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The Musical Coverup of the Century?: UMG Faces Suspicion Over Possible Loss of A Half Million Songs

By Robert G. O'Leary

listen to music

You've heard the old expression, “If a tree fell in a forest, would it make a sound.” For this next story, we could rephrase that question to ask, “If a fire occurred, affecting perhaps billions of dollars worth of potential revenues, would you hear (about) it? Well, it took 11 years for any of us to hear about a huge conflagration having occurred at a storage building in Hollywood CA, at Universal Studios Hollywood.

According to the video below, “almost all of the master recordings stored in the vault … including those produced by some of the most famous musicians since the 1940s, [likely including] masters” by the following artists were destroyed:

Billie Holiday

Louis Armstrong

Duke Ellington

Al Jolson

Bing Crosby

Ella Fitzgerald

Judy Garland

Chuck Berry

Aretha Franklin

Buddy Holly

John Coltrane

Ray Charles

B.B. King

The Four Tops

Joan Baez

Neil Diamond

Sonny and Cher

Joni Mitchell

Cat Stevens

Gladys Knight and the Pips

Al Green

Elton John

Eric Clapton

Jimmy Buffett

The Eagles


Rufus and Chaka Khan

Barry White

Patti LaBelle

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

The Police


Steve Earle


Janet Jackson

Guns N’ Roses

Mary J. Blige

No Doubt

Nine Inch Nails

Snoop Dogg



Sheryl Crow

Tupac Shakur


50 Cent, and

The Roots.

How many of your favorite artists did you find in the above list?

As a music consumer, this may not seem like a big deal. You can still go online or to the local music store, and buy the releases from your musical heroes. Yet this is still really important. This is because lost masters contain the mixed-down and post-mastered original recording(s) of each of these artists. They contain the result of many hours of careful fine-tuning and adjustment of all of the musical and vocal tracks that went into to creating each of the songs you, or someone around you, loves. Speaking of love, many of us are “around” because some of these songs were the romantic soundtrack of our parents', grandparents', or even great-grandparents' lives and lovelives.

As you will hear in the videos below, there are important things to consider about the loss of master recordings. Some experts will legally argument that the loss of these masters amounts to Universal Music Group's loss of the ability to prove its ownership over these recordings. If this is the case, who now would own these songs: the writer, the producer, or someone else? This would require a review of the contracts for each piece of music. It may amount to who owns or possesses the original track recordings which were used to create the masters.

UMG has tried to crisis-manage this news, as discussed in the following video:

As you might expect, there has been reaction to this news, as demonstrated in the below video:

Not only is the loss of these masters devastating, the way in which UMG has handled this tragedy is no less than shocking. One can legitimately call this a cover-up of more than a decade. Those with any claim on this music could also charge Universal Music Group with fraud, or an intentional misrepresentation of any of the facts surrounding the property lost in this inferno particularly considering that the UMG representative in this video did not indicate that there was any loss of masters at the time of the original incident back in June of 2008.

It would also be interesting to know the answer to such questions as “Why now?” and “Who decided to reveal the news?” or “Will the loss of the masters somehow diminish the value which each of these songs hold in terms of sale value in the future?”

I encourage you all to follow this story as it develops. We could conceivably see this story unfolding for years as the various artists, affected by this fire, sue Universal Music Group in court, and attempt to find some justice out of this tragedy.

Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products & modalities since the early 1970’s & he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist & father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive & safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield, Massachusetts and New England (USA) & “virtually” the world. He can also be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty@gmail.


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