Bob Dylan has agreed to sell his entire songwriting catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group in a blockbuster deal, marking perhaps the biggest acquisition in music history of a single act’s publishing rights.
The deal comes fifty-eight years, more than 600 songs, and a Nobel Prize in Literature after Dylan’s first music publishing deal in 1962. As Dylan wrote in his 2004 memoir, Chronicles: Volume, “Lou [Levy of Leeds Music Publishing] had advanced me a hundred dollars against future royalties to sign the paper and that was fine with me.”
Today, Bob Dylan’s body of work is worth many times more than his initial, 1962 contract. While the closing price of the Dylan/UMPG deal was not disclosed, The New York Times reports that it has been estimated at more than $300 million. As the Times continues, “The deal, which covers Dylan’s entire career, from his earliest songs to the tunes on his latest album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, was struck directly with Dylan, 79, who has long controlled the majority of his own songwriting copyrights.” Unsurprisingly, Dylan declined to comment on the deal to the Times.
The deal includes 100 percent of Dylan’s rights for all the songs in his catalog, including both the income he receives as a songwriter and his control of each song’s copyright. Universal will now collect all future income from Dylan’s songs.
The upside for UMPG on this particular deal stretches beyond the ownership of Dylan’s recorded tracks. As UMPG notes, Bob Dylan’s songs have been recorded more than 6,000 times by other artists through the years, and each use generates royalties for the owners of the songs’ publishing.
Additionally, the Universal Music Publishing Group deal includes the rights to songs Dylan wrote with other artists. The deal includes just one song for which owned the copyright but was not listed as a songwriter: “The Weight”, recorded by The Band and credited to Robbie Robertson.
Said UMPG Chairman and CEO Jody Gerson in a press statement, “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. The UMPG global team is honored to be Bob Dylan’s publishing partner and I especially want to acknowledge Marc Cimino whose passion and perseverance were instrumental in bringing this opportunity to us. We look forward to working with Bob and the team in ensuring his artistry continues to reach and inspire generations of fans, recording artists and songwriters around the world.”
Added Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, said, “As someone who began his career in music publishing, it is with enormous pride that today we welcome Bob Dylan to the UMG family. 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. 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. It is no exaggeration to say that his vast body of work has captured the love and admiration of billions of people all around the world. I have no doubt that decades, even centuries from now, the words and music of Bob Dylan will continue to be sung and played—and cherished—everywhere.”
Of note, the Bob Dylan/Universal Music Publishing Group deal does not include music written in the future, which leaves the door open for Dylan to work with a different publisher on any subsequent releases.
[H/T The New York Times]