Reba McEntire, George Strait Reportedly Among 800+ Artists Who Lost Masters in Universal Fire
A jaw-dropping new report from the New York Times more closely reveals the true extent of the loss hundreds of artists suffered in a fire that swept the Universal backlot in Hollywood in 2008. More than 800 artists from across all genres lost irreplaceable master recordings, including dozens and dozens of top country artists.
Reba McEntire, George Strait, Glen Campbell, the Eagles, Steve Earle, Toby Keith, the Oak Ridge Boys, Dolly Parton and dozens more are among the country artists whose masters were consumed in the blaze, which, according to a prior report from the Times, UMG tried to cover up for more than a decade.
According to the original report, Universal initially claimed the damage was "relatively minor," but internal documents published by the Times dispute that account. "The West Coast Vault perished, in its entirety. Lost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage," a memo written in March of 2009 states.
Many of the artists whose work had been affected did not even know that their masters were gone until the report emerged.
The Times' follow-up reveals that Universal itself may never be able to determine the full extent of the loss, due to "slapdash inventory practices." While the label knew which labels' and which artists' tapes were stored in the vault, the "knowledge got fuzzier" when it came to albums and songs, particularly when it comes to outtakes, demos and unreleased recordings.
Steve Earle and several other parties have filed a class action lawsuit against Universal, claiming that the company not only misrepresented the damage from the fire, but that it also failed to share $150 million in settlements and insurance claims it received afterward with the artists whose catalogs and estates were affected.
The filing alleges a "systematic and fraudulent scheme of misrepresentation and misdirection" on the part of Universal to cover up the fire and settlements, and the artists are also claiming negligence in handling and storing their masters. The lawsuit is expected to extend to include hundreds of artists.
Country Artists Whose Masters Were Affected by the 2008 UMG Fire:
Asleep at the Wheel
Owen Bradley Quintet
The Carter Family
Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers
George Hamilton IV
Jason & the Scorchers
Jerry Lee Lewis
The Louvin Brothers
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
The Oak Ridge Boys
Leroy Van Dyke
Jerry Jeff Walker
Lee Ann Womack
The Nastiest Lawsuits in the History of Country Music: