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Court Records Confirm Works From Nirvana, Elton John And Others Damaged In 2008 Fire

In court filings made public Thursday, Universal Music Group (UMG) disclosed specifics about some of the recordings lost or damaged in a 2008 vault fire. They include works by Nirvana, Elton John, Soundgarden and other artists.

UMG publicly admitted specific losses for the first time as part of an ongoing lawsuit launched by several artists and musicians' estates last year — including those of Tupac Shakur and Tom Petty — after the New York Times published an investigation into the fire last June.

"The plaintiffs' lawyers have already been informed that none of the masters for four of their five clients were affected by the fire," the company says in a statement released Friday in response to the court documents. "Over the last eight months, UMG's archive team has diligently and transparently responded to artist inquiries, and we will not be distracted from completing our work, even as the plaintiffs' attorneys pursue these baseless claims."

In a statement following the Times' report last year, UMG responded in part that "the incident — while deeply unfortunate — never affected the availability of the commercially released music nor impacted artists' compensation." An internal memo from Lucian Grainge, president and CEO of UMG, in the wake of the story pledged "transparency" to the label's artists.

In 2010, UMG told its parent company at the time, NBCUniversal, and its insurer that recordings from nearly 17,000 artists could have been lost. But in Thursday's court filing, the record company only named 19 artists whose work was "affected." The company also disclosed that it had no comprehensive inventory of its assets — adding that it would be too "burdensome" to investigate all 17,000 artists' potential losses.

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Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.