On June 1, 2008, a fire spread at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California. The fire lasted for roughly 24 hours, taking a portion of one of the sets from the beloved movie Back to the Future and the King Kong encounter attraction along with it. However, more importantly, Building 6197 was completely torched.
Also known as the “video vault,” Building 6197 doubled as a sound recording library for the world’s largest record company, UMG. According to a new explosive report in the New York Times, UMG reported no losses and did not notify any musicians that could have affected; in actuality, the company lost a ton of irreplaceable recorded material, originally estimated 118,230 assets, valued at $150 million.
Later, and even more tragically, that number was corrected to 175,000 assets valued at $33 billion dollars with roughly 500,000 song titles lost. This loss included masters of songs and albums by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, BIllie Holiday, Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, Aretha Franklin, Buddy Holly, Les Paul, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Cher, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffet, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Who, the Eagles, Neil Young, Steely Dan, Iggy Pop, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Police, Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Tupac Shakur and many more. The New York Times estimates that over 800 artists have lost their work forever.
“It absolutely grieves me,” Sheryl Crow – who lost all her master recordings – told the BBC. “I can’t understand, first and foremost, how you could store anything in a vault that didn’t have sprinklers? And secondly, I can’t understand how you could make safeties and have them in the same vault. I mean, what’s the point? And thirdly, I can’t understand how it’s been 11 years. I mean, I don’t understand the cover-up.”
In response to the New York Times report UMG music put out an official statement, condemning the story and saying there are “numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets.”
According to Billboard, “UMG is currently facing several class-action lawsuits filed by countless singers and estates over the loss of music.”