Roxy By Proxy: Gail Zappa Unveils Ridiculous Scheme For Distribution of Soundtrack To Holy Grail of Zappa Recordings

Ever since May we’ve been telling you about the movement on the DVD and soundtrack for Frank Zappa’s famed Roxy concerts in 1973. Zappa was backed by arguably the best band he’s played with, including keyboardist George Duke, Don Preston on synth, Ruth Underwood on percussion and Chester Thompson on drums for three shows at The Roxy on Dec. 8 – 10 that were shot in film by multiple cameras and multi-track recordings were made of the audio. Frank’s widow, Gail, has finally revealed details of the audio release of 75 minutes and 49 seconds of Roxy without the Elsewhere, yet we have a feeling Zappateers won’t be happy with the way it’s going down.

In order to raise ONE MILLION dollars to produce the video, Gail has unveiled a concept in which she wants “approximately 1,000 highly motivated, sensitive and discerning individuals” to sign up as distributors for the soundtrack. Her plan is that each of these Zappa fans will give the Zappa Family Trust $1,000 a piece to become distributors. Fans can recoup their money by selling CDs of the soundtrack. Here’s the email Gail Zappa sent out explaining the offer…


Dear People of Earth who are interested in anything & everything concerning The Roxy Performances,

So you’ve always dreamt of being a music mogul and running your own record company, huh?  But you ask yourself, “How could I get a Real Record Deal?” “I mean,” you say to yourself, “I think I could do this as well as anyone – I have important opinions to share.”  Well here’s your chance to be part of Zappa Music Business History and become an AUTHORIZED DISTRIBUTOR of a Real (REAL!)  Live (LIVE!) Zappa Record.  One more time for the world:  Recorded by Zappa, Performed by Zappa, featuring some of your favorite Mothers, and Material, AND all under the Roof you’ve been waiting for:  The Roxy!  No ELSEWHERES about it.

What???  It’s True.  We here at Zappa Records are looking for a few good men and women – approximately 1,000 highly motivated, sensitive and discerning individuals – to sign up as Official Independent Distributors of a never-heretofore-released, thoroughly Authentic Zappa Master Recording.  And this is not just any thoroughly authentic Zappa Master Recording either.  No, this is the one many of you have been beyond craving.  Please sit down to read this part:  This is the Roxy – the Soundtrack – yes, it is the introductory Soundtrack, the Prequel if you will – the Project/Object of your Dreams.  76 unadulterated minutes of fabulous frenzy await you.  And the opportunity of a life-time:  Roxy By Proxy! Should it be determined that you become an Officially Licensed Authorized Zappa RBP Distributor, you can make as many copies of the record as you can possibly distribute – AND except for reporting to us your sales & customers (just like any other record distributor) and paying us the publishing, YOU keep the money. AND you get to collect royalties from what is sold at Barfko-Swill AND you will also be entitled to a special wholesale price available to the OLAZRBPDs (Officially Licensed Authorized Zappa ROXY BY PROXY Distributor) exclusively.

Apart from being Official Release #96 this is a Music Biz First.  How is that you might well ask:  We figured you might like to participate in the wonderment so we have devised a way to let you in behind the scenes of every Artist’s necessity – a music distribution deal – but in this case we’ve cut to the chase.  We need to get the record to you so why  shouldn’t you be part of the process?  You can help us help you by helping you help us.

So here’s the deal: for all the information and the ACTUAL LICENSE.

Thanks in advance for your Consideration.



The site in which you can purchase these $1,000 licenses has a full FAQ to answer some of the many questions this scenario presents. How many other artists have released archival audio and video without such a convoluted scheme? If this was 20 or even 10 years ago, we can see fans being able to recoup their investment but in this age of downloads can you really expect to sell many physical CDs? Not to mention, the FAQ makes it clear copies of the soundtrack will be sold through the Zappa website – so the Zappa Family Trust will compete with these “distributors.” Though, yes, apparently sales of the CD on the Zappa website will lead to “distributors”  getting paid royalties. Confused yet? Join the club.

