Bob Dylan sold all his songs to Universal in a deal worth over $300 million

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Following the announcement that Stevie Nicks sold an 80% stake of her Fleetwood Mac music catalog to Primary Wave, Universal Music Publishing has announced that they have bought singer/songwriter’s Bob Dylan’s entire music catalog. Bob has been an American icon for over 50 years. His catalog spans genres and the purchase will include hits such as The Times They Are a-Changing and Like a Rolling Stone. This is a huge move for Bob as, like Stevie, he has always been in control of his creative work and image. The purchase is estimated to be upward of $300 million. Below are a few details about the deal from CNN:

“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,” said Universal Music Publishing Group CEO Jody Gerson in a statement.

“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,” added Sir Lucian Grainge, the CEO of Universal Music Group. “Brilliant and moving, inspiring and beautiful, insightful and provocative, his songs are timeless—whether they were written more than half a century ago or yesterday.”

Music publishing has become increasingly lucrative in recent years, especially in light of the pandemic that has halted live performances. Last week, Stevie Nicks sold her catalog in a reported $100 million deal.

Dylan, 79, has numerous famous tracks, including “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Earlier this year, he released his first track in eight years called a “Murder Most Foul,” a 17-minute song about the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy.

[From CNN]

I don’t think I have ever sought out Bob Dylan’s music but of course I’ve heard his songs and know him. That to me is a testament of the cultural magnitude of the man. I am loving how all of these rockers are selling their catalog during the pandemic seeing that they cannot make money with live shows. I was a bit concerned by Stevie Nick’s deal with Primary Wave because they would have control over her image. I loved that Stevie controlled her image all these years like Prince. It makes sense that she and Bob would sell their catalog as they are getting to a place that they may not be able to perform due to this out of control virus. Bob probably doesn’t mind his music being used for commercials. He’s done ads for Chrysler, Cadillac, Pepsi and Victoria’s Secret. Also, perhaps Bob wants to spend these years with family and not worrying about what will happen to his music or image once he passes. We saw what happened to Prince’s estate and no one wants that for other amazing musicians.

All in all it seems Bob is winning in this deal. I didn’t see that he also sold the rights to his image just his music. I am sure being the great musician that he is, he will still be creating amazing tunes.

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14 Responses to “Bob Dylan sold all his songs to Universal in a deal worth over $300 million”

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  1. Sarah says:

    I saw him perform in Hyde Park with Neil Young last year (I think…) and was so disappointed, he was totally over it, his voice is unrecognisable and he’d re-worked everything so you were halfway through a song before you realised what it was. He was speaking more than singing. My aunt said it was something about a massive divorce bill or financial issues and that’s why he was touring when he clearly didn’t want to be.

    I went in a much bigger Dylan fan and came out amazed by Neil, he absolutely brought it. As did Stevie Nicks who I saw there when she was on the same bill as Tom Petty just before he died (both of them were amazing).

    One last thing – Stevie Nicks sang a song she wrote about the Twilight films while wearing a full length fur coat (not sure if it was real or not) in full sunshine and 30+ degree heat. She’s a legend.

    • Millennial says:

      Bob Dylan was my first concert 20~ years ago and he was terrible then, too. It was super disappointing because I was 13 and idolized him. You could barely recognize a single song because his voice (and the sound production) was so bad.

      • Sarah says:

        That’s such a shame! My only other experience was in utero so I don’t have any comparison really (although mum said she enjoyed it that time, sounds like he was doing it differently in the 70′s). I’ll stick to his albums.

  2. Miranda says:

    Presumably he would’ve gotten even more out of the deal, but HE had to pay THEM to take the “Born Again Bob” dreck.

    (Seriously though, I love Bob Dylan, and the whole Christian phase was kinda low-key badass. Same with “selling out” and letting his music be used in commercials. He’s Bob F**king Dylan, he doesn’t need to impress anyone. But I do have to concede that, as the commenters above have said, watching him live in recent years is incredibly cringe-y.)

  3. Emma says:

    Your experience at a Bob Dylan concert is entirely dependent on the version of Bob that chooses to show up. If he’s in a good mood, he’ll be amazing. If not, it’s anyone’s guess. I saw him in 2000 and it was fantastic, but the whole way to the gig my dad (a Dylan devotee) was managing expectations. He’s seen him countless times over the decades and he’s been awful as many times as he’s been great.

    Dylan wants to die with his boots on I think, hence why he keeps on touring. My guess is he thought he’d be done long before now!

    • Mac says:

      Yes, Dylan is so moody. I’ve seen him many times and he was in the best mood ever playing outside in the pouring rain. Strange guy.

  4. Astrid says:

    I read in the Daily Fail today that he owes money to many women and children that he’s fathered and therefore entered into a money making deal. Don’t know if that’s true or not. I’ve seen him twice in the last few years, my husband is a fan. He sounded like a parody of himself. I don’t consider him a professional musician anymore.

  5. lucy2 says:

    Like Stevie, I imagine he wants to do something with the money now, rather than have it spent after he’s gone, and also wants a say in how the music is used. These deals likely have pretty strict conditions, I would think.

  6. Katie says:

    you only live once, right? he’s old enough to just take the money and enjoy and not worry if he could’ve made more off the music

  7. Ariel says:

    Good for Mr. Dylan.

    For whatever reason, when my dad died, i bought every Dylan CD that existed (minus a few bootlegs). Half.com was a big thing then. Not sure why, my dad was more of a Kingsmen Trio kind of guy. But i found great comfort in them.

    Also, had a 3 hours discussion in a bar once with an acquaintance about how much i adore Bob Dylan. He had had an old friend trying to convince him for years of Dylan’s greatness.
    So i made him 2 cds (2010, cds were still a thing). One of my favorite Dylan songs (the usual ones plus Brownsville Girl, Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, You Angel You, and on and on).
    The second cd was filled with Dylan songs sung by other people. Except i included Dylan singing Lay Lady Lay b/c he doesn’t sound like himself on that one.
    My acquaintance liked the non-dylan dylan versions better.
    Dylan is not for everyone.

    But i find his music magical.

    And he, he has lived a long time, he gets to do what he wants with his legacy.
    And god bless him.

    • Shirurusu says:

      I used to hate Dylan because my dad adored him so much I had to listen to him in the car when I was a kid and didn’t understand a word of the lyrics of course, nor did I like the “bad” singing. Now I too totally adore a lot of Dylans work – both the classics and the slightly newer stuff like the soundtrack for Wonderboys he did. Too bad I think he’s drunk a bit too much in his life and smoked away hos voice like a lot of singers (Joni Mitchell also unfortunately), he doesn’t sound too good the last ten/ twenty years. But then there are always the recordings! Good times :)

  8. Valerie says:

    Maybe I can safely say it here: I’m not a fan of his. I don’t get his appeal. He had written some enduring songs, but I just can’t get into the actual music, least of all his voice! I like his lyrics, just not the vehicle for them. There are only a couple I can stand to listen to. Like A Rolling Stone was one of them for a while, because I liked Edie Sedgwick so much.

    Stevie, I love… and when I saw their names together, I thought of the time she and Lindsey were fighting about grammar (lol) in the Destiny Rules doc and she said, “You wouldn’t say that to Bob Dylan.”

  9. NA says:

    Funny story – my four year old is absolutely in love with him…..she makes him cards and paintings, is obsessed with his music, the works. If she is ever hurt or unhappy, we just need to play one of his songs and she perks right up. Odd kid, my wee one is.