The chief executive of Universal Music Group promised “transparency” a week after revelations that a 2008 studio lot fire had destroyed many more master tapes than had previously been admitted.

In the aftermath of a New York Times report, bands including Nirvana, R.E.M. and others reported that they’d never been fully informed about whether or how much of their work was lost in the blaze. Universal had issued a statement saying the report contained “numerous inaccuracies, but without providing specific details.

It’s suggested that more than 500,000 original recordings were burned. While many had been digitized or re-released, and therefore preserved in other formats, it wasn’t known if unheard outtakes, unreleased tracks or alternative versions had been lost with the original studio tapes.

In an email to staff seen by the BBC, boss Sir Lucian Grainge said that "the loss of even a single piece of archived material is heartbreaking. We owe our artists transparency. We owe them answers.”

He added that he was “somewhat relieved by early reports from our team that many of the assertions and subsequent speculation are not accurate. ... Even though all of the released recordings lost in the fire will live on forever, losing so much archival material is nonetheless painful."

Grainge noted the formation of a team dedicated to investigate and respond to artists’ queries about the status of their material. “These stories have prompted speculation, and having our artists and songwriters not knowing whether the speculation is accurate is completely unacceptable," he said. "I will ensure that the senior management of this company, starting with me, owns this.”

His comments came after at least one threat of legal action, which came from Los Angeles lawyer Howard King. He said he was representing “more than 10 but fewer than 100” artists. “We have many very concerned clients,” he noted,

A legal letter sent to Grainge demanded “a complete inventory” of all material lost in the blaze, including outtakes.


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