The Universal-Soundgarden fight over the 2008 master tapes fire rages on

The night over the Great Master Tapes Fire of 2008 continues.

To recap, a number of artists have filed suit against Universal Music over the loss of the master tapes of hundreds of thousands of songs dating back to the 1940s. Among the litigants is Soundgarden, who say that the fire consumed a bunch of their stuff.

Universal, however, claims that Soundgarden is making it all up, especially since the would have had to access some of this material for some 2015 re-releases.

Soundgarden has shot back, saying “What are you talking about? Our stuff burned up! You must prove to us that our tapes didn’t burn!” And now, lawyers for the band want Universal to hand over all documents pertaining to the fire and the subsequent insurance settlement.

Universal filed for and received an insurance settlement worth US$100 million. Soundgarden’s position is “You received all that money. Something burned up. What in that fire got you $100 million?”

Billboard spoke to Soundgarden attorney Ed McPherson:

“You have asked the (multi) million-dollar question! There was a huge fire. It burned something. UMG sued NBCUniversal and its own insurer, recovering what was reported to be over $100 Million for irreplaceable masters that were destroyed. UMG has told everyone that nobody lost any masters. Then, what in the world did they get the $100 million for? We would like to know because we feel that UMG artists should get 50% of UMG’s recovery. Apparently, however, there is something in the (redacted) court files that UMG doesn’t want us (or anyone else) to see.”

This fight is going to go on for some time. Read more here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “The Universal-Soundgarden fight over the 2008 master tapes fire rages on

  • September 5, 2019 at 11:26 am

    I’m kinda in awe of how badly UMG is handling the press for this. They seem to be operating under the idea that if they wait, this will just go away. I feel for their PR staff who must be tearing their hair out at the intransigence of the upper management.


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