Bob Dylan Sells Entire Music Publishing Catalog

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Bob Dylan has sold all of his music publishing catalog—more than 600 songs—to the Universal Music Publishing Group, according to an announcement this morning (Dec. 7).

The press release from Universal notes that the sale includes every song written by Dylan from the start of his career through his most recent album, 2020’s Rough and Rowdy Ways. The price tag was not disclosed but is estimated to be more than $300 million.

Dylan did not make a statement regarding the sale, but is said to have brokered the deal himself. Lucian Grainge, the CEO of the Universal Music Group, said, “It’s no secret that the art of songwriting is the fundamental key to all great music, nor is it a secret that Bob is one of the very greatest practitioners of that art.”

Jody Gerson, the chief executive of Universal’s publishing division, added, “To represent the body of work of one of the greatest songwriters of all time—whose cultural importance can’t be overstated—is both a privilege and a responsibility.”

According to an article in the New York Times, “Dylan’s deal includes 100 percent of his rights for all the songs of his catalog, including both the income he receives as a songwriter and his control of each song’s copyright. In exchange for its payment to Dylan, Universal, a division of the French media conglomerate Vivendi, will collect all future income from the songs.”

As the music industry eco-system evolves, music publishing has become one of the most valuable assets of record labels and their parent companies. Songs in their catalogs are regularly licensed for use in films, television series and advertising.

Watch a 2020 TV ad for Travelers Insurance which uses Dylan’s “If Not For You”

The scope of Dylan’s songwriting catalog is enormous, as it includes dozens of epic songs like “Blowing in the Wind,” “Like a Rolling Stone” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”

Watch “Blowing in the Wind” perform “Blowing in the Wind,” one of the songs included in the deal, in 1963

Dylan’s other compositions include such favorites as “Shelter From the Storm,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35” and “Forever Young.”

A new song, “Murder Most Foul,” released on his 2020 album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, runs nearly 17 minutes. It’s a stunning period piece that weaves various pop culture references including the Beatles imminent arrival on the scene, Woodstock, The Who’s Tommy, and Wolfman Jack, among its various topics, all centered around the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Related: Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

The Times further states, “The new deal with Universal does not include any songs Dylan writes in the future, leaving open the possibility that he could choose to work with another publisher for that material…The Universal deal also includes Dylan’s shares in a number of songs he has written with other songwriters, although of the more than 600 titles included in the deal, there is only one in which Dylan is not a writer, but still owns the copyright: Robbie Robertson’s ‘The Weight,’ as recorded by the Band.”

The vast majority of Dylan’s recordings have been released via Columbia Records, the label that originally signed him. The label is part of Sony Music, though Dylan’s new publishing deal is with one of the chief competitors of Sony’s Sony/ATV publishing arm.

Days before the Dylan deal was announced, Stevie Nicks sold a reported 80% of her songwriting catalog which includes such classic rock favorites as “Dreams,” “Edge of Seventeen” and “Landslide” to Primary Wave Music.

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