umg fire

Universal Confirms Nirvana, Beck, Elton John Recordings Were Damaged in Warehouse Fire

Photo: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Following an investigative report published by the New York Times in June 2019, which revealed that hundreds of thousands of master tapes had been destroyed in the 2008 Universal Studios warehouse fire, a group of artists and musicians’ estates pursued a class-action lawsuit against Universal Music Group. The most recent filing in the lawsuit confirms that recordings of Nirvana, Beck, Elton John, R.E.M., Sheryl Crow, and more were either destroyed or damaged in the fire, Pitchfork reports. After initially discrediting the weight of the Times report, UMG’s court document reveals that some original master recordings lost in the fire lack replacement copies, including those of Sonic Youth and Les Paul. UMG also acknowledges that Elton John’s masters were affected, but has not yet determined the scope of the impact. However, UMG claims that replacement copies exist for the affected recordings of Nirvana, Jimmy Eat World, and R.E.M., among others. In a statement to Rolling Stone, a representative from UMG said that it will continue to assess the state of recordings held in the warehouse: “Over the last eight months, UMG’s archive team has diligently and transparently responded to artist inquiries, and we will not be distracted from completing our work, even as the plaintiffs’ attorneys pursue these baseless claims.”

Universal Confirms Elton John, More Masters Damaged in Fire