Monday, June 17, 2024

Bob Dylan Leaves Sony Music Publishing, Sells Song Catalog to Universal Music Publishing for $300 Million


Bob Dylan has cashed out.

The Nobel winning song laureate has sold the rights to all songs (and one more) to Universal Music Publishing. The price was $300 million.

It’s a big win for Universal and a major blow to Sony Music Publishing, where Dylan’s songs have been parked for decades.

The $300 million is for the publishing of songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Make You Feel My Love,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Lay Lady Lay,” and “Forever Young” among the 600 plus titles Dylan has written over the last nearly 60 years. But Dylan’s records– his catalog of albums and singles– remains at Sony Music, which continues to repackage them over and over under its Legacy Records.

For Dylan, this seems like a bid to settle up his financial future as he approaches age 80 next June. His heirs include at least 8 children (the exact number is unknown publicly) and several grandchildren. It would make sense that Dylan would want to organize his affairs even if he’s in great health and prepares for a new decade of recording and touring. His recent album, “Rough and Rowdy,” is part of this deal. But any songs he writes from now on are his own.

The most interesting tidbit from the Universal deal actually isn’t about any of Dylan’s songs. It turns out that for some reason he owns the biggest hit from The Band, “The Weight,” written by Robbie Robertson. That news was a bit of a surprise. That song goes with the others to Universal until Robertson dies, when his own heirs can try and reclaim the copyright.

Dylan had a good deal with Sony Music, where I wrote — in 2013— that he was generating $4 million a year in royalties. Sony then was advancing him more than that every December. But it seems like Dylan needed more cash, and he got it.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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