In the two months since The New York Times Magazine published its bombshell report about hundreds of Universal Music Group artists allegedly losing their master recordings in a 2008 warehouse fire without their knowledge, the biggest shock wave has been a class action lawsuit filed against UMG on behalf of Soundgarden, Hole, Steve Earle, and the estates for Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur. Hole dropped out of the lawsuit this month, and earlier this week, Universal tried to pressure Soundgarden into doing so as well, but the band’s representation made clear today that they will not bite.
“Gibson Dunn [UMG’s attorneys] may be the biggest law firm in the world, but they are not the judge,” attorney Howard King told Rolling Stone in a statement. “Their arbitrary deadlines have zero force or effect. Until UMG reveals what it collected for their litigation claims to extensive damage to master recordings, we cannot accept their belated claim that no damages were actually suffered.”
One of UMG’s attorneys had claimed Monday in court documents, reviewed by SPIN and first reported by Variety, that Soundgarden were not, as the Times reports and the lawsuit argues, kept in the dark about which tapes were lost in the 2008 fire. They wrote that 21 Soundgarden-related “assets” were “impacted by the fire,” and that “two compiled album master 1⁄2 analog reels” of Soundgarden’s 1991 album Badmotorfinger were destroyed, but that the band was informed. The company ordered Soundgarden to be dropped from the lawsuit and asked the judge to dismiss the suit in full.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for November 4, at which point a judge is expected to rule on UMG’s motion to dismiss. Attorneys representing the artists continue to seek discovery in the case, which UMG has also opposed. The big kahuna is a so-called “God list” of everything that was destroyed, which the company reportedly compiled during the two years after the fire for the purpose of recouping money in an insurance settlement and a lawsuit against the warehouse’s former landlord. The list reportedly includes master recordings by Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, Nirvana, the Who, Janet Jackson, Eminem, Alice Coltrane, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, and over 700 more of music’s biggest names.