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How Much Is ‘Monster Mash’ Worth?

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Just like the zombies, vampires and ghouls that inspired him, Bobby “Boris” Pickett rises from the dead every October to haunt the radio, streaming services, TV commercials and the hundreds of products named after his 1962 smash “Monster Mash.”

“Every single year my entire life, I get to hear my grandfather’s voice for a month,” says Pickett’s grandson, Jordan Huus, 34. “And he’s not crooning or loudly singing. I get to hear his speaking voice.”

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Although more recent spooky hits challenge “Monster Mash” for dominance every October, Pickett’s weird Boris Karloff imitation remains an immortal Halloween anthem. During the past four Halloweens combined, the track received more than streamed 15.4 million on demand streams; during the same period, Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller” scored 16.7 million, Ray Parker Jr.‘s “Ghostbusters” 12.8 million and Andrew Gold‘s “Spooky, Scary Skeletons” 8.85 million, according to Luminate.

Billboard estimates “Monster Mash,” which was released in 1962, has generated nearly $350,000 in average annual revenue globally over the last three years from the master recording, not including whatever synch revenue it enjoys from commercial and film/TV use, nor licensing revenue from the various compilation albums the song has appeared on; and about $500,000 in annual global publishing revenue, including cover versions and synchronization. In all, combined revenue for the song could easily hit $1 million each year, Billboard estimates.

“We had a great year last year with ‘Monster Mash,’” says Rell Lafargue, president/CEO of Reservoir, which owns Pickett’s publishing share and scored a “nice, healthy six-figure synch” for a 2021 General Mills cereal commercial relaunching Franken Berry, Boo Berry and Count Chocula. “We probably have 15 to 20 licensing requests on the line as we speak. Every year, people gear up for Christmas and other holidays, but the ‘Monster Mash’ is always there.”

Since its release on the late producer Gary Paxton‘s independent label, Garpax, “Monster Mash” has navigated a complicated path through the music business. Its two songwriters are Pickett and a friend, Leonard Capizzi, who sang doo-wop together on the beach in Los Angeles before cooking up the novelty song. After Paxton failed to sell the single to a bigger label, he gave it to radio DJs, who turned it into a hit; afterward, London Records agreed to distribute, and Stuart Hersh, Pickett’s longtime manager, says the company retained ownership of the master — now controlled through major label Universal Music Group’s Decca U.K. subsidiary.

As for publishing, Capizzi, who died in 1988, retained his share, and, as Pickett said in a 1995 interview, “his widow and child are getting all of his royalties.” Paxton, the “Monster Mash” producer, took over Pickett’s publishing and made a deal with publisher Acoustic Music, which changed hands to several other companies before Reservoir acquired it in 2014. Huus doesn’t know all the specifics, but his mother, Pickett’s daughter Nancy Huus, received publishing royalties until her death in February 2023, leaving her widower to control the family share.

“My mother left those to my father, who will in turn leave those as a split to my sister and I,” Huus says.

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After its original 1962 release, various indie labels reissued “Monster Mash,” including Parrot Records 11 years later, when the song returned to the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 10. By the ’90s, according to Hersh, Pickett had participated in a K-Tel compilation remake that included backup Tennessee vocalists who pronounced the chorus “monster may-ash.” Pickett called this version “Monster Mish.” 

Says Hersh: “Mish-mosh aside, I said to Bobby, ‘Why don’t I produce a new version for us that’ll be our master, and I’ll try to cut it as close to the first one as possible?’” Hersh brought in 1950s drums and created the track-opening creaky door with an actual creaky door, as opposed to the original effect, a nail slowly pulled out of a surface.

Convincing Pickett to use his higher-pitched voice from the 1962 version, Hersh re-released the track, Taylor Swift-style, and landed synch deals such as the 2005 John Cusack movie Must Love Dogs and a line of musical Hallmark greeting cards for Halloween. “I said to Bobby, ‘We’ve got to make this thing sound perfect and give it to independent films, and give people a chance, and it’ll be your master,’” Hersh recalls. After Pickett died in 2007, Nancy Huus gave the rights to the re-recorded 1993 master to Hersh, who still manages Pickett’s career, attending seasonal conventions and linking to streams and downloads of the reissue on themonstermash.com. “Our [version of the track] is the one with the black-and-white photo of Bobby over the gravestone,” Hersh says.

Hersh has no idea, however, who owns the name “Monster Mash” as it pertains to product titles. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office lists 60 active and abandoned applications carrying that name, including General Mills (for its Monster Mash cereal), Friendly Ice Cream (Monster Mash sundaes) and a Hong Kong company called Longshore Ltd. (for board games). “It was never trademarked back then, and I really don’t know who did it this time,” Hersh says. “I would think it’s been used so many times, at this point, it’s just like a regular phrase.”

Jordan Huus was 8 when his late mother, who was adopted, met Pickett, her biological father, for the first time. Since then, Huus recalls a family fascination with Halloween that lives on in his own household. “Oh, man, if you have like an hour or two, I could point out each decoration,” Huus says, describing his mother’s hand-crafted Halloween wreaths, plus posters and records honoring Bobby “Boris” Pickett. “Of course, we have to bring out the ‘Monster Mash’ stuff.”

Ed Christman contributed to this story.

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