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2008 Universal Studios fire

The biggest disaster in the history of the music industry. The master recordings of over 100,000 albums, including Nirvana's "Nevermind" were lost in a huge fire.


On June 1, 2008, a huge fire consumed parts of "Universal Studios Hollywood", Los Angeles, California. Universal stated at the time that the fire destroyed only an amusement facility of the "King Kong" movie as well as a safe in which copies of old videos were stored.


Investigations by the New York Times reveal that more than 100,000 album masters, some of them masterpieces, were lost in a June 2008 Universal Studios fire.


But an article published on 2019 in the New York Times magazine, shows that in the same fire that occurred 11 years earlier, masters of 118,230 albums including about 500,000 songs and albums that are considered classics and assets also caught fire.


According to an investigation by the New York Times, "Universal" hid information that the fire broke out in a building numbered 6197, which contains a safe of audio masters. The New York Times refers in its article to a confidential report of Universal Studios from 2009 detailing its estimates of the damage caused by the fire and the amount of masters lost during it.


Universal's secret report which reached the New York Times magazine, lists the works of the artists whose recordings were apparently lost forever in the same fire, and below is an unrepresentative sample of those artists:


Elton John, "Lynyrd Skynyrd", Eric Clapton, "the Eagles", "Aerosmith", "Steely Dan", Iggy Pop, the Police, R.E.M, "Nirvana", "Soundgarden", Hole, Beck, Tom Petty, Nine Inch Nails, Sheryl Crow, B.B. King, "Mamas and the Papas", Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, "the Carpenters", Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley, Etta James, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin.


According to a New York Times article, Universal workers at the time made many efforts to diminish the extent of the damage caused by that fire, in order to avoid embarrassment.


The results of an investigation by the New York Times are very disturbing. It is not clear how the assets of music, are stored so carelessly and without proper means of protection, and how original materials that are part of the historical heritage of music are not preserved in a way that will allow future generations to enjoy them as well.


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