UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01: Approximately 300 firefighters battle a huge fire on the backlot of Universal Studios on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California. The fire is consuming the filming site of many blockbuster movies including Back to the Future and King Kong. The New York Streets lot and a film vault have reportedly burned.

A new memo from Universal Music Group claims that only 22 original master recordings were destroyed in the 2008 Universal Studios fire.

The memo was obtained by Variety and was written by Pat Kraus, UMG’s chief archivist. In the following excerpt, Kraus details the company’s efforts, as well as their current findings, in determining what was exactly lost in the 2008 fire:

“Over the past several weeks, our team has been working around the clock, fielding requests from approximately 275 artists and representatives.  To date we’ve reviewed 26,663 individual assets covering 30 artists.  Of those assets, we believe we’ve identified 424 that could be missing or lost due to the fire, with audio assets accounting for 349 of them.  Our data suggests that 22 of those could be “original masters” which are associated with 5 artists.  For each of those lost masters, we have located high-quality alternate sources in the form of safety copies or duplicate masters.  As we complete new work and we fill in gaps of work we’ve already done, these tallies will continue to evolve by the hour.”


The memo would go on to explain why UMG hasn’t published a list of all that was damaged in the fire, and indirectly, expose just how disorganized their archives were at the time of the fire and still might be today. Kraus wrote:

“While it would be ideal if we could publish such a list, unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  First, there is no definitive list of what was destroyed in the fire because it affected both inventoried assets and those that were not inventoried. Second, even many of the older inventoried assets did not have easy-to-identify complete and accurate metadata associated with them.  As a result, the list of supposedly affected assets published in press reports is misleading.”

The New York Times Magazine feature published June reported that nearly 500,000 original master recordings were destroyed in the 2008 fire, which was downplayed and spun by UMG at the time. The New York Times would go on to publish a list of well over 700 artists who were in some way affected by the fire.

Erica Banas is a rock/classic rock news blogger who's well versed in etiquette and extraordinarily nice.