June 02, 2008

Universal Music VP: Archived Music Not Lost in Universal Studios Fire

Judy Garland
In the aftermath of the fire that destroyed millions of dollars worth of archived motion pictures, iconic memorabilia, stage props, and tourist exhibits yesterday at Universal Studios in California, news began circulating that thousands of masters housed in the same facility by Universal Music had been lost as well.

Initially running on the blog, Nikki Fink’s Deadline Hollywood Daily, and subsequently carried by the Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone, reports claimed that these original masters — unlike the ruined films that have backup copies stored elsewhere — had no duplicates and thus could not be salvaged or replicated. Allegedly stored in a vault on the Universal lot, the recordings were said to have included some of the twentieth century’s most heralded artists, including Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, the Andrews Sisters, and the Carpenters on Decca, ABC, and MCA labels. Per the report, Universal Studios could not confirm or expound on the full scope of the contents in question, but the notion that whatever lay in this vault would be gone forever seemed a particularly sad fate.

However, according to Peter Lofrumento, Universal Music Group’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, none of the company’s archived music was permanently lost to the blaze. While the fire indeed destroyed some recordings in storage on the Universal lot, everything has been accounted for. In a statement issued today to this writer, Lofrumento said:
“We moved most of what was formerly stored there earlier this year to our other facilities. Of the small amount that was still there…it had already been digitized…We also had physical back up copies of what was still left at that location. So we were covered.”
Of course, given the circumstances of the Universal Studios fire and the collateral damage it wrought, issues of more secure and efficient archival methods for music as well as motion pictures will likely be addressed with added perspective. For now though, Lofrumento’s reassurance regarding these landmark recordings should certainly delight music enthusiasts and historians. “The music will still be around for many years,” he said and, considering the alternative, such is good news indeed.