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Universal Acquires Entire Frank Zappa Catalog, Including “The Vault”

Universal Music Group (UMG) has acquired Frank Zappa’s estate, including his catalog of songs and other recordings, in addition to the contents of The Vault, a storage facility that houses the artist’s life’s work deceased.

Under the agreement with The Zappa Trust of Moon, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva Zappa, and led by his widow Gail, UMG will oversee and manage Zappa’s musical career, spanning four decades, including the songs “Watermelon In Easter Hay”, “Peaches En Regalia”, “Uncle Remus”, “Joe’s Garage”, “Cosmik Debris”, and hundreds more in his catalog.

“Ten years ago, Gail Zappa partnered with UMe to bring Frank Zappa’s music into the digital age and help grow Frank Zappa’s business around the world, setting in motion a successful partnership that has resulted in exponential growth,” The Zappa Trust said in a statement. “Together, over the past decade, we’ve made Frank’s vast catalog of music available for streaming and download, reissued many of his crucial albums on vinyl, created a host of exciting archival releases and massive box sets, including a series celebrating FZ’s legendary Halloween concerts, and were nominated for a Grammy for the orchestral album “200 Motels (The Suites)”.

Zappa, who died in 1993 at the age of 52 from prostate cancer, was a singer-songwriter, activist, composer, guitarist, artists’ rights advocate, campaigner against censorship and was even ambassador to Czechoslovakia at one time. In 1995, Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 1997.

Photo: Emerson Loew

Over the past decade, UMe has worked with Zappa Trust to release a collection of archival releases, vinyl reissues, streaming initiatives, and more. In 2012, Zappa Records and the Zappa Trust made Zappa’s entire recorded catalog available digitally for the first time through a partnership with UMe.

In 2015, a licensing agreement expanded their partnership with new initiatives around product releases, brand licensing, film and theater production. Alex Winter’s 2020 feature documentary Zappa also featured a soundtrack of Zappa’s music provided by UMe.

A documentary obsessive, Zappa recorded almost every rehearsal, live performance, and jam session on audio and video formats throughout his life and stored them in The Vault. UMG will explore The Vault and archive projects and also use the Zappa name and likeness to engage new and existing fans through films, merchandise, feature films, interactive experiences, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and other Web3 projects.

At the time of his death, Zappa had over 60 posthumous releases, including Civilization Phase III in 1992, and Dance me that which was released in 2015 as his 100th album.

“UMG has more than proven its passion for the art of Frank and so the entire Zappa family is thrilled to hand over to the new stewards forever for all things Frank Zappa,” said the Zappa Trust. “Fans old and new 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 it’s a very complete moment more than five decades later and we know his music and his legacy will be in the best possible hands for generations to come.

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images