aural losses

Estates of Tom Petty, Tupac, and More Are Suing Universal Over Warehouse Fire Losses

Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Earlier this month, a bombshell report in the New York Times uncovered that a 2008 fire at a Universal Music Group warehouse likely destroyed hundreds of thousands of master tapes from renowned musicians, among them Nirvana, Elton John, Chuck Berry, Eminem, Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane, and Steely Dan. Confidential court documents revealed that the “estimated assets destroyed” totaled 118,230, while “an estimated 500K song titles” were also burned, with a cover-up put in place to ensure musicians would never find out. Now, artists and the estates of musicians are moving forward with a lawsuit against Universal. As detailed in a new Times report, rock bands Soundgarden and Hole, singer-songwriter Steve Earle, and the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur have become the first affected group to file, which accuses “the biggest record company in the world of breaching its contracts with artists by failing to properly protect the tapes.”

“UMG concealed its massive recovery from plaintiffs,” the suit outlines, “apparently hoping it could keep it all to itself by burying the truth in sealed court filings and a confidential settlement agreement.” The claim is seeking damages in excess of $100 million. Universal didn’t offer any comment. The company had previously denied the bulk of the Times’ claims, saying the story “contains numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets.” However, Universal didn’t include evidence to support these claims, and didn’t dispute the damage to the archives.

Estates of Tom Petty, Tupac Suing Universal Over Fire Losses