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Bob Dylan Has Sold His Entire Song Catalog To UMPG. Why?

Bob Dylan Has Sold His Entire Song Catalog

Bob Dylan has sold his entire song catalog (photo: Chris Pizzello)


When I read that Bob Dylan has sold his entire song catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group, I asked myself: Why? The unprecedented deal covers Dylan’s entire career, 600 copyrighted songs, and if the final financials were not disclosed, multiple press outlets have reported an estimation of $300 million for the transaction, thus $500 000 per song…But once again why would he do that when Paul McCartney, for example, fought to regain the Beatles catalog for years?

Before this transaction, Dylan’s net worth was already estimated to be around $200, so this made him more than twice richer at almost 80. But let’s face it, there are not many US/world tours in his future, and this move is giving UMPG entire control over his catalog, and maybe peace of mind over the haunting idea: who is going to control my music when I am not there anymore? This also led some fans to speculate Dylan might not be feeling too well and maybe putting his affairs in order? However, there’s no reason to think that way. There is also a part of the contract that leads to believe that Dylan’s career is not over: ‘But the agreement does not include any of Dylan’s unreleased songs. It also doesn’t cover any work Dylan writes in the future, leaving open the possibility that he could choose to work with another publisher for that material.’

Who could blame Dylan for cashing in on his work, his long career, and leaving some comfortable money for his 6 kids? It probably is a better situation than having his estate wrangling over some difficult decisions when he is not there anymore, this certainly assures his musical legacy to be taken care of while providing a substantial sum of money for his family. Money is easier to divide than songs.

Then, does it mean we will hear more Dylan tunes used in commercials for example? Not necessarily, as we don’t know the details of the transaction, and haven’t we already heard a song of his in a commercial for Victoria’s Secret?

But Dylan is not the only one making this move, in September, Chrissie Hynde sold her entire 164-song catalog to Hipgnosis, a company that has already bought the catalogs of Barry Manilow, Tom DeLonge (Blink-182, Angels & Airwaves), Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue) and Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, among others. And yesterday, Stevie Nicks also sold the majority of her catalog to publisher Primary Wave for about $100 million. I suppose that all aging musicians are doing the same thing.

But this made me think about the value of art. Last month, it was announced that Taylor Swift was re-recording her songs because her music catalog has been sold to a private equity group without her knowledge or consent. The deal was believed to be worth more than $300 million, so as much as Bob Dylan’s transaction! Taylor may be very successful but nobody is going to convince me she has Dylan’s iconic catalog. Plus, she only wrote 173 songs, not 600! How could these 2 songbooks be sold for the same amount? Was Dylan robbed?

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