A remaining lawsuit over a 2008 fire at Universal Music Group is raging on, with the company refuting recent claims for an artist who reportedly lost masters.
The artist, now-defunct rock band Soundgarden, sent an updated complaint in court stating that UMG had failed to state if the band had lost any master recordings in the fire.“UMG did not speak up immediately or even ever inform its recording artists that the Master Recordings embodying their musical works were destroyed,” the lawsuit states. “In fact, UMG concealed the loss with false public statements such as that ‘we only lost a small number of tapes and other material by obscure artists from the 1940s and 50s.’ To this day, UMG has failed to inform Plaintiffs that their Master Recordings were destroyed in the Fire.”
An attorney for the company, Scott Edelman, refute this claim in a formal declaration to drop the case. “Specifically, I noted that UMG expressly told Soundgarden over four years ago that UMG had lost in the fire two compiled album master 1⁄2 analog reels of one Soundgarden album Badmotorfinger but that UMG was still able to issue a remastered release of this album with Soundgarden’s knowledge and participation, using a digital audio tape safety copy,” the letter read.
The declaration continued: “I further explained to Plaintiffs [that] UMG currently has 1301 assets in its vault related to Soundgarden and that only 21 assets were impacted by the fire, none of which were multitrack masters.” Edelman also provided copies of emails of the aforementioned correspondence.
Just last week, UMG provided evidence that three of the four remaining artists suing for the fire — Steve Earle and the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur — did not lose masters in the fire.
The fire, which took place on June 1, 2008, destroyed an estimated 500,000 master recordings from artists across several genres like Billie Holiday and Nirvana. It happened in a facility in Los Angeles that UMG had rented from NBC. In a 2009 legal action against NBC, UMG reported the total of its losses came to $150 million.