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Universal Music Group under fire in wake of literal blaze

Maybe someone will write a song about this one day.

If they do, they should be sure to save a copy.

Today’s blog post is centrally about a fire that occurred just over 11 years ago on a lot at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. The conflagration gutted a storage facility.

That building-gutting blaze consumed more than wooden beams and furniture. Indeed, the facility contained a so-called “God’s List” of master musical recordings created by legendary artists.

We surmise that virtually all of our readers are familiar with virtually all of those entertainers. The names affixed to lost master works span icons ranging from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to Tupac Shakur and Tom Petty. Reportedly, the fire destroyed as many as half a million recordings.

Understandably, the artists (both living entertainers and deceased legends represented by estate executors) are steamed about that. What has especially aroused their ire is their collective belief that Universal Music Group acted unethically and illegally in the fire’s wake by both camouflaging and understating the stunning loss.

A federal class action lawsuit filed last week spells out the specifics of artists’ claims and attendant demand of a money recovery totaling at least $100 million. What has clearly piqued the claimants in an outsized way are reports that UMG secretly negotiated a confidential settlement in the fire’s aftermath and received a huge insurance payout covering the losses. The plaintiff class is demanding a fair share of what UMG has unilaterally recovered for itself.

The lawsuit describes the destroyed Universal musical vault as a “substandard storage warehouse” and “known firetrap.”

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