Universal Music Group becomes permanent home of Frank Zappa Estate

Company acquires recordings, song catalog film archive and complete vault contents

Universal Music Group (UMG) has acquired the entire Frank Zappa catalog, including songs, film archive and complete vault contents. The company has struck a deal in partnership with Zappa’s kids, Moon, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva Zappa, who run the Zappa Trust. The content spans the prolific four-decade career of the legendary, boundary-pushing musician, acclaimed composer, virtuoso guitarist, and prominent activist.

With the acquisition, which additionally includes Frank Zappa’s name and likeness, Universal Music Enterprises (UMe), UMG’s global catalog company, and Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), the company’s leading music publisher, will build on the company’s already successful track record of working with the Zappa Trust to amplify Frank Zappa’s career as a trailblazer, iconoclast, brilliant musician and fearless artist who challenged music and culture with his unconventional and uncompromising vision and advocacy.

Under the new agreement, UMPG acquires Zappa’s complete publishing catalog including “Watermelon In Easter Hay,” “Cosmik Debris,” “Peaches En Regalia,” “Uncle Remus,” “Joe’s Garage” and hundreds more. Described by American Songwriter as a “compositional genius,” Zappa is known for writing songs offering sage advice (“Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow”) to astute cultural critiques (“Valley Girl” and “Trouble Every Day”), disco satire (“Dancin’ Fool”) to serious orchestral compositions (“The Perfect Stranger” and “Strictly Genteel”).

“Ten years ago, Gail Zappa partnered with UMe to bring Frank Zappa’s music into the digital era and help expand the Frank Zappa business around the world, setting in motion a fruitful partnership that has resulted in exponential growth,” the Zappa Trust states. “Together over the last decade we made Frank’s vast catalog of music available for streaming and download, reissued many of his pivotal albums on vinyl, created a slew of exciting archival releases and expansive box sets, including a series celebrating FZ’s legendary Halloween concerts, and were nominated for a Grammy for the 200 Motels (The Suites) orchestral album. UMG have more than proven their passion for Frank’s art and so the entire Zappa family – Moon, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva – is thrilled to pass the baton to the new forever stewards for all things Frank Zappa. Old and new fans will get more of what they want – more Frank Zappa music for years to come. Frank released his first album with Verve Records in 1966 with The Mothers Of Invention’s debut album, Freak Out!, so this is a very full circle moment more than five decades later and we know that his music and legacy will be in the best possible hands for generations to come.”

In 2012, Zappa Records and the Zappa Trust – headed by his widow, Gail Zappa – made Zappa’s entire recorded catalog available digitally for the first time through a partnership with UMe, with half of the albums remastered from the original analog sources and the remaining albums retransferred and prepared from the original digital tapes for CD and streaming and download. Many albums were also remastered for reissue on vinyl. Shortly after, the Zappa Trust entered into an agreement with UMe for a global license and distribution deal that saw the release of 60 of Zappa’s recordings. In 2015, they partnered on a long-term, global licensing agreement for Zappa’s entire recorded catalog, as well as rights management participation across the rest of the cultural icon’s creative canon. The partnership grew into an expansive license with Resnikoff and UMe that also includes new product releases, trademark licensing, film, and theatrical production.

To date, there have been 122 official Zappa releases, however, that only scratches the surface of what the future holds as it represents a small fraction of the recordings in Zappa’s expansive and exhaustive Vault that have been made publicly available. An obsessive documenter, Zappa recorded nearly every session, rehearsal, live performance, and even casual jam in a variety of audio and video formats across nearly his entire life. UMG plans to dive into The Vault for new archival projects for decades to come. Additionally, with Zappa’s name and likeness, UMG will engage existing fans and new audiences around the world with merchandise, feature films, interactive experiences, as well as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and other next-generation Web3 projects.

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Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites. Email: info@themusicuniverse.com

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