×

Read Lucian Grainge’s Letter About Universal Music Fire: ‘We Owe Our Artists Transparency’

Sir Lucian Grainge, chairman/CEO of Universal Music Group, has written a letter to staffers about the firestorm — if you’ll pardon the term — that has resulted from the New York Times’ investigative news story about the fire that destroyed much of the company’s archive of master recordings in 2008.

While Grainge emphasizes that digital copies exist of most of the destroyed tapes, he uses language that owns up to the extent of the loss to a greater degree than the company’s past statements, on and off the record, have.

“Let me be clear: we owe our artists transparency. We owe them answers. I will ensure that the senior management of this company, starting with me, owns this,” he writes.

The letter in full:

Dear Colleagues, 

By now most of you have seen the articles relating to the fire in 2008 at the NBCUniversal Studios lot that destroyed archived recordings, videos and related materials. 

Even though that event happened more than a decade ago, and while I’ve been somewhat relieved by early reports from our team that many of the assertions and subsequent speculation are not accurate, one thing is clear: the loss of even a single piece of archived material is heartbreaking.   

When I was 17, I acted as a courier to pick up the 2-inch multitracks and quarter-inch Boomtown Rats masters just after they finished their album at Rockfield Studios in Wales. I can still remember being repeatedly warned not to travel by subway to the mastering studio because the magnetic energy could destroy the recordings. It was then I first realized how precious these items were, and the care with which they needed to be treated. 

This is just one small anecdote. I know so many of you have your own individual stories about how and why you’re working here. But all of us came into this business for one reason: a love of music. Our artists and songwriters count on us to be the stewards of their art – today and for the future.   

And that’s one reason why the stories about the extent of the 2008 fire have resonated with all of us.  Even though all of the released recordings lost in the fire will live on forever, losing so much archival material is nonetheless painful.  These stories have prompted speculation, and having our artists and songwriters not knowing whether the speculation is accurate is completely unacceptable. 

So, let me be clear: we owe our artists transparency. We owe them answers. 

I will ensure that the senior management of this company, starting with me, owns this. 

If any of you hear from an artist asking about the status of archived assets, please immediately have them contact [email address redacted], our SVP of Recording Studios & Archive Management. In the past few days, Pat has formed a special team specifically to field these requests and respond to them as promptly as we can.   

One final note: 

At UMG we have the greatest collection of musical recordings, videos and artwork in the world – millions of assets in total – dating back to the late 1800s.  We invest significantly in preserving and protecting those treasures around the world—in technology, in infrastructure and by employing experts. I know how deeply committed our archival and catalog teams are to preserving our archives for generations to come. Part of “owning this” is redoubling our efforts to be a leader in preserving the rich cultural legacy upon which our industry is based.   

Again, none of this takes away the pain of losing any recording or video from our archives. But I want you all to be clear about how seriously we take this. 

Lucian 

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Hailee SteinfeldTribeca TV Festival 2019 Presents

    Hailee Steinfeld Announces New Single Tied to Apple TV Plus' 'Dickinson'

    Actress, singer and producer Hailee Steinfeld is set to release a new single entitled “Afterlife” on Sept. 19, a track she created for her upcoming Apple TV Plus series,”Dickinson.” “This is a song I’m incredibly proud of, and I feel like after embodying this character, I have a more fearless approach to my writing,” Steinfeld [...]

  • Deadmau5 Captivates Opening Night Crowd by

    Concert Review: Deadmau5 Captivates Opening Night Crowd by Going Cube-ist

    “I’m not gonna lie: first shows [of a tour] usually suck,” deadpanned electronic music producer Joel Zimmerman, aka deadmau5, Thursday night, closing out the first night of his two-night stand in Dallas, the kickoff city of his North American “CubeV3” tour. “But this one actually was great.” The sold-out crowd at South Side Ballroom roared back [...]

  • John Mayer performs at Madison Square

    Concert Review: John Mayer Is a Wonderland at First of Two-Night Stand at the Forum

    “You’re allowed to ironically celebrate your past,” John Mayer told a sold-out crowd of nearly 18,000 on Friday night at the iconic Inglewood, Calif. venue The Forum. He was introducing what is arguably his breakout hit, the college dorm hookup anthem “Your Body is a Wonderland,” but the declaration could easily have applied to the [...]

  • Concert Review: Brian Wilson, Zombies Grandly

    Concert Review: Brian Wilson and Zombies Revive the Grand Chamber Pop of 1968 at Greek

    Even “teenage symphonies to God” reach their dotage. But if they’re lucky, or spectacularly good, they may join the company of less youthfully inclined symphonies and join some kind of canon that’ll outlive their creators. Fortunately, the Beach Boys’ peak late ’60s work and “Odessey and Oracle” have not outlived Brian Wilson and the Zombies, [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Jennifer Lopez's 'Criminal' Striptease: How 'Hustlers' Landed the Fiona Apple Hit

    Contrary to what you might be expecting, the number of songs by Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo and Cardi B in “Hustlers,” their newly released acting vehicle, adds up to … zero. Meanwhile, the standout music sync in a movie that’s full of them belongs to no less likely a choice than Fiona Apple. The scene in [...]

  • Gaby Hoffmann, Albert Cheng, Alexandra Billings,

    'Transparent' Team Reflects on Series Finale Without Jeffrey Tambor

    Friday night’s premiere of the series finale of “Transparent” at L.A. Live’s Regal theater felt like a family reunion for the Pfefferman clan. Matriarch Judith Light embraced each one of her TV children (Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass) and guest stars from previous seasons (Cherry Jones, Melora Hardin, Bradley Whitford) who also turned [...]

  • Liam Gallagher: As It Was

    Film Review: 'Liam Gallagher: As It Was'

    Liam Gallagher is nearly as fascinating a rock ‘n’ roll figure as he thinks he is … which is saying a lot. After the breakup of Oasis, one of the most self-avowedly arrogant stars in pop culture found himself severely humbled, fighting to become relevant again without the help of Noel, his ex-bandmate and, for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content