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Frank Zappa Catalogs and Archives Sell to Universal Music Group

The rock icon's music assets carry a valuation of between $25-30 million, according to Billboard estimates.

Universal Music Group has acquired the master recordings and publishing catalog — as well as the film archives and name and likeness — of the late Frank Zappa, the founder of the Mothers of Invention. The deal was announced Thursday (June 30); terms were not disclosed.

Zappa’s song catalog — which will be handled by Universal Music Publishing Group — includes such songs as “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow,” “Valley Girl,” Trouble Every Day” and “Dancin’ Fool,” as well as serious orchestral compositions like “The Perfect Stranger” and “Strictly Genteel.” His masters catalog will be overseen by Universal Music Enterprises, including albums Freak Out, We’re Only In It For the Money, Hot Rats, 200 Motels, Just Another Band From L.A., Apostrophe, Sheik Yerbouti, and Joe’s Garage. The company has also acquired the Vault, a storage facility that houses Zappa’s life work, according to the deal announcement.

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“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 said in a statement. “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.”

While terms of the deal were not disclosed, Billboard estimates that the Zappa music assets carried a valuation in the range of $25 million to $30 million. That’s based on $1.7 million in estimated annual earnings for the master recordings after deduction production and distribution costs, and about about $350,000 annually for the publishing catalog. UMG, which has been distributing Zappa’s master recordings for the past dozen years, declined to comment.

UMG says it “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.”

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UMe President & CEO Bruce Resnikoff added: “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.”

Financials aside, UMPG chief operating officer Marc Cimino said in a statement, “A powerful voice in music and culture, Frank Zappa was one of the most brilliant artists of his time. We are honored to welcome Zappa’s influential song catalog and that his estate has chosen UMG to uphold his artistry and to grow his immense legacy throughout the world.”