It contained the master recordings from an array of artists spanning over 60 years and a variety of genres.
The list of artists whose recordings were destroyed reads like a musical hall of fame roll call: Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Ray Charles, Elton John, the Eagles, Aerosmith, the Police, Janet Jackson, Nirvana, Tupac Shakur, Eminem and many others.
Almost all of Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly's masters may have been lost in the 24 hours it took the fire department to control the fire, according to the Times report, which cites litigation and company documents that contrast UMG's public statements about the extent of the damage. Initially, reports shared that "a vault full of video and television images" was destroyed in the fire, and an unnamed representative for Universal quoted: "Thankfully, there was little lost from UMG's vault". At the time, however, the entertainment industry heavy-hitter downplayed the damage.
The blaze made headlines in June 2008, as it destroyed parts of the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, as well as several sets used for filming and a large warehouse that stored videotapes and film reels.
The New York Times Magazine published an article Tuesday revealing the fire tore through Building 6197, which housed a library of master sound recordings owned by Universal Music Group.
As Adam Block, former president of Legacy Recordings, explained to the Times, a master is the "truest capture of a piece of recorded music", and is used as the original source for all future recordings and copies.
Universal Studios officials reportedly kept the damage hush-hush at the time, saying that nothing that had been lost was the sole copy of a work.
The music giant did not cite what was inaccurate or misleading, but stated, "While there are constraints preventing us from publicly addressing some of the details of the fire that occurred at NBCUniversal Studios facility more than a decade ago, the incident - while deeply unfortunate - never affected the availability of the commercially released music nor impacted artists' compensation". But the exact nuances of the high notes, the bass riffs, the vibrato and cymbals preserved on the master recordings that did burn that June day-those have gone quiet.