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Thread started 06/11/19 9:22am

Matthaus

2008 Universal vault fire destroyed hundreds of thousands of music master recordings - and almost nobody knew

Quite horrifying, God.

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Sources: https://www.nytimes.com/2...dings.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2...ule=inline

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Quote:

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Eleven years ago this month, a fire ripped through a part of Universal Studios Hollywood.

At the time, the company said that the blaze had destroyed the theme park’s “King Kong” attraction and a video vault that contained only copies of old works.

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The fire started in the early hours of June 1, 2008.

Overnight, maintenance workers had used blowtorches to repair the roof of a building on the set of New England Street, a group of colonial-style buildings used in scenes for movies and television shows. The workers followed protocol and waited for the shingles they worked on to cool, but the fire broke out soon after they left, just before 5 a.m.

The flames eventually reached Building 6197, known as the video vault, which housed videotapes, film reels and, crucially, a library of master sound recordings owned by Universal Music Group.

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But, according to an article published on Tues...s Magazine, the fire also tore through an archive housing treasured audio recordings, amounting to what the piece described as “the biggest disaster in the history of the music business.”

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In a confidential report in 2009, Universal Music Group estimated the loss at about 500,000 song titles.

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Almost all of the master recordings stored in the vault were destroyed in the fire, including those produced by some of the most famous musicians since the 1940s.

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Almost of all of Buddy Holly’s masters were lost, as were most of John Coltrane’s masters in the Impulse Records collection. The fire also claimed numerous hit singles, likely including Bill Haley and His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock,” Etta James’s “At Last” and the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie.”

The list of destroyed single and album masters takes in titles by dozens of legendary artists, a genre-spanning who’s who of 20th- and 21st-century popular music. It includes recordings by Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, the Andrews Sisters, the Ink Spots, the Mills Brothers, Lionel Hampton, Ray Charles, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Clara Ward, Sammy Davis Jr., Les Paul, Fats Domino, Big Mama Thornton, Burl Ives, the Weavers, Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Bobby (Blue) Bland, B.B. King, Ike Turner, the Four Tops, Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Sonny and Cher, the Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart, Cat Stevens, the Carpenters, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Al Green, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, Don Henley, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Iggy Pop, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Barry White, Patti LaBelle, Yoko Ono, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Police, Sting, George Strait, Steve Earle, R.E.M., Janet Jackson, Eric B. and Rakim, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Guns N’ Roses, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Sonic Youth, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Dogg, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Hole, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, 50 Cent and the Roots.

Then there are masters for largely forgotten artists that were stored in the vault: tens of thousands of gospel, blues, jazz, country, soul, disco, pop, easy listening, classical, comedy and spoken-word records that may now exist only as written entries in discographies.

[...]

The vault fire was not, as UMG suggested, a minor mishap, a matter of a few tapes stuck in a musty warehouse. It was the biggest disaster in the history of the music business. UMG’s internal assessment of the event stands in contrast to its public statements. In a document prepared for a March 2009 “Vault Loss Meeting,” the company described the damage in apocalyptic terms. “The West Coast Vault perished, in its entirety,” the document read. “Lost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage.”

[Edited 6/11/19 20:19pm]

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Reply #1 posted 06/11/19 12:56pm

kitbradley

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Well, all hope for those Vanity reissues just went up in flames. neutral

"It's not nice to fuck with K.B.! All you haters will see!" - Kitbradley
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Reply #2 posted 06/11/19 4:25pm

BalladofPeterP
arker

That's beyond devastating ... it's borderline incomprehensible.

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Reply #3 posted 06/11/19 5:53pm

MotownSubdivis
ion

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I'm at a loss for words.
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Reply #4 posted 06/11/19 7:29pm

PennyPurple

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Wow, that's some serious shit. That sucks.

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Reply #5 posted 06/12/19 5:25am

SoulConservato
r

While this is definitely a disaster, at least the notable artist's music will not be lost to us. It's the little known artists whose tapes were yet to be digitized that are the real tragedy. Universal had acquired so many labels before 2008 (I notice a lot of MCA artists are listed in the article). Second generation master tapes would have been sent to every corner of the world (Possibly CDs into the 90s) and could be sitting in vaults on every continent. Artists who only had their albums pressed in the US may be left wanting. Sadly a lot of unreleased material could be gone though. Even if Universal still had the tapes there's no guarantee they'd be releasing much of it to the public anyway.

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Reply #6 posted 06/12/19 5:29am

Bishop31

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Extremely sad and upsetting story. A bulding as important as that deserves constant monitoring. Not sure if there wasn't, but I wish this fire would have been caught earlier.

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Reply #7 posted 06/12/19 6:58am

AnnaSantana

Imagine if Prince's masters were in that fire.
finger DONALD TRUMP
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Reply #8 posted 06/12/19 7:01am

SoulConservato
r

kitbradley said:

Well, all hope for those Vanity reissues just went up in flames. neutral

Copies of the Vanity tapes could be elsewhere. Her LPs were issued in many different territories. I just don't think effort would be made to find them should reissues ever be planned.

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Maybe the fire is why Universal Japan keep issuing the same titles over and over... It also explains why many post-2008 reissues are sourced from vinyl. What a disaster!

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Reply #9 posted 06/12/19 7:05am

MotownSubdivis
ion

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SoulConservator said:

While this is definitely a disaster, at least the notable artist's music will not be lost to us. It's the little known artists whose tapes were yet to be digitized that are the real tragedy. Universal had acquired so many labels before 2008 (I notice a lot of MCA artists are listed in the article). Second generation master tapes would have been sent to every corner of the world (Possibly CDs into the 90s) and could be sitting in vaults on every continent. Artists who only had their albums pressed in the US may be left wanting. Sadly a lot of unreleased material could be gone though. Even if Universal still had the tapes there's no guarantee they'd be releasing much of it to the public anyway.

