RCA to Spin 5-Album Deal for ZZ Top

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ZZ Top will become the latest pop act to jump on the recording industry's mega-deal bandwagon when RCA Records officially announces the signing of a five-album pact--valued at more than $30 million--with the veteran rock trio today.

In bidding for ZZ Top, RCA, a subsidiary of the German conglomerate Bertelsmann Music Group, won out over offers from several companies, including Warner Bros., the band's home label since 1979.

"ZZ is a band that has a history most anyone in America is familiar with," RCA Records President Joe Galante said Wednesday in a phone interview from New York. "We really feel that there is much more to come from these guys, that we have not seen the best out of them yet. "

Representatives for RCA and ZZ Top declined to discuss details of the agreement, but sources said that the group is guaranteed a $5-million advance per album--up $2 million from their previous advance fee--plus a 20% royalty rate on every record they sell--up from the 18% they reportedly received under their previous Warner contract.

Under the RCA deal, which was negotiated by attorneys John Branca, Stu Filfen and Len Rosenberg, the group will also reportedly receive a one-time estimated $5-million fee for signing with RCA. Negotiations for merchandising rights to ZZ Top-related products are still in progress.

ZZ Top became a free agent when its contract with Warner Bros. expired this year after the release of its "Greatest Hits" collection, which has sold more than 520,000 copies and ranked in the national Top 20 since March. The group established an impressive sales track record in 1983 with its "Eliminator" album, which sold 7 million copies, and followed that up in 1985 with its "Afterburner" album, which sold more than 3 million units. The group's first RCA album is scheduled for release in April.

Warner Bros., which retains the rights to ZZ Top's 13-album catalogue, tried to re-sign the band but dropped out of the bidding in June, reportedly offering the band less than $25 million.

Officials at Virgin Records also reportedly offered ZZ Top less than $30 million in February, before the British record label was sold to Thorn EMI.

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