Just when we thought we were closer than ever to a Frank Zappa Roxy DVD/Blu-Ray comes this ridiculous plan. We won’t hold our breath waiting to see the Holy Grail of Frank Zappa releases.

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34 Responses

    1. Ditto.
      Frank, I think, would never pull the shit Gail and Dweez have tried. For all the great music they are keeping alive, they spoil it by being uber capitalists and creating such ill will towards them (from thousands of true, dedicated fans) and pissing everybody off. I still have some hope for my Roxy show some 4-5 years ago now, but as I said, Frank would not have done this shit to his fans.
      They both need a good ‘bitch slappin’
      Hey Hey

  1. I agree with danimal6000 as much as it pains me to wish failure upon Gail. Why not just kickstartr that shit and get it done without all the legal mumbojumbo?

  2. Why oh why is Gail making this so damn difficult? Just release the damn thing on the FZ site. Who has a grand that they want to spend and then work to recoup??? And for what?? Seems like a lot of hassle.

  3. Unbelievable.

    I’ve often thought a Whack-A-Mole type game would be funny with Gail, Yoko and Donna heads pop up and you can bash ’em with an over-sized hammer.

    1. Sweet – dis the woman that Frank loved, and the one that John loved, and I guess Donna musta been w/ Jerry? (I don’t read National Enquirer so am not that aware of who everybody has relationships with).

      FZ set up his entire archive and legal doings to specifically ensure that his family would prosper after his departure. The Dead’s structure for releasing old tired material is to ensure the future incomes of every person (just about) ever associated with that band – and it didn’t wait for Jerry to die to go into full rolling swing, either.

      This offer wasn’t meant for you folks – it is for those collectors that have disposable income and don’t care about $1000.00 – cheap to pay to be a part of it all if it works. You can easily pay that much for just about anything that is #37/1000 to someone who values that sort of thing.

      Anyway, it’s all over the internet now as a torrent, so it can be had for free – I’d still shell out the clams if I had them.

  4. Basically, you can spend $1,000 for your very own master disc.
    In this day of digital file-sharing, trying to sell legitimate copies at reasonable prices seems fruitless.
    GZ and ZFT knows this and figures that even if they only sell a handfull of licenses, they’ll make more money than selling the freshly baked muffins. Can’t blame them for trying to beat the file-share game, but it just isn’t gonna happen here.
    Alas, the funds probably won’t materialize and the DVD we’ve been waiting for will probably never be released.
    I’ll most likely plunk down the overpriced sum (including additional shipping) for the CD from the Barfies, but won’t hold my breath for the DVD.

    1. You hit the head on the brain !!!
      It does seem like some kind of mental illness ! Seriously grandiose.
      If this failure doesn’t slap them back into reality ….. nothing will.
      To the ZFT:
      Please Gail & Dweez, aren’t you embarrassed to be even try this crap?
      I would be. For as smart and practical as Frank was, almost none rubbed off on
      you guys. Be real, be cool, be nice.
      Be Frank.

  5. Quite possibly the dumbest idea i have ever heard. Borders on mental illness. I read this yesterday, kept an open mind last night, and then just re-read the part about reporting and publishing. Gail: you have been doing great so far. Don’t step into Ron Rakow territory. Just keep releasing stuff and making sure fans know wabout it. FYI: the remastered Joe’s Garage is fantastic! Nice work!

  6. Scott – The FAQs demonstrate that this nothing more than a money grab. Zappa still holds the rights to all digital distribution of the music so you’re only signing up to sell physical CDs (those things from the 90’s). But Gail is nice enough to offer to make you the CDs for $11.00 PLUS S+H so you can try and make a profit on them.

