Can Record Labels Be Trusted to Preserve Music History?

3 days ago
12 Views

In 2008, a devastating fire on the backlot of Universal Studios in Hollywood spread to a warehouse that was being rented by Universal Music Group. Contained within were thousands of master recordings, the foundational files (in a range of formats) that serve as the source of commercially released music. Universal Music Group is a large and powerful conglomerate; its history is long and vast, and includes the archives of plenty of smaller labels that have been absorbed over the years.

News about the fire was reported at the time, but its severity was downplayed by Universal. An investigation by The New York Times magazine, released this week, underscores just how devastating it was. According to the writer, Jody Rosen, “the list of destroyed single and album masters takes in titles by dozens of legendary artists, a genre-spanning who’s who of 20th- and 21st-century popular music.”

It includes recordings by Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, the Andrews Sisters, the Ink Spots, the Mills Brothers, Lionel Hampton, Ray Charles, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Clara Ward, Sammy Davis Jr., Les Paul, Fats Domino, Big Mama Thornton, Burl Ives, the Weavers, Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Bobby (Blue) Bland, B.B. King, Ike Turner, the Four Tops, Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Sonny and Cher, the Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart, Cat Stevens, the Carpenters, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Al Green, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, Don Henley, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Iggy Pop, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Barry White, Patti LaBelle, Yoko Ono, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Police, Sting, George Strait, Steve Earle, R.E.M., Janet Jackson, Eric B. and Rakim, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Guns N’ Roses, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Sonic Youth, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Dogg, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Hole, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, 50 Cent and the Roots.

On this week’s Popcast, a conversation about how record labels understand their roles as custodians of history (or don’t), and how the current era of the digital jukebox creates a false sense of security about permanence.

Our guest:

  • Jody Rosen, contributing writer at The New York Times magazine

Email your questions, thoughts and ideas about what’s happening in pop music to popcast@nytimes.com.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

NYT > Music

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »