Universal Music Group has agreed to a deal with Frank Zappa’s family to acquire the legendary rocker-composer’s entire estate, including his prolific catalog, film archive, publishing rights and his enormous “Vault” of unreleased material.
The agreement between Universal Music Publishing Group, Universal Music Enterprises — which has distributed Zappa’s posthumous releases for the past decade — and the Zappa Family Trust also includes the rights to Zappa’s name and unmistakable likeness. Terms of the deal were not revealed.
“Ten years ago, [Frank’s late widow] 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 Family Trust said in a statement Thursday.
“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.”
The acquisition marks a “full circle moment” for Zappa’s catalog, as he released the Mothers of Inventions’ classic 1966 debut Freak Out! on Verve Records; that label now resides under the UMG umbrella. “More than five decades later and we know that his music and legacy will be in the best possible hands for generations to come,” the Zappa Family Trust added.
The UMG agreement has the approval of all four of Zappa’s children — Moon, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva — despite the family feud that flared up in 2016 over the estate following Gail’s death in Oct. 2015. Three years earlier, in 2012, Gail and UMG struck a deal to bring Zappa’s catalog to streaming services, as well as distributing reissues and a steady stream of unheard material plucked from “The Vault” storage facility where Zappa’s studio recordings, live tapes and films reside.
“It has been a privilege to work with the Zappa family to release Frank Zappa’s music around the world, grow his audience, and protect his legacy for the past decade,” UMe President & CEO Bruce Resnikoff said in a statement.
“Zappa was a pioneering, visionary artist who created an incredible body of work and we are incredibly proud that Gail, and now his children, have entrusted us with his important legacy. We will continue to develop innovative ways to celebrate his vast and influential catalog for both longtime fans and those just discovering his genius. As a prolific artist well ahead of his time, Frank Zappa was constantly creating and recording and he left behind a treasure trove of extraordinary still-unreleased music and video in his Vault that will help us usher in the next era of Frank Zappa fans.”
Recent releases by UMG and the Zappa Family Trust include a deep-dive into the Mothers’ 200 Hotels, a recent live box set boasting three Rust Belt-area concerts from the mid-Seventies, Zappa’s final U.S. gig in 1988, the complete release of the Mothers’ famed Fillmore East shows in 1971 and the soundtrack to the acclaimed Alex Winter-directed Zappa documentary.