MONDAY AM UPDATE: Universal Music just gave me a “clarification” on my report regarding UMG’s vault and the Universal Studio fire on Sunday: “Thankfully, there was little lost from UMG’s vault. A majority of what was formerly stored there was moved earlier this year to our other facilities. Of the small amount that was still there and waiting to be moved, it had already been digitized so the music will still be around for many years to come. And in addition to being digitized, physical back up copies of what was still left at that location were made and stored elsewhere. So thankfully, smart care, administration and preparation of these gems prevailed.” So let me get this straight: first there’s no report of irreplaceable damage at the Universal Studios vault, then I find out there’s musical history destruction because of a rental agreement with Universal Music, and now execs it’s only “a little” and not a problem. Funny, because my insiders insist it’s a BIG problem. Universal Music claims that over the past year it had been moving master recordings of its “big name” musical artists to the giant Iron Mountain, Pennsylvania vault — the same one used by Bill Gates and Microsoft. What was left, Universal Music contends, was only “more obscure artists from the ’40s and the early ’50s.” My final thought: the public may never know the truth.
SUNDAY: It looks like more was damaged or destroyed in today’s Universal Studios fire than anyone previously thought. I’ve learned that Universal Music, which is a completely separate company and owned by Vivendi (which owns 20% of NBC Universal), rents space in the huge video vault housed on the studio lot. But one source tells me that, as a consequence, inside the video vault that was billowing thick black smoke were 1000’s of original Decca, MCA, ABC recording masters from the last century including a wide range of music from Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters to Judy Garland and The Carpenters. “This is a tremendous loss in music history. A very sad day indeed. It’s too bad they saved the videos that they have backups on instead of the master recordings in which they do not, although they may not have had a choice since the fire had already engulfed much of the music side of the vault,” a source just told me. Universal Studios can’t confirm what has been damaged or destroyed music-wise at this point because it doesn’t yet know what exactly was housed in the storage rented to Universal Music.