    How Do I Manufacture the Physical CDs from the Master CD? You may secure your own manufacturer to make copies of the Master CD. Under this approach, you will owe us a mechanical royalty of $1.20 for each CD sold or delivered, payable per the terms of the distribution agreement. In the alternative, you may use the Zappa Family Trust’s authorized third party manufacturer to make copies of the Master CD. Under this approach, each CD will be provided to you at the wholesale price of eleven dollars plus shipping and handling. On all such sales, the mechanical royalty of $1.20 will be included in the price to you. Further, for any sales of the physical CDs made by the Zappa Family Trust through its Barfko-Swill website, we will pay you a royalty based on a percentage of the difference between the retail price and wholesale price as set forth in the terms of the distribution agreement.

  7. This is just ridiculous. There is no reason to make things this hard. As someone else pointed out on the Zappa forum, archival music video releases come out all year long for bands that have nowehere near as fanatical a fanbase. And I can guarantee they didn’t go through all this trouble. Just release it already!

  8. Jeezus! A thought just occured to me.
    You’re getting into a business deal with GZ.
    If things don’t smell just right to her, you may just end up with a lawsuit.

  9. Maybe I don’t fully understand how distribution works or I didn’t read long enough through all the legalities but I didn’t see anything about booklets, jewel cases or packaging in general. In essence, are people expected to sell CD-R’s with “Roxy by Proxy” hand scribbled in black Sharpie or is album artwork something included with a CD Duplication Master and said “Distributor(s)” have to find their own publisher for such materials?

    This all reeks. And it’s embarrassing as a fan of Frank’s music. And then this happened:

    “Company has the right from time to time to audit your financial books and records relating to your distribution of the Zappa CD, and if any audit reveals a shortfall in the amount due to Company that is in excess of five percent (5%) of its entitlement, you shall also pay Company’s out-of-pocket fees and costs in connection with the audit in addition to such shortfall.”

  10. @Audience participation:
    Your pointing out that audit clause in the agreement gives a good example of my nightmare about getting served with a suit from GZ&Co.

    Dewey, Bendum & Howe will be plooking the fuck out of you!

  11. there you see a smart women, knowing that if she would pay for all production cost and you can download it for free from the internet! the production in the music bussiness has changed since we have these nice free places where we can get all the goodies for not paying. so all you incredibles up there i would like to know what is on your harddrives. and i agree with gail you want it you can splitt the cost and be disapointed in the retail sales since 40 percent of the folks get it for free from the web.i have all my music products and videaos payed for how about you.

  12. IF 1,000 people signed up for this venture – and that’s a big IF – and distribution started, every one of those 1,000 participants would be in competition with each other, as well as Barfko-Swill.
    The individual distributors would be allowed to set their own price and shipping costs, so would likely undercut Barfko-Swill anyway, but would be forced to undercut each other until it becomes necessary to sell far more units than first calculated to earn back that investment capital.
    It just wouldn’t work out financially for any of the 1,000 participants.
    If the release of the DVD is contingent on this deal going through, then I fear that The Roxy Performances are dead on the vine.
    At least we can stop holding our collective breaths and stop wondering how much longer we’ll have to wait.
    R.I.P. Roxy DVD.

    1. One more thought ….. if someone were foolish enough to do this license thing, they could sell copies for almost nothing, at say $4 to pay for shipping and royalties (basically giving it away) and undercut even the ZFT angle.
      Anyway the whole thing stinks like some floating meatloaf in a french public bathroom ……..
      is that graphic enough for ya?

  13. I am late to the game. Just heard about this through an NPR show called “The Takeaway.” I figured that prospective licensees would have snapped up all the preferred Facebook, Twitter, domain etc. names but was able to put up my own “Roxy by Proxy” page on Facebook with no problems, no objections, no evidence of similar efforts, nothing. This suggests to me that the effort is just dead from the beginning. I wrote to the ZFT asking about marketing materials, packaging etc. and have no response yet. There have been virtually visits to my page, no evidence of any activity. I figured I would get a handful of responses. I think I have one “Like” so far. I set my objective at a certain level of activity. If above that, I would reserve a place by the 28th. If below, then pass. I think I will probably end up passing.

