You know that friend or relative (I’m looking at you, mom) who’s always sharing stuff on Facebook that happened like ten years ago, and commenting on how horrible/awesome it is as if it’s breaking news?
When someone first forwarded me last week’s New York Times’ piece on the 2008 fire at Universal Studios, I chalked it up to someone rehashing old news. There was a fire. There was damage. Insurance claims were made. Why are still talking about this?
The thing is, in 2008, we didn’t know what was lost.
In a typical CYA (cover your ass) move, the corporate folks over at Universal Music Group were all chill about the fire. “Yeah, you know…we just lost some backup copies of TV shows. No big deal. Nothing to see here. Move along, please.”
But thanks to the excellent journalism over at the New York Times, we learned that actually, there was some valuable stuff lost in the fire.
No — not just valuable. Irreplaceable. Destroyed in the fire were somewhere between 118,000 and 175,000 original audio masters — many never released to the public — from some of the greatest musicians in our country’s history: Louis Armstrong. Duke Ellington. Ella Fitzgerald. Al Jolson. Bing Crosby. Judy Garland. Chuck Berry. Buddy Holly. Aretha Franklin. UMG estimates the “loss of artistry” at $150 million. But who can even begin to calculate the loss of cultural heritage?
And we all gave a collective, horrified *gasp.* We didn’t know what we’d lost until we understood what we had.
It’s a universal problem (pun intended).