A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Universal Music Group (UMG) by attorneys representing Tupac's estate, Hole, Soundgarden, Steve Earle, and Tom Petty's estate.
In 2008, a fire broke out at a storage facility rented by UMG from NBC. An estimated 500,000 music recordings were destroyed, many of which were historically significant masters. Artists whose work was destroyed include American greats such as Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Buddy Holly, and Aretha Franklin, just to name a few of the 700+ artists now listed by the New York Times.
Modern artists were also affected, with recordings from the likes of Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, No Doubt, Snoop Dogg, Nirvana, Hole, Tupac, Eminem, and 50 Cent gone. Until the New York Times reported on the story just last week, the extent of the loss was unknown.
In the lawsuit obtained by Variety, the plaintiffs are seeking "50% of any settlement proceeds and insurance payments received by UMG for the loss of the Master Recordings, and 50% of any remaining loss of value not compensated by such settlement proceeds and insurance payments." UMG sued NBC in 2009, valuing its losses at $150 million, and the new class-action suit claims it was successful.
The lawsuit against UMG states, "UMG did not speak up immediately or even ever inform its recording artists that the Master Recordings embodying their musical works were destroyed. In fact, UMG concealed the loss... To this day, UMG has failed to inform Plaintiffs that their Master Recordings were destroyed in the fire.”
Now, some artists who were affected have spoken to the press. Courtney Love said, “No one knows for sure yet, specifically what is gone from their estate, their catalog. But for once in a horrible way people believe me about the state of the music business which I would not wish on my worst enemy. Our culture has been devastated, meanwhile UMG is online with cookie recipes and pop, as if nothing happened. It’s so horrible.”
Bryan Adams also had no idea about the loss of his work until he read the original New York Times article last week, even though he spent a lot of time in 2013 trying to track down masters of his 1984 album Reckless. He told the publication, "I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that I couldn’t find anything at Universal that had been published to do with my association with A&M records in the 1980s."