from the film studio of Universal Studios.
French conglomerate Vivendi bought Universal Music and the 20% stake Matsushita Electric held in February 2006.
Vivendi was started by Napoleon III to supply water in Lyon and later in Paris in 1853.
Comcast the cable provider in North America bought a 51% controlling stake in Universal Studios in 2011 for $6.5 billion.
The rest of the 49% was sold to Comcast from General Electric in a multi-billion-dollar acquisition and is now called NBC Universal.