Following A Fiery Controversy, Legal Issues Mount For Universal Music

After a New York Times investigation was published last week, "dozens" of artists and estates are contemplating filing suits. UMG's head has pledged "transparency" — 11 years after the fire.
The late Tom Petty, playing on the Isle of Wight in England in 2012. According to a recent New York Times investigation, master recordings by Petty may have been destroyed in a 2008 fire. Source: Samir Hussein

A previously underreported fire at a California amusement park in June 2008 — and allegations of an ensuing coverup — could potentially upend the future of the world's biggest record company.

A massive New York Times Magazine investigation, written by Jody Rosen and titled "The Day the Music Burned," was published on June 11. It alleges that a blaze at a backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood — where Universal Music Group [UMG] stored many of its most artistically valuable materials in a 22,000-square-foot warehouse — destroyed hundreds of thousands of irreplaceable recordings and other materials made by and for many of the 20th century's greatest musicians, from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to the Eagles and Tom Petty to Nirvana and Tupac Shakur.

The also alleges

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR6 min readSociety
Do You Need That Surgery? How To Decide, And How To Pick A Surgeon If You Do
When you have a serious health problem that calls for surgery, the last thing you need is the stress of navigating the health care system to find a skilled surgeon. We have tips to make it easier.
NPR5 min read
Trump's 'Go Back' Rhetoric Is Sign Of A Racially Divisive And Turbulent Year To Come
President Trump has used white grievance to fuel his candidacy since he first came onto the political scene. So what he's doing now with four congresswomen of color is hardly a surprise.
NPR4 min read
Hoping For Improved U.S. Ties, Pakistan's Prime Minister Set To Visit White House
Tensions have beset the U.S.-Pakistan relationship for years. The planned July 22 meeting between President Trump and Imran Khan comes as the U.S. tries to finalize Afghanistan peace negotiations.