Universal Music purchased the entire songwriting catalog of Bob Dylan.
The biggest acquisition ever of a single act’s publishing rights has just happened, as the Universal Music Publishing Group announced that it had signed a landmark deal to purchase Dylan’s entire songwriting catalog after fifty-eight years of singing, more than 600 songs and one Nobel Prize later — including world-changing classics like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “Like a Rolling Stone”.
The deal, according to which covers Dylan’s entire career, from his earliest tunes to his latest album, “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” was struck directly with Dylan, aged 79, who has long controlled the vast majority of his own songwriting copyrights. The deal is the latest and most high-profile in this year’s buzzing market for music catalogs, as artists both young and old have sold their songs, while publishers and investors have raised billions of dollars from both public and private sources to persuade writers to part with their creations.
“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,” Lucian Grainge, the chief executive of the Universal Music Group, said in a statement.
vJody Gerson, the chief executive of Universal’s publishing division, said, “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.”
Sisario writes that Bov Dylan is the kind of writer whose work music publishers tend to salivate over. Not only has it stood the test of time, but most of his songs were written by Dylan alone and have been frequently covered by other artists — with each use generating royalties. According to Universal, Dylan’s songs have been recorded more than 6,000 times. The Universal deal also includes Dylan’s shares in a number of songs he has written with other songwriters. But of the more than 600 titles included in the deal, there are a handful by members of the Band, which Dylan was long associated with — including Robbie Robertson’s song “The Weight” — that Dylan owns the copyright to but did not compose. 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.