Universal Says the 'New York Times' Warehouse Fire Story "Contains Numerous Inaccuracies"
In its statement, UMG wrote, "While there are constraints preventing us from publicly addressing some of the details of the fire that occurred...the incident — while deeply unfortunate — never affected the availability of the commercially released music nor impacted artists' compensation."
The company then claims that the Times' story "contains numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets."
UMG did not provide examples of inaccuracies in the publication's reporting.
The company added that the story "conveniently ignores the tens of thousands of back catalog recordings that we have already issued in recent years — including master-quality, high-resolution, audiophile versions of many recordings that the story claims were 'destroyed,'" claiming "UMG invests more in music preservation and development of hi-resolution audio products than anyone else in music."
According to the Times' report, UMG had 118,230 "assets destroyed," along with the loss of "an estimated 500K song titles." This list is reportedly "a genre-spanning who's who of 20th- and 21st-century popular music."
The list includes Aerosmith, Joni Mitchell, Nirvana, Soundgarden, R.E.M., Eminem, Nine Inch Nails, Tom Petty, Iggy Pop, Beck, Sonic Youth, Hole, the Roots, Steely Dan and many more.
Following the publication of the Times' report, artists who reportedly had material destroyed in the fire have issued statements on the matter. A representative for Hole told Pitchfork that the band were never informed by UMG that their tapes were destroyed.
Steely Dan manager Irving Azoff released a statement on behalf of the band that read, "We have been aware of 'missing' original Steely Dan tapes for a long time now. We've never been given a plausible explanation. Maybe they burned up in the big fire. In any case, it's certainly a lost treasure."
On Twitter yesterday, R.E.M. wrote that they were "receiving inquiries from many people concerned about the New York Times article on the Universal Music fire 11 years ago," adding that they "are trying to get good information to find out what happened and the effect on the band's music, if any."
Roots drummer Questlove also commented on Twitter, revealing that masters for studio albums Do You Want More?!!!??! and Illadelph Halflife were lost in the blaze. He pegged the loss of masters as the reason why the albums "wont [sic] get reissue treatment," adding that he had "been dying to find all the old reels and mix the 8 or 9 songs that never made DYWM."
For everyone asking why Do You Want More & Illdelph Halflife wont get reissue treatment https://t.co/Vs0ykRcyAK— Questlove De La Rose (@questlove) June 11, 2019
I been dying to find all the old reels and mix the 8 or 9 songs that never made DYWM. My plan for both DYWM & IH was to release all the songs and instrumental/acapella mixes on 45—-— Questlove De La Rose (@questlove) June 11, 2019
They sent someone to check out the vault log and then it hit them: B-F & O-S artists took a hit the most. I think everything else was salvaged— Questlove De La Rose (@questlove) June 11, 2019
i mean, it's sad to lose a piece of my life, but we still have the final masters---as in how it was released in 95/96 are still there. this also explains why we CAN'T find the original #WhatTheyDo subtitle video for youtube— Questlove De La Rose (@questlove) June 11, 2019
REMHQ is receiving inquiries from many people concerned about the New York Times article on the Universal Music fire 11 years ago. We are trying to get good information to find out what happened and the effect on the band's music, if any. We will detail further as and when.— R.E.M. HQ (@remhq) June 11, 2019