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Universal Music Group Launches 70 Person Team to Respond to Angry Artists

At last count, the 2008 warehouse fire at Universal Studios in Los Angeles reportedly destroyed over 700 Universal Music Group artists’ master recordings. Considering the company publicly denied at the time that any music was lost, and several bands have said this month that they were never told about the destruction, that’s a lot of artists who are probably wondering right now what exactly burned. To field these concerns, UMG has formed a 70 person team of archivists, recording engineers, producers, developers, and musicologists, according to an internal memo sent today and published by Variety.

The lucky squad includes 30 people from UMG and 40 people from Iron Mountain, the records management company that runs several vaults where Universal currently stores masters. Pat Kraus, UMG’s head of studio, production, and archive services, writes in the memo that the team is “responsible for timely and open responses to artists about the status of musical assets under our care, as well as the extent to which certain assets were lost.” That includes “receiving, logging and tracking requests” and “archival research, data analysis, A&R administration and asset retrieval.”

As The New York Times Magazine reports, UMG formed a similar team after the fire. The company launched a “global hunt, searching for safety copies and other duplicates” of the master recordings. Randy Aronson, then UMG’s senior director of vault operations, told the magazine that the two-year project recovered copies of approximately one fifth of what was lost. In 2013, the company settled a lawsuit seeking compensatory damages from the vault’s former landlord NBCUniversal for an undisclosed sum. For what it’s worth, Kraus told Billboard last week that the Times article was “overstated.”

This time around, UMG faces a $100 million class-action lawsuit from Hole, Soundgarden, Steve Earle, and the estates for Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur that includes a request for “a complete inventory” of destroyed recordings. Spin has asked UMG’s newly formed team which artists have requested information about their masters and whether the team plans to share its “timely and open responses” with the public. We will update this post if they respond.

Read the full memo here.