Zappa Family Trust signs worldwide deal covering 60 titles

The Zappa Family Trust has regained control of the late rock musician Frank Zappa’s catalog, and has signed an exclusive global license and distribution deal with Universal Music Group’s catalog arm Universal Music Enterprises.

Pact will be inaugurated by the July 31 re-release of a dozen albums originally released by Zappa and his groundbreaking L.A. band the Mothers of Invention in 1966-72.

Deal covers 60 Zappa and Mothers catalog titles controlled by the Zappa Family Trust, which is headed by the guitarist-singer-songwriter’s widow Gail Zappa. An additional 12 titles will be released monthly through the end of 2012.

Initial flight of albums includes such classic sets as the Mothers’ debut “Freak Out” (1966), “Absolutely Free” (1967), “We’re Only In It For the Money” (1968), “Uncle Meat” (1969) and Zappa’s solo set “Hot Rats” (1969). These early recordings are the basis for Zappa’s enduring reputation; he was a 1995 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and a 1997 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

In a statement, UME president/CEO Bruce Resnikoff called Zappa “one of the most important and influential artists in music history with his prolific body of work, including his breakthrough rock ‘n roll concept albums. We are honored that Gail Zappa and the Zappa Family Trust have entrusted us with his legacy.”

Details of the Zappa Family Trust’s re-acquisition of the catalog were not disclosed. Until recently, the catalog had been controlled by Rykodisc, which purchased rights to the masters from the musician’s estate for $20 million the year after Zappa’s death in 1993.

As recently as last year, the Zappa trust and Ryko – which had settled an early dispute over the catalog in 1999 – were embroiled in federal copyright infringement and breach of contract litigation.

Rykodisc’s parent Ryko Corp. was itself acquired by Warner Music Group for $67.5 million in 2006. Ironically, Zappa had gained control of his catalog after he won a suit against Warner in the late ’70s.

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