The story of a number. A very large number. The number 150 million. In his blockbuster NEW YORK TIMES investigation of a 2008 fire that destroyed more than 100,000 items (another number for another day) at a UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP warehouse, JODY ROSEN quoted at length a man named RANDY ARONSON. Aronson was in charge of Universal's tape archives at the time of the fire and continued in that role until 2016, when he was let go. He was a principal source for Rosen's story. About a year after the fire, UMG had sued NBCUNIVERSAL, from which it rented the warehouse, for negligence. Aronson told Rosen he "recalls hearing" that UMG valued its losses at $150 million. The suit was settled out of court in 2013 for an undisclosed amount. Since Rosen's extensively researched, magazine-length story was published a month ago, that $150 million figure, which a former employee Universal employee remembered hearing from some unspecified other person, has become an article of faith. Lawyers representing SOUNDGARDEN, HOLE, STEVE EARLE and the estates of TUPAC SHAKUR and TOM PETTY cited it in a class-action suit seeking at least $100 million from UMG. Articles about the fire and the lawsuit continue to use the number, sometimes attributing it to the class-action, sometimes to the New York Times and sometimes to what we might call reported precedent. The number is slowly moving from hearsay to gospel truth through the power of repetition. As the class-action and perhaps other suits make their way through the courts, we may eventually learn if the number is accurate; for now, though, it's pretty clear that few if any people know. In a complicated story in which seemingly every major detail appears to be in dispute, this should matter. Something was lost. A lot may have been lost. We just don't know exactly what yet... Meanwhile, Universal, which has denied several of Rosen's most disturbing claims, is claiming it has so far identified only 22 masters by five artists that were lost in the fire (while seemingly confirming the shoddy archiving practices that have led to much of the confusion). Lawyers representing the artists in the class-action are not buying it. Nor is Rosen. The label is asking a judge to dismiss the class-action partly on the grounds that it, and not the artists, owns any physical master tapes that were lost in the fire even if the artists own, or will eventually own, the copyrights to the recordings on those tapes. Here's a key section from SOUNDGARDEN's 1988 deal with A&M RECORDS (which was absorbed into Universal a decade later) that might be worth a TED talk or two... SONY has consolidated its recording (Sony Music) and publishing (Sony/ATV) arms under the new umbrella org SONY MUSIC GROUP, which could be "a new industry superpower"... A smaller potential music superpower arrives via media mogul HAIM SABAN, who is pledging to invest $500 million in his new SABAN MUSIC GROUP. The Los Angeles label will have a Latin focus but its initial signings, including STATIC & BEN EL from Israel and MARIE MONTI from France, already go beyond that... KEN EHRLICH, who has clashed with women including ARIANA GRANDE and LORDE in recent years, will executive produce his 40th and final GRAMMY AWARDS next year. He'll be replaced by BEN WINSTON, the executive producer of LATE LATE SHOW WITH JAMES CORDEN (and co-creator of its CARPOOL KARAOKE and DROP THE MIC franchises). There is one and only one thing that doesn't have to be fixed at the awards ceremony, which seems to have gone out of its way to generate unwelcome controversy in recent years: ALICIA KEYS. Make her the permanent host, guys... JERRY FOXHOVEN, the 66-year-old director of Iowa's Department of Human Services, maybe was and maybe wasn't fired because of his penchant for talking about TUPAC SHAKUR in work emails, but he definitely is your (former) civil servant of the month.... RIP ALAN ROGAN.