As he approaches his 80th birthday, Bob Dylan, one of the most influential popular musicians of the 20th century, has sold the rights to his entire back catalogue to Universal Music Group (UMG) for an undisclosed sum.
The company will acquire 600 Dylan songs, spanning the legendary musician’s six decades as one of the world’s most famous music stars. The value of the catalogue is eclipsed only by that of the Beatles.
Dylan, real name Robert Zimmerman, has written some of the highest earning songs ever, including: The Times They Are A-Changin’, Like a Rolling Stone, and Blowin’ in the Wind.
In past polls, other famous musicians have repeatedly voted the revolutionary American singer-songwriter from Minnesota the person who most influenced them.
The deal is one of the biggest acquisitions in Universal’s history and means the company will collect all future income from his songs and control each song’s copyright – a great money spinner as they have been covered thousands of times by other recording stars.
Announcing the deal, UMG boss Lucian Grainge said, “It is with enormous pride that we welcome Bob Dylan to the Universal family.
“Songwriting is the key to all great music, and Bob is one of the very greatest practitioners of that art,” he said. “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.”
He added that it was “no exaggeration to say that his vast body of work has captured the love and admiration of billions of people all around the world”.
For Dylan’s fans, nothing will change. His music remains available on streaming sites and box sets as before. Behind the scenes, though, the money will flow to a different bank account.
In return, Dylan receives a lump sum, said to be worth around US$450 million (RM2 billion).
However, just because he could spend more time in his garden now, as most pensioners do, Dylan hasn’t yet hung up his electric guitar. If you are extremely lucky you can still catch him touring somewhere, usually in the US, with capacity audiences singing along to his songs.
But from now on he’ll be sending royalty cheques to Universal.
Other music stars have also recently been selling their famous songs to big business as during the Covid-19 pandemic investors view music as a relatively stable asset in an otherwise turbulent market.