This fire could have happened in any case but consolidations can have some unspeakable side effects. Had Universal not swallowed all the labels it did, I bet a vastly smaller amount of these masters would have been caught in this fire assuming it struck at all.
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Reply #10 posted 06/12/19 8:58am

MickyDolenz

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MotownSubdivision said:

This fire could have happened in any case but consolidations can have some unspeakable side effects. Had Universal not swallowed all the labels it did, I bet a vastly smaller amount of these masters would have been caught in this fire assuming it struck at all.

But Sony & WEA bought up a lot of labels too. Same with Disney buying up other movie studios. Entertainement is now owned by 4 or 5 conglomerates. But that's not really a new thing. A lot of alternate music to the mainstream was originally on independent labels like jazz, rock n roll, gospel, soul, blues, and so on. Elvis Presley & Sam Cooke were on Sun & Keen. RCA bought their contracts. RCA is now owned by Sony. Some of Sam's stuff is owned by Allen Kline's company and so are the early Rolling Stones records. On a related note the southern soul label Malaco was hit by a tornado a few years ago and a lot of their masters were destroyed too.

For 65 years straight, the #1 genre in music, selling wise, was rock n' roll worldwide. Last year (2017) in June, it got de-crowned by hip hop. Hip hop is the #1 genre. It's hip hop - rock - country - pop or pop - country. ~ Pras
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Reply #11 posted 06/12/19 6:11pm

Matthaus

They're disputing it already...

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“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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UMG’s statement also says that the Times article “conveniently ignores the tens of thousands of back catalog recordings that we have already issued in recent years – including master-quality, high-resolution, audiophile versions of many recordings that the story claims were ‘destroyed,’” and also says, “UMG invests more in music preservation and development of hi-resolution audio products than anyone else in music.” It doesn’t say, however, that those original master recordings — physical, analogue audio tapes in many cases — were or were not destroyed.

Source: http://www.brooklynvegan....ault-fire/

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And not even the artists were aware of it happening until the NY Times Article:

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Some of the artists first learned of this from the article and have weighed in. Hole told Pitchfork yesterday they were “not aware until this morning,” and R.E.M. wrote that they “are trying to get good information to find out what happened and the effect on the band’s music, if any.” Questlove, meanwhile, tweeted implying that Do You Want More and Illadelph Halflife may have been lost in the fire. And music mogul Irving Azoff, who manages Steely Dan and others, said “We have been aware of ‘missing’ original Steely Dan tapes for a long time now. We’ve never been given a plausible explanation. Maybe they burned up in the big fire. In any case, it’s certainly a lost treasure.”

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I've read that No Doubt, Eminem and Krist Novoselic from Nirvana are comenting as well, trying to find out what happened. Krist stated that it seems the master tapes to Nirvana's "Nevermind" album were lost. Eminem's for "The Marshall Mathers LP" and "Lose Yourself" too, even though his tapes were digitized right before the fire.

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Sources: https://genius.com/a/emin...vault-fire

https://www.billboard.com...ersal-fire

https://www.cbc.ca/music/...-1.5172021

https://ultimateclassicro...usic-fire/

[Edited 6/12/19 18:17pm]

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Reply #12 posted 06/12/19 11:08pm

MotownSubdivis
ion

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MickyDolenz said:



MotownSubdivision said:


This fire could have happened in any case but consolidations can have some unspeakable side effects. Had Universal not swallowed all the labels it did, I bet a vastly smaller amount of these masters would have been caught in this fire assuming it struck at all.

But Sony & WEA bought up a lot of labels too. Same with Disney buying up other movie studios. Entertainement is now owned by 4 or 5 conglomerates. But that's not really a new thing. A lot of alternate music to the mainstream was originally on independent labels like jazz, rock n roll, gospel, soul, blues, and so on. Elvis Presley & Sam Cooke were on Sun & Keen. RCA bought their contracts. RCA is now owned by Sony. Some of Sam's stuff is owned by Allen Kline's company and so are the early Rolling Stones records. On a related note the southern soul label Malaco was hit by a tornado a few years ago and a lot of their masters were destroyed too.

That's not quite what I meant...
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Reply #13 posted 06/13/19 11:59am

Cinny

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I think it is an embarassing loss to all involved, the companies, the artists. That's why it would not be openly shared.

Ad-Rock interestingly shared about a week ago that Def Jam "can't find" the masters for Licensed To Ill.

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Reply #14 posted 06/13/19 2:27pm

RodeoSchro

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Kind of makes moving Prince's vault contents to Iron Mountiain's secured location look like a good move, doesn't it?

Second Funkiest White Man in America

P&R's paladin
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Reply #15 posted 06/13/19 7:21pm

Matthaus

Sheryl Crow's reaction: "Oh my Lord ... this makes me sick to my stomach, And shame on those involved in the cover-up."

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Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/e...-1.5173566

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Reply #16 posted 06/14/19 12:46pm

lastdecember

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Some of the artists on here own their masters, SO, I dont really know how "no one" knew their stuff was gone supposedly. Elton John, Don Henley etc...own their stuff, do you really think ELTON would have been quiet for 11 years if he knew his stuff was gone. He got his masters a long time ago.


"We went where our music was appreciated, and that was everywhere but the USA, we knew we had fans, but there is only so much of the world you can play at once" Magne F
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