Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic, ASIA, and Hole are among the many musicians posting on social media not that true impact of a fire that gutted a Universal Studios vault in 2008 and wiped out some 500,000 master recordings. A massive collection of irreplaceable master tapes from various historic labels such as Decca, MCA, ABC and UMG, and featuring songs from Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, all the way up to The Eagles, Nirvana, and Guns N’ Roses.
The list is long, spanning genres and generations of music. Only now that someone leaked a list, Universal Music Group had previously downplayed the damage. According to a feature, titled The Day The Music Burned, and based on legal and internal documents, works by B.B. King, Joni Mitchell, Iggy Pop, Tom Petty, Sonic Youth, No Doubt, Snoop Dogg, Soundgarden… The list goes on and on and on. Responding to a question on Twitter, Novoselic said he thought the masters of Nirvana’s Nevermind “are gone forever,” while reps for Hole told Pitchfork that the band was “not aware until this morning” that their works were destroyed. Randy Aronson, who was senior director of vault operations for UMG at the time of the blaze, told The Times the figure was closer to 175,000. All up, UMG estimated internally that roughly 500,000 songs burned.
Master recordings are the original tape laid down by the artists when recording an album. They’re considered to be the most authentic record of the actual songs. Often times, artists will go back to these tapes to re-release material or find previously unpublished works.