Hole, Soundgarden, Estates of Tupac and Tom Petty Sue Universal Music Group Over Warehouse Fire
Earlier this month, the New York Times Magazine published a lengthy investigation into a warehouse fire at Universal Studios in 2008. The fire, which Universal Music had initially attempted to cover up, resulted in the destruction of master recordings from some of the biggest names in pop music including Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, Ray Charles, Elton John, Al Green, Tupac Shakur, Eric Clapton, Nirvana, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, and more.
Now, acts like Hole, Soundgarden, and Steve Earle, as well as the estates of deceased musicians Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur, are suing Universal Music Group for destruction caused by the fire. After initially reporting that a group of artists were planning the lawsuit, a new report published by the Los Angeles Times claims that the artists were never told that their master recordings were destroyed in the fire.
The class-action lawsuit was filed in U.S. Central District Court in Los Angeles on Friday, and is seeking $100 million in damages. It represents the first legal action taken in response to the 2008 fire and recent New York Times Magazine exposé. According to court documents obtained by the Times, the suit alleges that UMG breached its contractual obligations to artists by failing to protect the master recordings. It also says that UMG had an obligation to disclose any income received as settlements from the fire, including insurance payments and legal settlements from NBCUniversal, Universal Studios parent company in 2008.
The initial New York Times Magazine report claims that as many as 100,000 audio recordings containing 500,000 song titles were destroyed in the fire. Following the exposé, UMG released a statement addressing the incident, where they said though the incident was “deeply unfortunate,” the fire “never affected the availability of the commercially released music nor impacted artists’ compensation.” In the wake of the initial report, artists like Hole, Questlove, and Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic claimed that they were unaware of the fire until the report.
Spin has reached out to UMG for more information and we’ll update this post if we hear back.