The Universal Music Group (UMG), which is part of the big three record companies alongside Warner Music and Sony Music received an internal memo from UMG CEO Lucian Grainge, instructing the company to be transparent regarding their artist’s material being burned in the 2008 Universal Studios Warehouse Fire. Earlier this month, a report originally written by the New York Times claimed that the fire had destroyed numerous master recordings from legendary artists such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Gladys Knight, Elton John, Janet Jackson, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, and Snoop Dogg were destroyed in the fire.
According to Rolling Stone, the memo stated:
“Let me be clear: we owe our artists transparency. We owe them answers. I will ensure that the senior management of this company, starting with me, owns this.”
In addition, the memo also provided instructions for employees to help artists “be put in contact with UMG’s Senior Vice President of Recording Studios and Archive Management, and added that the SVP had formed a team to ‘field these requests and respond to them as promptly as we can.”
At the time of the fire, UMG, which split from the Universal Picture company in 2004, did not release any information regarding those master recordings or any other works lost in the warehouse where the fire took place. Universal Pictures, and the Universal Studios theme park released a brief statement at the time claiming that the fire had only destroyed the theme park’s “King Kong” attraction and a video vault with copies of old works.
UMG have been highly critical of The New York Times’ report since its release, claiming that it has held “inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings,” regarding the fire. “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,” UMG reps explained.
Despite this downplay, Grainge has stated that losing the recordings, no many how few, is still a great loss. “Even though all of the released recordings lost in the fire will live on forever, losing so much archival material is nonetheless painful. These stories have prompted speculation, and having our artists and songwriters not knowing whether the speculation is accurate is completely unacceptable,” Grainge elaborated, according to Rolling Stone.