Home » News » Sir Lucian Grainge’s letter to his colleagues on the 2008 fire that destroyed UMG’s archive of master recordings

Sir Lucian Grainge’s letter to his colleagues on the 2008 fire that destroyed UMG’s archive of master recordings



Recapitulating the fire that destroyed irreplaceable recordings in a 22,000-square foot at Universal Music Group warehouse, Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman/CEO of Universal Music Group, pens a letter to his colleagues at UMG.

Grainge expresses his regret over the loss of the archived files. He also ensures that the senior management of the company, including himself, take full ownership of the incident.

The loss included recordings from the archives of labels UMG acquired or partnered with over the years. Many of the 20th century’s greatest musicians’ viz., Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Eagles, Tom Petty, Nirvana and Tupac Shakur master copies were ruined in the fire.

In response to a New York Times (NY Times) article recounting a 2008 fire described as “the biggest disaster in the history of the music business,” Universal Music Group issued a statement disputing the classification of the damage it caused to the company.

UMG said the article contains “numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets.” NY Times claimed that thousands of master recordings were destroyed in the fire.

Grainge’s letter gives an insight to the irreparable damage that has been caused however, unjustifiable it might be. The silver lining in the decade-old dispute might be the existence of digital copies of the destroyed tapes.

Grainge explains that the artists associated with UMG deserve transparency and security along with the details on the incident.

“Let me be clear: we owe our artists transparency. We owe them answers. I will ensure that the senior management of this company, starting with me, owns this.”

Read the entire letter here:

Lucien Graigne


While the fire may well have been the single greatest loss of recorded music assets in contemporary history, it is hardly the first. In 1978 a vast number of classic Atlantic and Elektra recordings were lost in a warehouse fire. Nor would it be the last, a flood several years ago at Universal’s storage facility in New Jersey damaged many recordings. Recordings from Prince’s “vault” at his Paisley Park compound were also found to have water and mould damage, although they have been restored and moved to a facility in Los Angeles.


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Aakanksha Sharma

Author: Aakanksha Sharma

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