  14. Why Roxy by Proxy won’t work.

    You ain’t gonna get 1,000 folks to pony up $1,000 for a license to sell CDs when everybody knows that once a CD gets uploaded to bitrate file-share sites, your sales are gonna plummet. That’s not to say that only a few will be sold and the rest will be downloaded for free, but the 1,000 participants can hardly expect to move (estimated, owing to actual asking price) approximately 125 units to at least break even.

    On top of that, the sellers would have to contact a CD manufacturer to produce the discs and spiffy artwork booklets and pay that money up front. To make such a venture worthwhile to the manufacturer, there would probably have to be orders of (guessing) not less than 200 units.

    And if that weren’t tough enough, you have to keep financial records of the sales because you owe $1.20 to ZFT for each unit sold, and they reserve the right to “audit” your books to make sure everything is above board. If you create your own CDs of your own spiffy rockin’ teenage combo, then you can sell as much as you like without having a business partner. Merely being a licensed distributor still puts you in legal knots.

    And to top all of this off, even if you can get a lot of people interested in buying your CD, you’re in competition with all those other 999 licensees as well as Barfko-Swill! Everybody would have to undercut everybody else’s asking price until they’d have to be sold at a ridiculously low price, therefore causing you to need to move even more units to break even at best.

    On the upside, you get to keep the master CD, which would be a cool piece of FZ memorabilia. A bit expensive, perhaps, but certainly special.

    Anyway, I don’t see it happening, sadly.

  15. I have heard rumor of a release in July. There isn’t much information I have been able to find, which I assume is due to the overwhelming lack of interest. Has anyone out there actually fallen for this scheme? I would be interested to hear what communication with GZ or ZFT is like. Gail is only in it for the money. Unfortunately, Frank left her vaults full of hay that she is trying to weave gold out of. Frank’s music is the best, why make it so hard for us to hear it? He beat the boots once, but its a different game now in the age of the internet. Even though I hate what Gail is doing with this release, it hasn’t stopped me from picking up my Zappa Plays Zappa tickets for the 40 anniversary show at the Roxy. So whether this project of Gail’s blows up or miraculously is released at least I’ll get to hear some of Franks music played live this year.

  16. I don’t like CD’s. Why can’t Gail offer HD digital downloads or vinyl. Always with the CD’s, enough already with the CD’s.

  17. So, I pre-ordered the Roxy by Proxy CD on August 1st with a shipping date of Sept. 22nd. Every friggin’ week it gets postponed by another week. It now says Nov. 29, but I expect another week to be added by tomorrow. Is Gail waiting for all of the checks to come in before releasing it? They should be paying me interest by now on the 27 bucks they have held on to. Most companies don’t charge your card until it’s shipped, but not these folks.

  18. All I wanna know is when do we get paid, is there any beer in this place and can you lend me a couple of bucks until the end of the week…

  19. Me considero un Franknatic desde qué escuché a Zappa hace más de 36 años y me entristece ver como se antepone un interés económico al musical.

    Creo que una de las grandezas del maestro, fue, además por descontado de la musical, la de ser honesto con su público, editando discos totalmente anti-económicos con grandes bandas tanto en tamaño como en prestigio, que después, sin escatimar gastos, salían de gira por todo el mundo.

    Un ejemplo de esto son los conciertos como el de este album, Frank Zappa – guitarra, voz
    Napoleon Murphy Brock – flauta, saxofón, saxofón tenor, voz Robert “Frog” Camarena – coros en “Cheepnis” Debbie – coros en “Cheepnis” Lynn – coros en “Cheepnis” Ruben Ladrón de Guevara – coros en “Cheepnis” George Duke – sintetizador, teclados, voz Bruce Fowler – trombón Tom Fowler – bajo Walt Fowler – trompeta Ralph Humphrey – batería Don Preston – sintetizador Jeff Simmons – guitarra rítmica, voz Chester Thompson – batería Ruth Underwood – percusión

    Pienso que el propio Zappa hubiera huido de este modelo de empresa, como lo tuvo que hacer en su momento montando su propio sello discográfico.

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