On June 1st, 2008, Universal Studios Hollywood suffered from a fire that destroyed material from some of their biggest musicians, including artists like Nirvana, R.E.M., and more.
In June 2008, a fire erupted on the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot. It caused the biggest disaster in the history of the music business — that almost nobody knows about. https://t.co/ogIsZOJ37r
— NYT Magazine (@NYTmag) June 11, 2019
The fire burned through the film lot for almost 24 hours, even destroying a set from the film Back to the Future. As the fire kept burning, it continued it hit the 6197 warehouse building, which was home to Universal’s Music Group master recordings.
Initial reports on the incident had focused on the damaged film footage, but it was unclear as to exactly what music recordings were lost. The New York Times recently obtained documents that revealed that some of Universal Music Group’s most prized material was destroyed in the fire. The publication goes on and to reveal that the label had claimed that over 118,230 of assets being destroyed. This included the loss of an estimate of over 500,000 song titles, such as unheard material from Nirvana, R.E.M, Soundgarden, Beck, Janet Jackson, Eminem, Nine Inch Nails, and more.
On Twitter, an excerpt from the published document states “Lost in the fire was, undoubtedly a huge musical heritage, whilst listing more artists as seen below.
tens of thousands of master tapes, multitracks, unheard session material: gone. from classics (Chuck Berry & Etta James & the Chess catalog, Coltrane & Impulse, Buddy Holly, Billie Holiday) right through to the 00s — pic.twitter.com/kJLt6hBKv9
— Nitsuh Abebe (@ntabebe) June 11, 2019
The New York Times article includes the full list of artists whose material was lost in the fire, and details how largely forgotten acts were also destroyed. Tens of thousands of records that range from gospel, blues, jazz, country, soul, disco, pop, easy listening, classical, comedy and spoken-word only exist as written entries in discographies.