The estate of American musician Frank Zappa is the latest acquisition by Universal Music Group (UMG), including the singer-songwriter’s recordings, song catalogue and film archive.
Experimental musician Zappa had a successful career spanning nearly four decades up until his death from prostate cancer in 1993 at the age of 52.
The new agreement between UMG, Universal Music Enterprises (UMe), Universal Music Publishing Group and The Zappa Trust will see the company build on their work with the Zappa Trust with the consent of Zappa’s four children Moon, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva.
The acquisition includes his expansive recordings, publishing catalogue of iconic songs, film archive and the complete contents of The Vault – the storage facility that houses the late Zappa’s life’s work – as well as Frank Zappa’s name and likeness.
Of the deal, The Zappa Trust said: “10 years ago, Gail Zappa [Zappa’s widow] 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.
“Together over the last decade we made Frank’s vast catalogue 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.”
UMe president and CEO Bruce Resnikoff added: “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. 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.”
In 2012, Zappa Records and the Zappa Trust – headed by Gail Zappa – made the musician’s entire recorded catalogue available digitally for the first time through a partnership with UMe.
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 catalogue.
Zappa released more than 60 albums during his lifetime, as a solo artist and with his bands, The Mothers of Invention and The Mothers.
Following his death in 1993, there have also been a further 60 posthumous releases beginning with 1994’s Civilization Phaze III and spanning from Zappa’s last album completed before his death, Dance Me This, released in 2015 as his 100th album.
In addition to his musical achievements, Zappa was also an artists’ rights campaigner, anti-censorship advocate and one-time cultural ambassador to Czechoslovakia.
Universal Music Group have recently acquired the back catalogues of a number of artists including Neil Diamond, rock band Aerosmith and Sting who sold his songwriting catalogue to Universal in February.